Shark Bytes November 2017
Posted on Tuesday, 19 December 2017
I know I have been quiet the last few months but this is due to a number of adventures which has kept us offline for most of the past 3 months!
Most of this months’ news will be about our 5 week trip down to magnificent South Georgia but first here is a little bit of shark news…
GANSBAAI SHARK NEWS
We are now in the middle of our off season for Shark diving at Seal Island in False Bay so although we have not been operating since early September we have been able to book our clients in the Gansbaai and Mossel Bay areas.
Gansbaai continues to have a biologically fascinating year with many unpredictable situations. When we departed for South Georgia at the end of September the Great white sharks were beginning to make a slow return to Gansbaai after being missing in action due to the well-publicized Orca predations. We believed that things would slowly be returning to normal.
Both Chris & I were shocked to hear on our return that once again in mid-October the white sharks had made a speedy getaway on the exact day that both Port and Starboard (the shark eating Orcas) were spotted in that area. They stayed away until mid-November and only now over the last few days have sightings of great white sharks been more regular.
The sharks are not there in high numbers but with just a few sharks around everyone is hoping that numbers and sightings will continue to pick up.
I find it absolutely fascinating that in the absence of the Great whites in the Gansbaai area, the gap was very quickly filled by high numbers of Bronze Whaler sharks. These sharks must have been aware the great white shark departure and with this threat now no longer, it must have given rise to safer conditions for the bronze whalers to fill this space. Not only were they more present in the area but they have also been extremely active around the shark diving boats and this has provided great opportunities to cage dive with them. What’s fantastic is that guests have had a wonderful time seeing the bronze whalers and although the white sharks have been scarce it has still been an awesome shark cage diving experience!
LOOKING AHEAD TO SHARK EXPEDITIONS IN 2018
I can’t believe how quickly 2017 has flown by but now that it’s almost done I do believe it’s time to look ahead to 2018…and what better way than to see what exciting shark expeditions can be planned with Apex!
Date: 17 to 24 February 2018
Dive with 10 species of sharks whilst learning about their biology in beautiful South Africa.
The expedition will be hosted by Chris and Monique Fallows together with Professor Alessandro De Maddalena.
Book now as closing date is the 31st December.
Date: 31 May to 5 June 2018
Since its premiere in 1998, the Discovery Channel has made waves in a week-long TV programming event dedicated to sharks, now an iconic week in popular culture. This Shark Week expedition in South Africa is designed for Shark Week fans and lovers of Great White Sharks who want to visit and explore the historical sites associated with these amazing documentaries.
Meet the sharks* and the shark whisperers* who have starred in these shows over the last two decades.
Date: 21 to 30 July 2018
Hosted by Chris and Monique Fallows, this is our premier expedition of the year. The main focus is on observing and photographing the famous and uniquely intense natural predation behaviour between the Great White Shark and the Cape Fur Seal. Natural Predation and Breaching is our specific area of expertise and having witnessed and recorded just over 9500 predatory events in the last 20 years we are able to use our knowledge and experience to achieve these.
Date: 18 to 25 August 2018
South Africa’s three premier White Shark hotspots: False Bay, Gansbaai and Mossel Bay are visited in this 8 day expedition.
During the trail you’ll gain insights into natural White Shark predation, complex White Shark behaviour, White Shark biology, and way’s to identify sharks and how sharks and tourism align. Book Now!
Date: February to September
An extended time frame allows guests to get to know the different sharks, their distinct personalities and experience a wide range of shark behaviour. It also allows for amateur and professional photographers to bag that highly sought after shot.
Our 5 – 10 packages are customised to suit your requirements based on what behaviour you would like to see, the time of the year and budget.
We hope that your dreams of seeing Great white sharks and the other spectacular marine wildlife in South Africa will come true in 2018!
SOUTH GEORGIA EXPEDITION: October 2017
In November we returned from an absolutely epic 5 week adventure to South Georgia where without sounding very cliché, we had a trip of a lifetime. It is difficult to put into words what the experience was like but I have done my best by writing a very long account of our experience. For all you wildlife fanatics out there I hope you can put some time aside to hear about this very special and spectacularly abundant wildlife paradise.
A link to the full blog is here and a short excerpt is below.
“St Andrew’s Bay is probably THE landing in South Georgia and having missed it on our first visit here in 2012 I was itching at the opportunity of experiencing this expansive Bay with its 300,000 pairs of King Penguins. Yes, that means 600,000 adults plus their chicks meaning an approximate total of 750,000 penguins all in a single spot.
Up to 6000 elephant seals also haul out along the beaches here during the breeding season and as we were visiting over the peak part of this season it was set to be a jammed packed visit. A receding glacier stretches around the back of the colony setting the scene and 6 glorious landings over 3 days awaited us.
There is one word to describe this place and that is “Abundance”! Every person who is passionate about wildlife needs to know how truly wonderful it is that such a place on our planet still exists today.
We arrived at about 7pm on the first evening and even though time was short we all decided on a very quick exploratory visit. Just in that hour I could feel the potential of what was to come and sleep was hard to come by in anticipation of our first morning landing.
It amazes me how quickly one adapts to the wildlife and the closeness of the experience at South Georgia. I remember back to the first few minutes of our initial landing at Right Whale Bay and the sense of wonderment as a magnificent King Penguin in all its colourful splendor walked past just a few meters away from me.
By now being surrounded by literally hundreds of King Penguins was the new norm but I still was not quite so comfortable with being that close to the massive elephant seals.
One of the reasons for doing a trip so early in the South Georgia season was to be here at the peak of the Southern Elephant seal breeding and pupping season.
Day by day more and more female elephant seals were arriving and hauling out on the beaches to give birth to their young. Adult and near adult males were also arriving to stake their claim in preparation for the breeding season. With the daily increase in arrivals the beach was starting to become a real adventure course and high tide especially provided some humorous moments trying to dodge the nearly 4 ton males!
But very quickly this also became normal and looking back at the end of our stay at St Andrew’s the elephant seals seemed to be quite used to us too. They do warn you off by issuing a loud bark or cough and by opening their mouths wide allowing a good look into their rosy pink mouths. However, as soon as they see that one poses no threat they are quite trusting and I particularly enjoyed looking into their huge orb-like eyes which came across looking inquiringly gentle to me. Many of the females had already given birth and proportionally tiny black-pelted pups would lie alongside as they hungrily suckled from their mums.
Harems are established by the dominant males and on the fringes of each “Sneaky F*#$cker’s” surround. Believe it or not, this is actually an official scientific term for males who aren’t dominant but will sneak in for a quick opportunity with a female when the Beach Master is turned the other way. Apparently these males make up a fairly significant part of the gene pool and certainly have an important role to play. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that the beach is a mine field of wildlife. Dotted amongst the hundreds of elephant seals and thousands of penguins are the ever opportunistic Giant Petrels.
The beauty and abundance at South Georgia initially creates a sense of an unbelievable utopia but when one starts to pay close attention and begin to peel back the layers you start to understand that this in an incredibly tough place to survive. If you show even the slightest sign of weakness you will be taken apart piece by piece and some particularly gruesome scenes played out before us as the giant petrels made short work of the weak. The petrels certainly have their niche and although it was not something I choose to watch I was aware of the cogs in the wheel of this eco system.
There was so much going on along this 2 to 3km stretch of beach and as one walked along every 50 meters or so a particular drama would be playing itself out. It was just amazing how much behavior there was and at the end of each landing every member of our expedition would have something different to report back on regarding what he or she saw.
I very much enjoyed the opportunity of being able to walk and explore this big area. Chris & I went on long walks that took us around glacial lakes, barren areas strewn with rocks from glacial deposits and then finally at the back of the colony, the receding glacier. King penguins of course could be found in every nook and cranny.
Nursery areas of juvenile king penguins known as “oakum boys” could be found in their multitude in the middle of the colony and of course if we watched closely predatory giant petrels could be found hopping in amongst them, harassing them and weeding out the weak. Sunset brought on a spectacular sight and as we looked into the colony the many thousands of oakum boys would be lit up exposing beautiful dark patterns of penguin.
The pounding shore break at St Andrew’s also creates some truly beautiful sights in the early dawn as streams and streams of penguins going out for a day of feeding at sea are shrouded in a thick mist that hangs suspended all down the length of the beach. We were very fortunate to have an exceptional weather day with good sunlight and huge breaking swell which really served to amplify the misty conditions. It was a photo Chris had been dreaming of since his visit in 2015 and our excitement when we saw the conditions was extreme! We didn’t quite get the soft golden light we were hoping for but it did not stop us from taking hundreds of images, almost to Chris’s dismay when he realized he had to edit all of them!
It is difficult to decide on a highlight because each landing was just so overwhelming with everything that we were seeing and appreciating but I think my vote goes to our last evening once the sun had set behind the mountain.
It was perfect weather, warm in fact, and there was not a breath of wind. The beach break was still pounding and the echoing of the crashing waves was the background tone to the braying penguins and bellowing elephant seals. Now that the sun had set the light was even and as I looked down the beach to the 2 kilometers we had to walk back to the pickup point the sight and abundance of wildlife before me was very special indeed. I turned to Chris and Paige and said to them…let’s really take in every detail of this last walk…
As we slowly picked our way down the beach walking around the groups of penguins and avoiding the harems of elephant seals very little was said between us. It was as if our evening walk took place in slow motion as we tried to absorb every tiny detail of the sight, sound, smells and emotion of St Andrew’s Bay.
Special memories from probably the most spectacular 3 kilometers of beach on our planet!”
We have just returned from a 3 week trip to Mana Pools, Zimbabwe where we all celebrated the coup as well as the early rains that have fallen. I will update you on our Mana Pools adventure in the next Shark Bytes along with our sharky news.
In the meantime everyone at Apex would like to wish you and your Family Happy Holidays and all the best for a happy and healthy 2018!