Diving into one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, the Great African Seaforest provides a unique experience of the marine environment and the abundance of creatures that dwell there. The dense canopies and three-dimensional structure make the kelp forest a perfect habitat for a wide diversity of fish, mammals, algae and invertebrates.
Immersion into the Cape Peninsula waters is a complete sensory experience. It allows for unique human-wildlife interaction, quite the opposite to visiting animals in captivity. The biophilia hypothesis describes humans’ innate tendency to connect with nature and forms of life. Freediving and snorkeling provide the perfect avenue through which to do that. Personal engagement with wildlife often leads to memorable interactions, thus resulting in nature-connectedness. Interacting with wildlife in marine spaces has been scientifically observed to foster environmental stewardship and a vested interest in blue spaces and the conservation thereof. Not only do immersive, tactile interactions have positive outcomes in terms of environmental relations, but research strongly indicates that engaging with the ocean and its inhabitants has a profound positive impact on mental and physical well-being and bodily awareness.
The potential that interaction with marine spaces holds and the subsequent positive impact on both the environment and your well-being is a great reason to get into the kelp and meet the creatures that reside there. Despite the resilience and versatility of the kelp forest species, animals must at all times be encountered with respect. The objective of engagement with these animals is better understanding, increased awareness and the opportunity for appreciation.
The diversity of creatures in the kelp forest ensures that one will have a different experience with each dive. Some species, especially fish and mammals, are mobile, so species-specific sightings are highly variable. A few benthic organisms, such as the echinoderms: spiny sea stars, brittle stars and urchins, are guaranteed sightings. There is much room for scientific development, but current evidence shows that thanks to their rudimentary nervous systems, these marine invertebrates do not experience behavioural stress as do their vertebrate kelp-forest counterparts, such as fish, seabirds or shy sharks. If handled with consideration, painful stimuli avoided, and care taken to replace the animal, these slow-moving creatures make great environmental educators! Observing these creatures in the careful hands of our guides can deepen your connection to the kelp forest and the marine environment. Taking the time to marvel at the tiny intricacies of nature no doubt grows a fondness rooted in understanding and admiration.
While diving and snorkeling, it is vital to maintain a moral and ethical manner of conduct. Be sure to familiarise yourself with the following guidelines to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience:
- Do keep your fins off the bottom. Pushing off or standing on the reef poses the risk of damaging fragile organisms and can also stir up silt, resulting in poor visibility for you or other divers.
- That being said, do use slow, intentional movements. This will prevent animals from getting startled and often allows you to see, hear and feel more. It is important that you don’t chase or harass any animals, especially ones moving away.
- Do not remove any living creature from the kelp forest.
- Do not attempt to feed or harm any animals.
- Do ask your guide any questions you may have.
- Do remember to drop into your body and enjoy all of the kelp forest sensations!