Cruising Cape Town’s kelp forests

Posted by Anita Froneman on 12 April 2021

It’s likely you’ve seen My Octopus Teacher by now. So how do you get out there and do like Craig Foster? Anita Froneman took Tintswalo’s Marine Exploration Adventure to get immersed in the underwater wonderland.

Keeping up with the kelp forests of Simon's Town

Credit: Shark Warrior Adventures

Craig Foster calls the kelp forests South Africa’s ‘golden forests’ because of their mesmerising appearance, and the exceptional ecosystems contained within them. I could hardly wait to go snorkelling in the waters of Simon’s Town, home to one of the sub-continent’s best kelp forests. The ocean is quite nippy, mind. Our group was kitted out with no less than 5mm-thick wetsuits, booties, gloves and even hoods on a bright and early morning expedition.

What’s so important about kelp forests?                   

Kelp forests are essential to the health of the oceans. Not only are they home to and shelter for countless marine life, they purify surrounding water by removing the waste from the many creatures that live in and around them. They also help reduce the effects of global warming by exporting large portions of biomass via gas-filled ‘bladders’ out into the deep sea where carbon can be sequestered, according to CapeNature. In fact, kelp forests are as productive per unit area as a tropical rainforest.

In South Africa’s kelp forests, scattered mostly throughout the Western Cape, you will find a surprising array of shark species. Gully sharks, shy sharks, pajama sharks, and sevengill cow sharks are among the friendly creatures inhabiting these areas. Other animals living here include lobster, crayfish, starfish and abalone.

Cool! Into the water…

Shark Warrior Adventure Centre leads our merry band of snorkellers on an exquisite ocean safari trip in the marine protected area of the Table Mountain National Park.

Goggles on, snorkel fixed, three, two, one. Look down, it’s paradise. Directly below me is an anemone. They are carnivores and interestingly, they are not stationary but can move around. Underneath the surface, time seems to stand still as I hold a starfish gently in my hands for the very first time.

The underwater world operates at a slower pace, even when you’re just snorkelling. I float over the thickest kelp. It’s hard to imagine I’m less than half a kilometre from school runs, traffic, COVID and job stress.

Credit: Anita Froneman

And then, the money shot. Off to the left, we see a strange, gliding movement. Big excitement ensues as we realise it’s a stingray casually floating by. Moments later, another one, even bigger!

‘That one must be the size of a Volkswagen beetle!’ Terry Corr, our guide decided. He does this every single day of his life, but he was as excited as a child before Christmas after seeing the stingrays.

Kayaks and penguins

Time to head to the beach. Tintswalo’s programme continued with some kayaking on the sapphire waters of Seaforth Beach, followed by the Centre’s famous penguin walk.

Credit: Anita Froneman

The African penguins have been nearly wiped out by a range of human activities over the years, and John ‘The Penguin Whisperer’ Monsoon explained to us how the Shark Warrior Adventure Centre does their bit to keep them safe. He is a bottomless pit of knowledge and tells us how these adorable flightless birds go about their daily lives.

Credit: Shark Warrior Adventures

The easiest way to contribute to the conservation of these waddlers? It’s simple. Keep your distance, and keep your dogs on a leash. The number of penguins who die as a result of humans who come too close, chasing them into the water during moulting season when they shed all their feathers, is staggering. Dogs often destroy their nests and eggs, preventing the crucial reproduction of this endangered species.

Credit: Unsplash

I feel changed. Not just changed but fresher, more balanced. The sea is a great balm in these times, and Tintswalo’s programme is a superb way of taking advantage of its cures.

Need to know

The Tintswalo Boulders Marine Exploration Adventure is a three-day adventure package.

Credit: Tinstwalo Boulders

Included:

  • Snorkelling safari through the kelp forests accompanied by the trained guides of Shark Warrior Adventure Centre.
  • Guided kayaking in the sheltered bays of Simon’s Town.
  • Visits to the penguins.
  • Two nights’ accommodation with breakfast at Tintswalo at Boulders plus some other specified meals.

Tintswalo at Boulders Boutique Villa

Part of the luxury Tintswalo bouquet of six southern African lodges that includes the legendary Tintswalo Atlantic, the Villa at Boulders is all about the warm Indian Ocean and the penguins of Boulders beach. Nine spacious luxury suites, most with magnificent balconies and views make up the villa, which is conveniently located near Simon’s Town, en route to Cape Point. In-room spa treatments are available for extra pampering and the villa is available as a complete nine-suite unit, for large groups or special family gatherings.

Credit: Tintswalo Boulders

Package rate for SA residents: R5250 per person sharing including two nights’ accommodation, coffees and teas, breakfast daily, one brunch, one lunch, one dinner and two water-based activities, as well as afternoon snacks on day one, and canapes and a sunset cocktail on day two. Valid until 19 December 2021.

For more information, contact Tintswalo Boulders here. 

 






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