False Bay South Africa and “My Octupus Teacher”

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Cape Point
Cape Point on the Western Cape near False Bay, where “My Octopus Teacher” was filmed. 

One of the critical hits of the fall Netflix season is “My Octopus Teacher,” a moving documentary about a filmmaker/free-diver and the common octopus he follows daily for about a year. The intelligent, affectionate mollusk changes his life, and we are treated to spectacular under- and above-water footage — and a profound life experience.

False Bay

Filming took place in the frigid waters of False Bay in the Atlantic, near Cape Town, between the Cape Peninsula and the mountains in the extreme south-west of South Africa. The mouth of the bay faces south, with Cape Point to the west and Cape Hangklip to the east.

False Bay is known for diverse marine life: besides octopuses, spectacular fish and jellyfish, crabs, brittle stars and pyjama sharks, all living in the lush, kelp forest.

The kelp forest of False Bay MY OCTOPUS TEACHER

The filmmaker, Craig Foster, lived on False Bay, and as he explains, his family “had this little wooden bungalow, literally below the high water mark.” During storms, Foster remembered that the ocean would “smash the doors down and fill up the bottom of the house.”Recommended For You

Simon’s Town

Closeby Simon’s Town is set on the bay. There at Boulders Beach, in 1982, a couple of little African Penguins settled between the granite rocks that protect the sand from wind and waves.

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The population grew to between 2,000 and 3,000 birds, but the numbers have dwindled due to over-fishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and irresponsible tourism. The African Penguin has now been classified as an endangered species.

Boulders Beach and its surrounding beaches are now part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area. Dunes and vegetation provide close viewing, and protect nesting penguins. Wheelchair-friendly boardwalks accommodate thousands of visitors a year.

Boulders Beach
Penguins at Boulders Beach LEA LANE

The Simon’s Town MuseumSA Naval Museum and Warrior Toy Museum are interesting stops, and you can learn about the Muslim community by visiting the Noorul Islam Heritage Museum in King George’s Way.

Overlooking the bay is the statue of the Great Dane Just Nuisance. Enlisted in the 1930s, he is the most famous dog in Naval History. There’s a special display for him at the Simon’s Town Museum; his grave site is on nearby Red Hill.

The legendary Just Nuisance LEA LANE

Jubilee Square shops offer vintage goods. And when you’re hungry, local oysters, prawns, classic fish and chips, and the catch of the day are local favorites in and around Wharf Street.

Simon's Bay
Wharf Street, Simon’s Town LEA LANE

On and Under the Water

You can kayak along the coastline to visit the penguins at Boulders Beach and dive with the experts. And the truly adventurous can see the famed great white shark in False Bay, through activities from cage or scuba diving to breaching and predation tours. 

shark cage
Shark cage diving is popular LEA LANE

You can also cruise for whale-watching (between June and November), exploring ocean caves, and enjoying the cliff faces and spectacular view of Cape Point from offshore.

But if you want to see the now beloved little octopus who lived in False Bay’s swaying kelp forest … you’ll still need to watch the documentary.


  • Lea Lane

    Lea Lane is an award-winning writer and communicator, author of Places I Remember: Tales, Truths, Delights from 100 Countries, and Travel Tales I Couldn't Put in the Guidebooks, available at Amazon as print and Kindle eBook. She writes for magazines, newspapers and on websites, including Forbes.com, The New York Times, Salon, and the Daily Beast. Lea's travel podcast, Places I Remember with Lea Lane, is available wherever you listen to podcasts. She interviews passionate travelers and travel experts around the world. She's authored eight books (including Solo Traveler, finalist for best travel book of the year from the North American Travel Journalists Association). She has contributed to dozens of other books, from encyclopedias to guidebooks. Lea wrote a column called "Going It Alone," for Gannett Newspapers, and was managing editor of "Travel Smart" newsletter. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Visit her web site: https://placesirememberlealane.com/ Her travel blog is forbes.com/sites/lealane Lea's travel podcast is Places I Remember: Travel Talk with Lea Lane is available wherever you listen to podcasts Like and follow: facebook.com/placesirememberbylealane Tweet her @lealane Follow her at instagram.com/travelea Read less

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