False Bay’s Seal Island
Positioned more or less centrally in the northern region of the scenic False Bay, with the majestic Hottentot Holland mountain range to its right and a well-known landmark, Table Mountain ahead, lies a granite projection of rock where no soil or vegetation can be found, but nevertheless it has become home to between 65000-75000 Cape fur seals, hence its name, Seal Island, not to be mistaken with the Seal island in Hout bay, which is no comparison to False bay’s Seal Island. This is the most prevalent seal colony in the Western Cape. The island is similarly home to 24 bird species which include 80 pairs of African penguins who have been given artificial nests to intensify their breeding. Though the penguin population is far lesser than that of the seal, it is substantial for this little black and white tuxedoed at-risk seabird.
The island is approximately 800 metres in length and 50 metres in width. Its highest point is roughly six metres above the high tide level. It is a mere 15km from the Simons town pier. Seal Island is a nature reserve of the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board and has no visitor access facilities. A radio mast built during WWII was a noticeable landmark within False bay but was gusted over in a wintery storm in 1970. Ruins of some huts are also visible on the island, these are from the sealing and guano collection era. Some rock inscriptions made by sealers are still evident. These are among the only signs of human activity.
Owing to its somewhat dense Seal population the island also entices predators in the form of Great white sharks who are constantly on the prowl during the cold winter months of June through August. The sharks are on patrol for a lone seal who has been separated from the pack, making it an easy target, this is when the deadly hunt ensues. This natural predation technique is both remarkable and exhilarating to witness. With explosive force, speed and such precision, the shark propels its all-powerful body out of the water and through the air in order to make the kill, in the blink of an eye, it’s over. This energised act is known as breaching and has tourists from every corner of the world booking months in advance with cage diving operators, just to catch the sight of this adrenaline-charged act. Through the years, Seal island has become celebrated for being the breaching capital of the world.
The island is in fact as significant to the seals who live there, the sharks who frequent and feed there, the African penguins and other bird species who breed there and also to the rapidly emergent ecotourism industry. Cage diving operators are now able to offer diving throughout the year.
There are 3 reputable and licensed shark cage diving operators in the False bay area, all of whom have the same dive site, the area surrounding Seal island. The time of year will determine the species you will encounter on a cage dive. Seal Island has permitted tourists to experience shark cage diving without having to leave the greater Cape town vicinity and drive longer distances to other areas in order to revel in an experience with sharks in their natural environment
We would love to have you join us on one of our cage dives from Simons town, False bay.
Written by: Carmen Richards