Posted on Tuesday, 10 May 2016
I’m afraid the Great White shark news this month is short but extremely unsweet as our Seal Island sharks have been missing in action for the last 3 weeks.
We have however not been idle and had a very exciting Orca sighting in False Bay and another fantastic Pilot Whale encounter off Cape Point.
There is always a great debate that takes place whenever abnormal behaviour happens and right now many theories are being thrown around with of course very few answers!
Our last sighting of a Great White was on 7th April and around that time a number of things happened.
On that morning Chris & I had gone for an early morning walk on Muizenberg beach and to our horror we found an extremely fresh stomach of a Great White shark on the high tide mark.
When Chris and I inspected it we found it to be almost perfectly cut and there was no bad smell at all. When Chris lifted the stomach the fluid drained out as well as two half eaten seal pieces.
The intact and fresh condition of the stomach led us to believe the shark was caught and poached by a shore fisherman and then dismembered on the beach. It’s an absolute travesty that the poaching of Great White sharks is still taking place in South Africa and that the authorities seem powerless, or completely inadequate to do anything to prevent this illegal behaviour.
We know from past history that sharks do leave an area for lengthy periods whenever there has been a fatal threat to them. It’s likely that a compromised shark will release a stress hormone which communicates this threat to other sharks.
In that same week a couple of other incidences took place.
Two Seven Gill cow shark carcasses were found at the famous Millar’s Point dive site. The livers of both these sharks had been removed and the evidence pointed to a very possible Orca predation. Since this discovery the cow sharks have also all disappeared from Pyramid Rock and are also all still missing in action.
A few days after the predation event on the cow sharks, Chris & I came across a pod of 7 Orca in False Bay (you can read the full story below). This same pod of Orca were spotted just off Gansbaai four days previously and when we compared ID photographs with our friends who had also taken ID shots, we were able to confirm they were the same animals.
The interesting part to this story is that at the Gansbaai Orca sighting, the orca were seen moving with a school of Common dolphin, but they were not hunting them, and apparently both species appeared comfortable with one another.
So, in conclusion, perhaps these Orca are not the dolphin hunting orca that we have become used to seeing in False Bay, but rather shark hunters. And if they have hunted cow sharks at Pyramid Rock perhaps they caused trouble with the Great Whites at Seal Island too?
I know some would say that perhaps the white shark stomach we found was from an Orca predation but I can’t believe that the stomach would have made it through the surf, up to the beach, and remain as intact as it was.
I don’t suspect we will ever get firm answers but I don’t believe in coincidences either, and I have a strong suspicion that all of these events have led to the sharks leaving our area.
Shark Trips & Marine Activity
In the absence of sharks we have advised all our guests as to the situation and some people have been happy to spend a morning in False Bay and give the trip a go.
The Bay right now is full of a large bio mass of anchovy and this is supporting big schools of Common dolphin. Out of the ordinary are the huge numbers of Sooty shearwaters that are present. These are offshore open ocean birds, and not only is it rare to see them in False Bay, but incredible to see them in the numbers we have.
It has also been happy days for the Cape Fur seals and huge rafts have been spotted feeding in the same areas as the dolphins and birds. It really does make my heart very warm indeed that the seals at least are having an easier time at the moment.
So, although we haven’t seen sharks our guests have still been able to have a memorable marine safari experience.
From the Blog
On April 14 Chris & I were privileged, and extremely fortunate, to have our 17th encounter since 2009 with Orca in False Bay. This is now the 7th different pod that we have photographed and spent time with.
Read The Full Blog Here.
“About mid-way into False Bay we had stopped and as I was looking out I spotted two very big dorsal fins in the distance.
Even though they disappeared literally a moment after I had first seen them, I immediately knew what I had seen… ORCA!
The two animals stayed submerged for a good while, but during that time we had the hydro-phone out and could clearly here the Orca making “clicking” sounds as they communicated with one another.
The next time they surfaced it was not just two animals, but a third … a fourth… and finally up to seven were recorded! This pod was made up of three adult males, two females and two juveniles.
We soon found that the two females with their juveniles were shy so we made sure to stay a wide, comfortable distance away from them.
The males however, with their impressively tall dorsal fins were interactive and approachable, and in the first 45 minutes of the encounter they were all happy to ride fairly close alongside our boat.
I can never get over hearing the sound of an orca exhaling right beside our boat. It literally gives me goose bumps seeing, hearing and feeling this incredible animal in such close proximity.
The highlight of the day was when one of the males changed direction back towards us and chose to approach our boat completely of his own accord. When he reached us he turned upside down and swam alongside us, belly up, just below the surface for a good 30 seconds.
I was screaming with excitement, Chris was trying to capture an image and our 11 month old dog, Brownie, who was only on her second ever boat trip, peered over the gunnels of the boat looking directly down at the curious orca… it was a priceless moment!”
Pilot Whale Encounter
Read the full Blog Here
“When we made our way out to the source of the splashes, roughly 50 Pilot whales charged with purpose through the surrounding water, half clearing the water with every thrust of their tails. These peculiar whales, known to whalers as black fish, are highly gregarious and very sociable, forming tightly knit family units that are defined in a matrilineal system, much like elephants.
They are primarily squid feeders and as the walls of the submarine canyon which we were drifting over play host to various squid species, it is obviously a good hunting ground for the Pilot whales. Although I have dived with Pilot whales on many occasions in the past this interaction was undoubtedly my best. It is was just myself and a few likeminded friends out there, and over the course of the next four hours we took turns getting in with the whales. On all occasions allowing the whales a lot of choice as to whether they wanted to approach us or not. After a few interactions the whales became more and more comfortable with our presence, and the 50 odd whales had now been joined by probably three or four other schools, swelling the total count to over 400 animals, in conjunction with around 80 Offshore bottlenose dolphins who had joined the party. On several dives we watched happily in awe as groups of upwards of 30-40 whales would cavort in close proximity together and touch and rub up against one another. On other occasions they would mill around slowly on the surface, spy hopping and tail slapping clearly engaged in some or other social greeting or interaction.”
I hope to have positive Great White shark news in May!
We still have some spots available on the following expeditions: The Sardine Run 22- 29 June,
The Great White Trail 15 – 22 August, and The Great White Sharks of Guadalupe 10 – 15 November.
Visit our Shark Expeditions page for all the info.
Until next Month…
To read our last three Shark Bytes click on the links below:
March 2016 Shark Bytes
January 2016 Shark Bytes
November 2015 Shark Bytes