South Africa Travel

Gordon’s Bay is a charming naval town nestled against the Hottentots Holland Mountains. It’s a 45-minute drive from Cape Town CBD and a 40-minute drive from Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands district. Situated on the eastern side of False Bay, the largest bay in South Africa.

False Bay faces southward and is almost 1,000 km2 in size, bounded by the Cape Peninsula to the west and Cape Hangklip to the east. Conditions range from cold, seasonal upwellings from South Africa’s southwest coast to periodic warm-water intrusions from the Agulhas Current system off the southeast coast, causing unique conditions that create amazing biological diversity. The nutrient-rich water sustains the abundant reef life as well as the kelp forest ecosystems found here.

Gordons Bay town

Gordon’s Bay (Image from DepositPhotos)

Dive Conditions

Water Temperature

The warmest water temperature is in January with an average of around 20.4°C (68.7°F). The coldest month is September with an average water temperature of 15.6°C (60.1°F). The usual wetsuit thickness used here is 5mm to 7mm wetsuit with an added layer underneath or over to be around 8 to 10mm.

Gordons Bay diving divers

Divers getting ready to enter the water

Visibility

The visibility ranges between 5m to 15m. The best time to dive in Gordon’s Bay on the eastern side of the bay is in the summer months from September to March. The western side of the bay is great for diving year-round with particularly pristine conditions in the winter months.

On deep dives, you sometimes have 1-to-2-meter visibility when descending through the top layer of 15 meters or so, and then, suddenly it opens at the bottom to beautiful clear visibility of around 10 to 15 meters.

Gordons Bay diving 10

Palmate sea fan with a giant orange wall sponge behind it growing on the vibrant reef

Currents & Surge

There are no drift dives in False Bay, so no diving in currents. You will however experience a surge quite often. Surge is the back-and-forth movement of water caused by wave action.

Surface Conditions

The benefits of diving inside False Bay are that the surface conditions are usually much calmer which makes for easy-going boat rides and less sea sickness. Another great perk is that all boat dives are launched from harbors. So, no grueling beach launches and having to maneuver through rough surf with large waves.

Underwater Typography

Gordons Bay diving rocky reef

A dive site called Pinnacle

The typography of the dive sites follows the slope of the rocky mountain into the sea. This creates a beautiful rocky reef.

The depth range of the shallow dive sites is between 5m and 15m. The depth range of the deep dive sites is between 18m and can reach up to 35m at the Steenbras Deep dive site. All the dive sites can be reached with a fairly short boat ride.

Shore Diving

Gordons Bay diving Clarence Drive R66

R44 Clarence Drive

There are shore dives along the R44 Clarence Drive between Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els. These dive sites can be challenging and vary in difficulty levels because they are not easily accessible. Due to the steep slope of the mountain, they can be hard to reach especially when wearing heavy scuba gear. Therefore, we suggest doing boat dives when diving in Gordon’s Bay.

Gordons Bay diving shore diving

Divers entering the water on a shore dive in Rooi Els.

There are shore dives in Rooi Els which can easily be accessed, just a 25-minute drive from Gordon’s Bay on the beautiful Clarence Drive to get there.

What can you See Here?

Big Marine Animals

Gordon’s Bay has resident Cape Fur Seals which regularly visits divers as well as Cape Clawless Otters that’s been spotted recently. African penguins are often seen from the boat on our way to and from dives.

Gordons Bay diving Cape Fur Seal

Inquisitive young Cape Fur Seal underwater

As far as sharks go, we have various small catsharks to the bigger pyjama (or striped) sharks which are seen often. Sevengill cow sharks and Bronze Whalers have also been spotted. False Bay is famous for its Great White sharks whose main food source is the seal colony of the False Bay Seal Island Reserve. This island is home to around 70,000 Cape Fur Seals and is 26km from Gordon’s Bay. Even though these waters are the White shark’s home, they are very rarely seen on dives.

Gordons Bay diving Pyjama shark Gordons Bay diving Short tail stingray
  Pyjama (or striped) shark | Short-tail Stingray swimming overhead

 

Friendly Short-tail stingrays are regular visitors, and they grow up to 2.1m, which always makes for a memorable encounter. Ocean sunfish (or Mola mola) is also seen occasionally. Beautiful jellyfish like the Box sea jelly, Compass jellyfish, and the bigger Root-mouthed jellyfish.

Gordons Bay diving compass jelly fish Gordons Bay diving root mouth jelly fish
  Compass jellyfish | Root-mouthed jellyfish

 

Giant orange wall sponges, carpets of strawberry anemones, or feather starfish cover large portions of the reef. As well as vibrant and colorful soft corals and sea fans with elegant basket stars holding onto their branching arms. These scenes make for absolutely exquisite wide-angle photography, that is if the visibility allows.

Gordons Bay diving carpet of Strawberry anemones

Strawberry anemones cover a large part of the reef

Smaller Marine Animals

The reef is busy and full of life. If you like finding small reef critters, then Gordon’s Bay diving is for you.

Gordons Bay diving colorful anemone Gordons Bay diving pink fanworm
  Violet-spotted anemone | Pink Feather-duster worm

 

This is a photographer’s dream with so many different species to choose from. Shallow rocks are covered with purple, pink, and orange urchins or an array of colorful anemones and lots of different sea stars. Pretty bristle worms, fascinating sea spiders, interesting crabs and shrimps, and rock lobster.

Gordons Bay diving hermit crab Gordons Bay diving cuttlefish
  Hermit crab | Cuttlefish

 

You can find a large diversity of nudibranchs in Gordon’s Bay which is a real treat for all macro enthusiasts. One of our dive sites is named Pinnacle, we have counted 11 different species on one dive once.

Gordons Bay diving Ink spot nudibranch Gordons Bay diving orange gasflame nudibranch
  Inkspot nudibranch (Ceratosoma ingozi) | Orange gasflame nudibranch (Bonisa nakaza)

 

Octopi and cuttlefish adorn the reef. Various fish species such as the colorful klipfish, rocksucker, pipefish, bluefin gurnard, schools of strepie fish, the vibrant red roman, blennies, and many more.

Gordons Bay diving colorful klipfish Gordons Bay diving Horned blenny
  Colourful klipfish with a beautiful pattern | Horned blenny

 

Hope to see you diving in Gordon’s Bay soon.

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by Madelein Wolfaardt
Images ©️ by @sealife_madeleinwolf

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