We had the opportunity to interview Theo, from Into The Blue Diving Centre. Theo is a Dive Instructor, with intimate knowledge of the ocean, its creatures, and its moods. He shared personal insight into the life of a Scuba Diver in Cape Town. Find out what the perks, and challenges, of this extreme (and perhaps extremely meditative) water sport are!
How long have you been scuba diving and what is diving to you?
Theo: Sho, okay – I have diving for about ten years. What got me into diving was actually snorkeling in Sodwana. The feeling of putting your face underwater and everything becomes quiet. It’s a peaceful place for me. It’s interesting ‘cause diving falls under the extreme underwater sports, but it’s actually so mellow!
How do you find the water around Cape Town- what are your daily challenges as a scuba diver?
Theo: Water in Cape Town is not easy diving – when compared to tropical waters, at least. Challenges we have here are obviously, the weather. If the wind is too strong we can’t go out all the way [far away into the ocean with the boat]. The waves can get too big and then we can’t dive properly. Visibility isn’t always great because the water is very nutrient-rich here.
Theo: Well there’s a lot of plankton in the water – that’s why we get so many whales this side. So, they feed off that and the water is very healthy – but in terms of how far you see that influences it!
So yeah, that’s one thing. The cold can be a challenge, but there is good equipment to overcome that! I always compare it to skiing in the Alps. You’re not gonna go there with your shorts and t-shirt – same here- if you wear the right gear then you’re cool.
Ahah, ok cool! And where are the most popular scuba dive spots? I’m assuming there are different levels – for example, you generally do your open waters course first and then you progress. Can you talk to me about the various ‘ levels’ of diving and where it can be practiced?
Theo: So I’ll first tell you about the levels. Everyone starts with an Open Water course. You do get something called ‘Discover Scuba’ experience, which is like a one day experience if you want to try it out. But your first formal training is the Open Water course. That is about 3 days and it certifies you to dive under 18 meters. After that is your Advanced Course, also another 3 days and it certifies you to 30 meters. Most things that you want to see are shallower than that, because once you start going deeper you loose light, which means less life. However, there are some shipwrecks that are pretty cool still!
Very popular ‘must sees’ around Cape Town are the seals.
The seals? You can scuba close to seals?
Theo: That’s it! The seal colonies! It’s so cool because when above water they are very grumpy and they growl if you come too close, but it’s because they are out of their element. When they are in the water it’s like a 180-degree turnaround! They become these acrobats, they become super-fast and they are very playful!
So you can actually play with the seals?
Theo: You can play with the seals! And they come up to your face and they blow bubbles! Underwater you won’t even be able to touch one, they are so fast!
How about sharks? Aren’t people scared that seals attract sharks?
Theo: Mmm…So there is one island I won’t go diving – the big island in False Bay- that is one of their feeding grounds. But there are a couple of colonies, like the Hout Bay one. We have been going to this one for years and years and we have never seen any Great Whites! There is also one at the Twelve Apostles.
We also have tons of shipwrecks. Cape Town is the Cape of Storms. Before the Suez Canal, all the ships used to come around here – so there are hundreds of shipwrecks around the peninsula. Kelp forests are also really cool.
What is that?
Theo: They are like these long, green plants. You’ll see their leaves if you drive by the sea. They use to freak me out a bit because they can be so slimy – but that’s just the treetops – when you dive and you go down, it’s like you’re walking in a forest. And the fish all live there because they feel safe there form the bigger predators.
What’s the age requirement?
Theo: You can dive from around ten years old. From 10 to 15, you can dive, but with a grown up. You should also be reasonably healthy. We actually got someone in their 80’s the other day to come dive – they can!
Any advice you can give any aspiring scuba diver?
Theo: Sho, come, dive! So many people try it out and become addicted! Because it’s such a peaceful thing as well. If you think about it, it’s the one place where no-one can reach you and work stress goes out the window. The environment is very peaceful.