03 October 2013

Review: Scuba diving at the Two Oceans Aquarium

Lynne Robertson

This review was originally published on Scuba Africa, and has been republished here with Lynne’s permission

Crystal clear water at a balmy 19°C, no surge and guaranteed sightings – not something one comes across every day in Cape Town’s waters, yet available seven days a week and only a stone’s throw from the city centre.

Last weekend, my partner and I had the opportunity to “swim with the fishes” at the Two Oceans Aquarium!

A close encounter like no other. Photo by Geoff Spiby

We were met by dive master Freddy at the information desk, and after a briefing in front of the I&J Predator Exhibit (which allowed ample chance for nerves to build while we sized up the five impressive ragged-tooth sharks), were shown behind the scenes to the top floor of the Aquarium.

Freddy explained that we wouldn’t be diving so much as scuttling along the bottom, and recommended going in with a few more kilos of lead than usual. This would assist us in staying out of the way of the raggies circling the top portion of the tank, and would prevent any unintentional ascents brought on by nerves, excitement, or the heady mix of both we were already feeling. Our gear having been assembled for us, Freddy helped us into soft kit and weight belts, and we made our way to the entry point.

Just sitting on the little platform above the tank, watching the sharks circling below, was thrilling, but as soon as we were in the water and had descended the five metres to the bottom, all anxiety vanished. Kneeling on the floor of the tank, surrounded by all the yellowtail, black musselcrackers and rays, not to mention the sharks and Yoshi the loggerhead turtle, was just awesome. The perfect visibility and proximity of the fish allowed us to get a really good, up-close look at these beautiful specimens, and we were lucky to enjoy a particularly prolonged encounter with the resident brindle bass. The stars of the show, however, are undoubtedly the five ragged-tooth sharks. There are one or two truly huge ones, and swimming effortlessly less than a metre from your goggles, these awesome creatures are simply breathtaking.

One thing we had not expected was how clearly one can see the onlookers outside the tank. Returning the waves of the wide-eyed kids added to the fun of the dive and allowed us, just for a little while, to play a part in the spectacle of the I&J Predator Exhibit.

After our dive, we enjoyed a hot shower (there are fully equipped bathrooms on site) and logged our dive. We were also given certificates to mark the experience, and our log books were stamped. This dive also offers the chance of a more unique memento, and Freddy had encouraged us to keep an eye out for lost shark teeth on the floor of the Aquarium – should you find one, you can take it home as a great souvenir of your dive.

The I&J Predator Exhibit was a dive we will not soon forget, and is a must for all divers in Cape Town. Dive master Freddy’s relaxed yet professional approach put us both at ease, and the friendliness of all the Two Oceans Aquarium staff made for a truly special experience that we’d recommend to divers of all levels.

Divers in action. Photo courtesy of flowcomm

All divers must hold at least an Open Water Qualification, but for those who are not yet qualified, Iain’s Dive School, based at the Aquarium, offers an intensive Discover Scuba course, which culminates in a closely supervised dive in the Exhibit.

Dives in the I&J Predator Exhibit cost R655, including all gear hire, and generally last 20-30 minutes. Members of the Two Oceans Aquarium enjoy a discount. Booking is required, and can be made online at www.aquarium.co.za.

Stay in touch: for daily Aquarium updates, follow us on Twitter (@2OceansAquarium) and become a fan on Facebook.

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