False Bay

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Swim course across False Bay from Rooi Els to Miller's Point
Annemie Landmeters, first person to complete a False Bay Crossing in 1989

False Bay, named such because early navigators mistook Hangklip for Cape Point, is the largest true bay in South Africa and one of the great bays of the world.

The False Bay coast is a continuous collection of seaside villages and hamlets, their narrow avenues lined with quirky and quaint shops, hotels, restaurants and pubs. Implicit in the diversity is the promise of myriad picnic spots and lookout spots, particularly during the whale season when whales enter the bay to calve.

Some of the most popular of these in and around Cape Town include Muizenberg - popular amongst surfers and swimmers alike – Kalk Bay – a little character fishing village, with a vibrant day and night life – and Simon’s Town – the historical naval village. The wide stretches of beaches central to the bay - Monwabisi, Macassar and Mnandi - are favoured for fishing, whilst the villages of Rooiels, Hanglip and Pringle Bay all offer cosy getaways.

False Bay has unlimited opportunities for ocean swimming and dramatic beauty that incorporates white, sandy beaches, beautiful valleys and sweeping vistas. It is no surprise to learn that the distance across False Bay (33 kilometres from Rooiels to Miller’s Point) remains a rather daunting prospect for even the most primed marathon swimmers - it has eluded almost 90% of those who have tried - and has been attempted 22 times with only five successes.


Swim Crossing

Crossing False Bay remains a daunting prospect for most hardened marathon swimmers, and an achievement that has eluded almost 90% of those who have attempted it. It must be said that the crossing has been attempted no more than 20 times, with the first success achieved by world-renowned Belgian swimmer Annemie Landmeters in 1989 and repeated fifteen years later in 2004 by South African distance swimming ace, Steven Klugman. In February 2006, Cape Town's Carina Bruwer became the third swimmer, and a year later Barend Nortje became the fourth and fastest swimmer to successfully cross the False Bay. Ned Denison completed the 35 km crossing on 30 December 2012 in 11 hours 5 minutes.

The difficulty of this swim of about 35 km can be attributed to strong and unpredictable currents and winds, icy and often inconsistent water temperatures (ranging from 9°C to 20°C), and the fact that False Bay has one of the highest populations of Great white sharks in the world.


The traditional starting point is Rooi Els on the western end of the False Bay to Miller's Point (Rumbly Bay). The shortest distance is 33km. The water temperature can be anything between 9°C and 19°C with strong and often unpredictable currents.

Successful Swimmers

1989 - Annemie Landmeters (Belgium) - Rooi Els to Simonstown - 9 hours 56 minutes
15 February 2004 - Steven Klugman (South Africa) - Rooi Els to Miller's Point - 14 hours 15 minutes
26 February 2006 - Carina Bruwer (South Africa) - Rooi Els to Miller's Point - 11 hours 58 minutes
5 March 2007 - Barend Nortje (South Africa) - Rooi Els to Miller's Point - 9 hours 33 minutes
30 December 2012 - Ned Denison (Ireland) - Rooi Els to Miller's point - 11 hours 5 minutes

The Dangers From Sharks

False Bay is known for its abundance of huge Great white sharks. You only have to tune into any of the National Geographic Channel shark programs to get a good idea of what lurks below. It would be foolish to ignore the dangers, and while Landmeters and many swimmers who attempted the crossing in earlier years (including international legends such Kevin Murphy, and South African Channel swimmers such as Peter Bales, Hugh Tucker and Theo Yach swam without a cage or any protection whatsoever; since 2004 all swimmers attempting the swim have made use of a Shark shield - an electronic shark repellent device attached to the swimmer's support boat.

Since records began in the 1800's, there has been around 122 shark attacks in False Bay, of which 36 resulted in serious injuries and 27 were fatal. Many believe that the number of shark attacks in False Bay have increased dramatically since Shark cage diving began off Dyer Island in 1989.

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