J'Bay, as it is known to locals, has long been a mecca for local and international travellers in search of 'peace and the perfect wave'. The nearby St Francis Bay also has some pretty spectacular surfing when the conditions are favourable, but it is not as dependable.
During the summer holiday season, this area bursts at the seams with holiday-makers. It is also the centre of South Africa's tjokka, or calamari industry, so black-stained fishing boats speeding to and from the harbour are a regular sight.
Good surfing and diving conditions are not synonymous, and this area has never been a popular diving destination, but perlemoen abound and diving for them is a popular pastime in season.
Succulent wild oysters are also found on most of the rocks and can be collected during low tide in season whilst alikreukels (giant periwinkles) can be harvested throughout the year.
The area is virtually unexplored by scuba divers, though, and holds the promise of many new reefs to be discovered.
The Krom and Gamtoos rivers flow into the sea and cause muddy conditions after the rains. Strong winds blow during most of the year and the easterly winds that prevail in summer blow onshore and reduce visibility, while the offshore westerlies clean the sea during winter. Ground-swells occur and tend to pick up sand in shallow water.
Visibility is usually about 2-6m (6-20ft) but can be as much as 15m (50ft), and water temperature ranges from 14-18ºC (57-65ºF). The best time to dive this area is during the month of November and from February through to September.
Non-diving companions can go surfing, or enjoy the many beaches, shops and restaurants.This picturesque area is also well worth exploring.
See also Encounter Magazine's comprehensive guide on Scuba Diving
in South Africa.