Aerial view of woman swimming in Glencairn tidal pool, Cape Town, South Africa.

Fancy a dip – here are 7 of the best tidal pools in Cape Town, and when to go photograph them.

As any Capetonian worth their salt will tell you, Cape Town, or the Mother City as locals call it, is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. With the onset of Spring and warmer weather just over the horizon we are all looking for exciting things to do out in nature.

One of my favourite is to visit the city’s visually epic tidal pools. If you can believe it, Cape Town is home to 24 unique tidal pools dotted along the Atlantic Ocean (West) and False Bay (East) coastline – a subject matter I’ve been photographing for over three years now.

No matter the coastline you find yourself on, you’re almost always guaranteed to spot a motley crew of locals brave enough to take a plunge in one. From the quirky local communities that take part in daily dawn swims, to sundowner picnickers, costal foragers, free divers, yoga suppers 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.

Having lived in landlocked Johannesburg most of my life, the pools stood out as something special immediately. 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.

In 2018, after the purchase of my first drone, I unknowingly embarked on my now multi-year journey to collect them all. The pools look incredible from above and I was blown away by how the change in perspective dramatically changed their appearance and my feelings toward them. An otherwise unremarkable tidal pool from land could transform into a sculpture of line and swirls with vibrant splashes of colour from the air.

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

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

Thanks to her hard work, and a team of likeminded communities, the pilot projects were a success. Now all tidal pools managed by the City of Cape Town are cleaned primarily using eco-friendly methods – like using high pressure hoses and environmentally friendly chalk-based paint. The work continued on through the COVID-19 lockdown, when a team of scientists from Anchor Research and Monitoring Pty, The Beach Co-Op (a local non-profit) and the City of Cape Town took advantage of the absence of humans on South Africa’s beaches to conduct the city’s first ever 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 inhabit the pools that we share. I hope my photographs bring awareness to the beauty of the Cape Town tidal pools, and helps to shift the perspective for those hesitant to brave the cold waters to find the treasures within.

Here are some tidal pools I recommend you check out:

Dalebrook tidal pool, 2019

Dalebrook


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

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St James

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.

Wooley's tidal pool, Cape Town 2020

Wooley’s Tidal Pool

Wooley’s tidal pool is a well-kept locals secret. Found hidden from the road between Kalk Bay and Glencairn it is a much quieter swim. The sunrises are no less spectacular on windless days.

Maidens Cove tidal pool, Cape Town 2020

Maidens Cove.

Maidens Cove has two tidal pools hidden between enormous granite boulders. It was first tidal pool I shot in Cape Town and so has a special place in my heart. The tidal pool has a special history as it was one the few beaches where non-white residents of Cape Town could come and enjoy a day at the sea in a whites-only area before 1994, according to Cape Town tidal pools.

Saunders Rock tidal pool, 2020

Saunders Rock

When I first started photographing the petite Saunders Rock tidal pool, there was only a small number of locals using the pool. But since then, more and more people are flocking to this pool to take dips after their morning runs, or else enjoy a cool sundowner from the rocks nestled in the shadow of Bantry Bay.

Camps Bay tidal pool, 2020

Camps Bay

The tidal pool is surrounded by the majestic peaks of Lions Head and the Twelve Apostles of Table Mountain in Camps Bay. It is a grand setting for sundowners with many people driving here just to watch blazing reflections as the sun sinks into the Atlantic.

Glencairn tidal pool sunrise outdoor swim, Cape Town, South Africa.

Glencairn

Because it is shallow and filled with soft white sand, Glencairn is a good spot for children to swim. What I do like about it is it is quiet and unassuming.

Here is the full list of tidal pools dotted across the Western Cape:

Here is the full list of tidal pools dotted across the Western Cape:


Camps Bay Tidal Pool - Victoria Road, Camps Bay

Dalebrook Tidal Pool - Off Main Road, Dalebrook

Glencairn Tidal Pool - Glencairn Beach, Glencairn

Graaff Tidal Pool - Sea Point Beach Front, Beach Road, Sea Point

Harmony Park Tidal Pool - Jan Bruin Street, Strand

Kalk Bay 1 Tidal Pool - Off Main Road, Kalk Bay

Kalk Bay 2 Tidal Pool - Off Main Road, Kalk Bay

Maiden's Cove 1 Tidal Pool - Off Victoria Road, Camps Bay

Maiden's Cove 2 Tidal Pool - Off Victoria Road, Camps Bay

Milton Tidal Pool - Off Beach Road, Sea Point

Monwabisi Tidal Pool - Off Baden Powell Drive, Khayelitsha

Saunders' Rock Tidal Pool - Sea Point Promenade, Beach Road, Sea Point

Shelley Point Tidal Pool - M6, Glencairn

Silwerstroom Tidal Pool - Silwerstroom Resort, off Westcoast Road, Silwerstroom

Soetwater 1 Tidal Pool - Lighthouse Road, Kommetjie

Soetwater 2 Tidal Pool- Lighthouse Road, Kommetjie

Sparks Tidal Pool - Clarence Drive, R44, Gordon’s Bay

St James Tidal Pool - Main Road, St James

Strand Tidal Pool - Beach Road, Strand

Wooley's Tidal Pool - Off Main Road, Glencairn, Kalk Bay

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