This weekend was a dive of many firsts: my first (proper) dive in South African waters, my first dive with my recently purchased (second-hand) scuba gear and my first dive with my new club, OMSAC! The site was to be Windmill Beach, which I found out after some googling, is located just outside of Simonstown and is well known for its easy shore access. Windmill Beach is one of three dive sites in that area forming part of the A-frame: Froggy Pond, Windmill Beach and A-frame. Apparently it’s also spectacular during a night dive.
Having recently obtained my open water certification, I am not yet as streamlined getting ready for a dive as my more experienced diving companions. I still get confused between an insert and an o-ring, I sometimes slip up and talk about flippers instead of fins and I am still scared that my cylinder is going to explode in my face every time I connect it to my BC and release the air (Righty-tighty-lefty-loosey has been my saving grace many times). But, with a little bit of help from my friends and dive leader, Anand, I was ready to hit the water. Apparently it was a lovely nineteen degrees, which is almost like bath water for Capetonians. Except for the ever present wind, the water didn’t look too bad to my inexperienced eyes (The one day that it is a spectacularly wind free day in Cape Town, I manage to find myself chasing the wind all the way to Simonstown).
Before entering the water, Anand gave us a quick dive briefing: we were going to enter the water from the beach, descend, swim through/over the kelp and then continue in the direction of Simonstown, all the while keeping the big boulders in the water on our left hand side. We were going to aim for a forty minute dive (we ended up doing sixty – time flies when you’re having fun) and we should see some pajama sharks, kelp, lots of sea urchins and other sea life living on the boulders. That’s not exactly how he said it, but I was too nervous at that time to take everything in. In the water I forgot that my new wetsuit had a hoodie, my snorkel wasn’t set up correctly, so I had to really reach to get it into my mouth, and I lost my flipper (sorry – fin) about five seconds into the dive. Fortunately, Justin came to my rescue almost immediately. Fully geared again, and keeping my dive buddy, Naomi, in view we swam into the kelp … and I almost immediately lost her … luckily I caught her white fins making a sharp right turn out of the kelp forest and we were in the open water again. The only way I could distinguish Naomi was by her pink snorkel and white fins – all divers look the same to me underwater, so I just kept on following the white fins. Lucky for me, in case she forgets her name, her fins were labelled as well, so I had no problem following the right white fins. I sort of established buoyancy (there was a bit of surge and my weighting wasn’t quite right yet) and stuck close to the heels (fins) of my diving buddy and I was scuba diving!! Visibility was about 6 metres and the water wasn’t crystal clear, but after about twenty minutes I was relaxed enough to really start to notice the sea life around me. I saw two pajama sharks (or it might have been the same one that I saw twice), hundreds of live sea urchins in all the colours of the rainbow, dead ones as well – I had to restrain myself from taking a souvenir, hundreds of big starfish – the type that we all know so well and also some interesting looking black ones, which looks like a black button with five long legs protruding from it. An octopus hid from us underneath a rock, perfectly camouflaged small box-like jelly fish with very long tentacles swam past us – I only saw them when I was basically on top of them, hundreds of sea anemone in all the colours of a sunset stuck to the boulders like polka dot wallpaper and some of the infamous nudibranch, which, as the name doesn’t suggest at all, is a beautiful neon-coloured sea slug (I would love to see these guys at a disco) were also seen by me.
About fifty minutes into the dive I started to have a lot of trouble with my buoyancy, I was shooting up and swimming back down like a jack-in-the-box (fortunately for me this wasn’t a deep dive, only eight metres). I couldn’t understand what was happening: I had released every vestage of air from my BC, and my weighting was fine when I entered the water fifty minutes go. Holding onto the kelp for support, I was contemplating whether I should indicate to Naomi that we should end the dive when she came to my rescue. We ended the dive after sixty minutes (Apparently as I was using up my air, my weights wasn’t enough anymore). I was knackered but extremely happy that I joined the Omsaccies/Omsaccaroos/Omsaccas for my first dive.
After I high-fived myself for a job well done, we waddled back to the cars in our sexy scuba gear where Anand rewarded us with chocolate for being such great divers. Obviously I got the biggest piece
For a pretty spectacular view of Windmill Beach, have a look at the website below: