If you have ever had the pleasure of sleeping a night at Tintswalo Atlantic, you will know what it’s like to listen to the waves washing you into a deep sleep.
The lapping sea is so close to the rooms that it sometimes feels as though the ocean itself is rocking your bed, and you drift off into a happy slumber.
What is even more remarkable, if you lie awake and imagine it, is the hidden world of animals living beneath the waves just meters away.
As the tide rises with the crash of each wave, fresh nutrients are drawn up from the deep, feeding a multitude of animals—from the tiny colourful fish, crabs and anemones along the shore, to the largest whales that swim into the bay to breed.
Cape Town is renowned for its ocean wonders.
The collision of cold and warm currents at the southern tip of Africa causes a nutrient-rich environment that supports a magnificent array of life – making the Cape coast one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.
In the mornings, if you stand on your private deck, bronze-tipped kelp forests shimmer in the morning light. The plain kelp may seems lifeless from above, but these submarine underworlds harbour more life than any rain forest on land.
If you’re brave enough to swim in the cold water and dip your head below the surface, a new world opens up. Thousands of colourful urchins carpet the floor of the forest; sponges cling to the rocks, and colourful waving anemones sway with the soft swell. The long kelp arms cling to the ocean floor, and you can pull yourself down, down, down to the seafloor where schools of silver fish flit through the water, and the rays of sun dance in the blue-green.
Climbing through the underwater forest is like manoeuvring weightlessly through a colourful cosmos as the kelp trunks sway with the shifting swell.
If you are lucky, you might see one of the most fascinating creatures found in these shores—the Octopus.
Moving through the water with it’s eight gangly legs, the octopus is a genius of the deep. They are extremely good at hunting, and can slide their way through holes the size of a coin by moving each arm and muscle individually, and with expert precision. They are also extremely intelligent when it comes to avoiding other predators. In the recent landmark BBC series: Blue Planet, an octopus was filmed off the Cape Coast using shells and other tools to shield itself from the pursuit of a small shark.
A marine animal using tools? Who would have thought.
As you float through the kelp you might also see small sharks. Don’t worry; there are numerous species of shark that live just off the shore, and most of them are harmless.
If you’re particularly fortunate, you might see the smaller shy sharks as they flit in the shadows, or one of the stripy black and white pajama sharks swimming through the kelp; or perhaps a slightly bigger gully shark lurking in a cave.
The Cape Coast is also known for its largest of Apex Predators: the Great White Shark. But the great white don’t ever come into the kelp forests – they prefer to hunt in deeper waters, out near the islands where lots of seals can be found.
If swimming is not your thing, a simple walk along the rocks near the lodge reveals a magical world; from tiny ‘klipvis’ (rock fish) to limpets and mussels and crabs and even tiny neon nudibranchs – so wonderful and diverse in shape and size and colour that you would think they are from another planet completely.
The intertidal zone (the space between low tide and high tide) also supports hundreds of species of birds, and a few mammals too, most notably a cheeky otter that slips in and out of the rocks catching fish, and sometimes sleeping under the deck.
So next time you sit on the lodge deck, staring out at the crashing waves and breathing in the fresh sea air, you will appreciate the entire world that thrives just out of sight; a place where few humans venture, and where nature still rules.
A magical world indeed.