Diving with Majestic Short-Tail Stingrays in Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa, is a diver’s paradise, offering the opportunity to explore an array of mesmerizing marine life. Among the fascinating creatures that call these waters home are the Short-Tail Stingrays. In this blog post, we’ll go on an underwater journey to discover these magnificent rays, the best time to encounter them (October to January), and their unique characteristics. We’ll also introduce two exceptional shore dive sites, Millers Point and Long Beach in Simonstown, and mention two promising boat dive locations, Pete’s Pinnacles near Smitswinkel Bay and Finlay’s Point close to Castle Rocks. Additionally, we’ll explore the conservation status of these gentle giants and recommend the ideal camera setup: a GoPro with the 3Square Aquastick and Cube Lights.

Meet the Short-Tail Stingrays

Short-Tail Stingrays, scientifically known as Dasyatis brevicaudata, are incredible marine creatures that grace the coastal waters of Cape Town. These remarkable rays have cartilaginous skeletons, which means their skeletons are made of cartilage rather than bone. They have gill slits on the ventral (under) side of their bodies, and two spiracles behind their eyes on the dorsal (upper) surface. These adaptations allow them to efficiently draw in water, which then flows over their gills before exiting through the gill slits.

These bottom-dwelling rays employ various defensive strategies such as camouflage and toxic spines to protect themselves against predators. They are skilled at gliding along the sandy ocean floor in search of food, which primarily consists of mollusks, crustaceans, worms, and small fishes. Short-Tail Stingrays have electro-receptors and highly developed senses of smell and touch to locate and capture their prey.

Diving with Short Tail Stingrays in Cape Town

The Wonders of Short-Tail Stingrays

One of the most intriguing aspects of Short-Tail Stingrays is their reproductive strategy. These rays are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. With a maximum width of 2.1 meters, a total length of at least 4.3 meters, and a weight exceeding 300 kilograms, Short-Tail Stingrays are possibly the largest of all stingray species.

Despite their intimidating appearance and the potential for their tail barb to inflict severe or even fatal wounds, Short-Tail Stingrays are generally more inquisitive than aggressive. Divers who approach them with respect and caution are often rewarded with breathtaking encounters.

Dive Sites for Stingray Enthusiasts

Millers Point: A Hidden Gem

Millers Point, situated on the western side of False Bay, is a shore dive site that promises unforgettable encounters with Short-Tail Stingrays. Its gentle slope and accessibility make it suitable for divers of all levels. As you descend into the often-murky waters, keep a watchful eye on the sandy seabed where these graceful rays often glide by. Millers Point is also a hub of marine life, ensuring that each dive is a treasure trove of discovery.

Millers Point a Stingray paradise in Cape Town
Long Beach, Simonstown: The Stingray Playground
Long Beach in Simonstown is another exceptional shore dive site renowned for its Short-Tail Stingray sightings. As you explore the sandy bottom and rocky formations, you’ll have numerous opportunities to observe these majestic rays as they navigate their underwater world. Remember to maintain a respectful distance to ensure both your safety and the well-being of these wild creatures.

Boat Dive Adventures

Pete's Pinnacles near Smitswinkel Bay
While sightings of Short-Tail Stingrays are not guaranteed, boat dives to Pete’s Pinnacles near Smitswinkel Bay are well worth the adventure. These submerged pinnacles are a haven for marine life, including the enigmatic rays. The clear waters and dramatic underwater terrain offer excellent visibility, providing underwater photographers with the perfect conditions to capture these mesmerizing creatures.
Freediver in the water with a Short Tail Stingray at Millers Point
Finlay's Point near Castle Rocks
Another boat dive location where you may have the chance to spot Short-Tail Stingrays is Finlay’s Point near Castle Rocks. While the presence of these rays is not guaranteed, the rich marine biodiversity and stunning underwater topography make every dive at this site an exciting exploration.
Surface marker buoy with the Dive Team boat in the background

Challenging Visibility: 5 to 8 Meters

During the October to January season, divers should be prepared for visibility challenges, with an average range of 5 to 8 meters. While this may present some limitations for underwater photography, it adds an element of mystery and excitement to your encounters with Short-Tail Stingrays.

Conservation Efforts: Protecting Our Ocean Treasures

Despite being listed as “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Short-Tail Stingrays, like many marine species, face threats from habitat degradation, overfishing, and climate change. It is crucial to support conservation efforts and practice responsible diving to ensure the continued well-being of these magnificent creatures and the preservation of their ecosystem.
Stingray on the sand at Finlays Point

Ideal Camera Setup: GoPro with 3Square Aquastick and Cube Lights

For capturing the beauty of Short-Tail Stingrays and the underwater wonders of Cape Town, we recommend using a GoPro camera paired with a 3Square Aquastick and Cube Lights. This compact and versatile setup allows you to capture high-quality images and videos, even in challenging visibility conditions. Experiment with different angles and lighting to create stunning underwater footage of these graceful rays.

Diving with Short-Tail Stingrays in Cape Town is an adventure that combines the thrill of underwater exploration with the awe-inspiring beauty of these magnificent creatures. Whether you choose a shore dive at Millers Point or Long Beach or hop on a boat dive to Pete’s Pinnacles or Finlay’s Point, the opportunity to witness Short-Tail Stingrays in their natural environment is an experience that will leave a lasting impression and a deeper appreciation for the incredible marine life of South Africa’s coast. Remember to dive responsibly, protect the environment, and support conservation initiatives to ensure that future generations can also enjoy these magnificent underwater encounters.

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