This article is intended to provide the already qualified Scuba diver with information which will help to plan dives in the waters of the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (Tsitsikamma National Park), whether as a local resident or a visitor. Information is provided without prejudice, and is not guaranteed accurate or complete. Use it at your own risk.
The coastline is fairly straight, and is generally very steep from a relatively flat coastal region between the inland mountains and the sea. Much of the shoreline can best be described as cliffs. The rock formations are heavily folded sandstones and shales of the Table Mountain series. The coastline formation to the west of the river mouth is the Silurian Tchando formation, which is typically fine to coarse grained brown sandstone and shale, and inland and across the river to the east, mostly Ordovician Peninsula sandstone. Offshore formations may include Devonian Gydo shales and siltstones. Folding is roughly parallel to the coastline, and dip is frequently near vertical, even overfolded in places. Resistance to weathering is also very variable, with some extremely resistant quartzitic sandstone, and some very friable shales. As a result, there are areas with distinct ridges, often roughly parallel to the shoreline.
The Storms River gorge is roughly perpendicular to the coastline, and very narrow — the sides are approximately vertical. A boat trip or hike up the gorge will show a section through the coastal formations.
Climate, Weather and Sea conditionsEdit
The coastal waters are exposed to wind from the south west through to the south east.
The Marine EcologyEdit
The Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area is in the warm temperate Agulhas bioregion, which extends from Cape Point to the Mbashe River. The Mbashe River was chosen as the most appropriate boundary between the subtropical Natal province to the north, and the warm temperate Agulhas region to the south, but change is gradual between these regions. Upwelling on the south coast of South Africa is largely driven by the Agulhas current and the continental shelf This form of upwelling forces cold deep water up onto the continental shelf, but not necessarily above the thermocline. In the region east of the Agulhas bank, wind enhanced upwelling, occurring mainly in summer, augments the current driven upwelling bringing the colder deeper waters to the surface. This enhances biological productivity by supply of nutrients to the euphotic zone (where plants have sufficient light to flourish) which fuels phytoplankton production, and rocky shores that are supplied with the nutrient rich water support rich algal biomass.
Normal recreational scuba diving equipment is appropriate for most dive sites in this region. The offshore sites can be subjected to fairly strong currents, so a surface marker buoy is recommended to allow the boat crew to keep track of where you are, particularly while surfacing, when it may not be possible to remain at a shotline during the safety stop. DSMBs are recommended for at least one diver of a buddy pair when the current is strong.
Water temperature is variable, and can be as low as 10°C. Dry suits can be an advantage when the temperature is so low. At other times the temperature may be in the low 20s, and a wetsuit will be adequate.
Cell phone connectivity is variable, there are many dead spots.
The road to the park is good, but there is no shore access to any dive site except Storms River Mouth. All others are only practicably accessible by boat.
There may be strong currents at the offshore dive sites, and heavy swell is common. Some days this simply makes it unsafe to dive or do out on a boat, but much of the time the swell is low enough to get to the dive site, but the surge may be very strong, and waves may break over the shallower areas.