Exploring the Cape’s Tidal Pools for a Healthy Dose of Vitamin Sea

Posted by Mishqah Schippers on 27 October 2021

Photographer Jay Caboz explores the Cape’s tidal pools and finds unique worlds where land and sea meet.

Wooley’s Tidal Pool

Wooley’s Tidal Pool is a well-kept secret. Hidden from the road between Kalk Bay and Glencairn, it is a much quieter swim. The sunrises are no less spectacular on windless days.

How does one describe Cape Town’s icy waters? Let me count the ways. For me, the water can be anything from a toe-numbing sensation to a steal-your-breath, freeze-your-bones ice blast. Despite this, you’re almost guaranteed to spot a motley crew of locals brave enough to take the plunge in one of Cape Town’s 24 tidal pools, often at dawn.

These pools, and their swimrisers, have been subjects I’ve been drawn to photograph for more than three years. Having lived in landlocked Johannesburg for most of my life, the pools stood out as something special. One day, I decided to brave the icy waters and see why the locals love them so much. Despite the cold, I felt a connection. Perhaps it’s our primal human instinct, but I believe we are drawn to spaces where land and water meet.

In 2018, after the purchase of my first drone, I unknowingly embarked on a multi-year journey to collect images of them all.

The pools look incredible from above, and I was blown away by how the change in perspective changed their appearance and my feelings towards them. An otherwise un-remarkable tidal pool from land, from the air could transform into a sculpture of lines and swirls with vibrant splashes of colour.

Dalebrook Tidal Pool

The more I’ve photographed the tidal pools, the more I’ve come to realise that each has its own identity – and a distinct community that uses it. Whether the sea is wild, with windswept waves crashing over the walls, or so serene that you search for flashes of little silver fish swimming past the myriad brightly coloured anemones, I found I wanted to capture these stories.

From the quirky local communities that take part in daily dawn swims, to sundowner picnickers, coastal foragers, free divers, yoga SUPers and even non-profits exposing children to the wonderful world of life beneath the water’s surface, there is always something happening if you take the time to observe.

Preserving the treasures

It was in the early days of exploring the pools that I first heard about local free diver Lisa Beasley and how she had been championing a pilot project to clean the tidal pools using eco-friendly methods, rather than toxic chemicals and aggressive removal of sea life from the walls.

Thanks to her hard work – and a team of like-minded communities – the pilot projects were a success.

Now all tidal pools that are managed by the City of Cape Town are cleaned primarily using eco-friendly methods – such as using high pressure hoses and environmentally friendly chalk-based paint.

St-James Tidal Pool

The work continued through the Covid-19 lockdown, when a team of scientists from Anchor Research and Monitoring; The Beach Co-Op, a local non-profit; and the City of Cape Town took advantage of the absence of humans on the beaches to conduct the city’s first biodiversity survey.

That information is now being used as a baseline for further research of life in the tidal pools, as well as to help NGOs raise awareness of the abundance of marine life that inhabits the pools.

I hope my photographs bring attention to the beauty of Cape Town’s tidal pools, and that they help to shift the perspective of those hesitant to brave the cold waters to find the treasures within.

Biodiversity survey
During the Covid-19 lockdown, the City of Cape Town hired a team of scientists from Anchor Research and Monitoring and The Beach Co-Op to conduct the city’s first ever biodiversity survey.

Glencairn Tidal Pool

Because it’s shallow and filled with soft white sand, Glencairn is a good spot for children to swim. I really like that it is quiet and unassuming.

St James Tidal Pool

St James was built in 1903. The pool is one of the larger pools in the Kalk Bay area and another popular spot for swimmers throughout the day. It is a well-known photographer hotspot thanks to the colourful beach houses lining the tidal pool.

Milton Tidal Pool

I like to think of Milton as being the forgotten child in the Cape Town tidal pool family. Found along the Sea Point promenade, it rarely gets as much attention as it deserves. Still, many families like to use it as a place to cool off on a summer day because of its proximity to the city centre and Sea Point restaurants.

Maiden’s Cove Tidal Pool

Maiden’s Cove has two tidal pools hidden between enormous granite boulders. It was the first tidal pool I shot in Cape Town and so has a special place in my heart. And it has a special history: it was one of the few beaches where people of colour could come and enjoy a day at the sea in a whites-only area before 1994.

Harmony Park

Harmony Park caught me off-guard. I came expecting to find it run-down and neglected. Barring a lot of litter, this was not the case at all. It is easily the most beautifully designed tidal pool in the Cape Town family, and one of the largest. You could easily spend hours floating around here.

Dalebrook Tidal Pool

Dalebrook was one of the first tidal pools in Cape Town to be cleaned using environmentally friendly methods. It is also one of the city’s oldest pools, having been built in 1907. It is very popular with a growing community of swimrisers, who brave any weather to catch an early morning swim.

Saunders Rock Tidal Pool

When I first started photographing this petite tidal pool, there were only a small number of locals who used it. Since then, more people have been choosing this pool to take dips in after their morning runs, or to enjoy a cool sundowner from the rocks, nestled in Bantry Bay.






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