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Shark Bytes

August 2011 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

Posted on Wednesday, 31 August 2011

August has been a great month for us at Seal Island. The shark activity has been good and we have had the most amazingly warm weather. Actually our  English guests have yet again been wondering why they do not live here year round!


Predatory Activity

In our July report I spoke about very intense levels of natural predation events towards the end of the month. This activity continued into August and in the first 2 weeks we had a number of days with 30 plus events.

Almost all our guests in early August were long stay guests and we all had an absolutely fantastic time.

Like with any nature/wildlife experience you can experience slower days and then firework days and as such we always strongly recommend to our guests that they book a longer stay. Even over a 5 day period each trip is so different but it allows you to get the full appreciation of Seal Island and to see all the different behaviour. On some days the predation activity is awesome but the cage diving not so good, and then on another days we may have great sharks around the boat but few predatory events.

Over the years at Seal Island we have noticed how different each month is. Over the early part of the season we see good activity of sharks around the boat but their feeding habits tend to mostly be scavenging events on dead or sick seals. As we get into July the sharks begin active hunting on healthy seals and this activity increases and this carries through to about mid September. Strangely the more they appear to be in active hunting mode, the less interested they become in visiting our boat. It’s like their whole mind set changes and even the sharks that we know very well display this similar kind of behaviour. For instance “Cuz” was a star shark around the boats in  June/July. We saw him for almost 3 weeks and each day he was at the boat being very interactive. He left Seal Island during the third week in July but one of the other boats at Seal Island actually saw him hunting a seal in mid August. So, we know he was present but no one had him up to the boat.

Some other really interesting and exciting news is that we had some great observations of “Bently” hunting. I spoke about this female shark in July. We were seeing her the same time Cuz was at Seal Island, and like him, she is also a very interactive animal. We have seen her for 3 seasons now and we even recorded her breaching in “Ultimate Air Jaws”. (Look out for her with the bent fin!). She is also very interactive around the boat and a real crowd pleaser!

So, between 1 and 9 August we recorded her hunting 5 times. On 3 occasions she was successful (between 1 and 5 August). On 8 August she made another successful kill. It was in very rough conditions and while she was feeding on the surface we actually watched her being completely washed by the waves. I must say she handled the turbulence very well! Then, the very next morning we watched her make two unsuccessful attempts about 8 minutes apart.

During that whole 9 day period she did not come up to any of the boats…so interesting how complex these animals are! It sometimes drives me crazy trying to understand them…

One of the most asked questions we get is “how often do the sharks feed?. It is so difficult to identify the individual shark on these events as they can be so fast but we try our best when we can. Our record was always Cuz who made 3 successful kills in 10 days. Bently is now looking pretty active with 5 events in 9 days, but another very interesting observation was a shark we identified make 2 successful kills in 11 minutes.

Bearing in mind that a healthy and blubber rich young of the year seal is capable of providing energy to a shark for 1 month, we think the sharks are using Seal Island as feeding station to build up reserves. It also seems that their recovery time between events is a lot quicker than we realise.

between 1 and 9 August we recorded her hunting 5 times

Shark Activity Around the Boat 

Moving away from predatory activity to sharks around the boat I also have some interesting news! Sharks around the boat have been solid for the whole of August. Most years the last couple of weeks of August can be difficult for cage diving but this season has been great. We had a fantastic group of shark fans join us for a week around 20 August and on most days they had amazing cage dives.

The two main stars are two smallish sharks that have been at Seal Island for almost 2 months. This is a very long time for a shark, let alone 2 sharks, to stay at Seal Island. “Shamrock” is a 2.8 meter female and “Highlander” is a 2.9 meter male. Most sharks tend to spend between 2 and 7 days at Seal Island, to the best of our knowledge.

We have been looking at all our records and it is starting to appear that most seasons we record a small number of “long stay” sharks, all in this smaller size range.

One of our theories is that perhaps they are in the transition stage of feeding on fish to feeding on seals. (Their size range suggests this). As such perhaps they still like the stimulus of fish from the cage diving boats, where as many larger sharks pay us little attention at the boat.

Both Shamrock and Highlander are covered in seal scratches, so they are definitely trying to hunt, but we are not sure how successful they have been.

Another interesting observation is that these sharks are very comfortable in each other’s presence and we have even come to think of them as a tag team.

We also had the return of shark to Seal Island that gave us a great show over a 4 day period back in July. This male shark has a beautiful pigment marking (we call it a rosette) on his right side of the dorsal fin. This makes him very recognisable but he is also just a lovely shark around the boat and is very interactive. We have called him “George” after a family that particularly enjoyed his “company”.



If you are a complete shark nut, visiting the different shark locations is just as exciting as seeing the animals themselves.

In the last month we were very fortunate to host 2 trips in Gansbaai with Marine Dynamics and we thoroughly enjoyed the shark experience here. Although Gansbaai does not have the same intensity of predatory activity the shark activity around the boat can be excellent. We were fortunate enough to have great water visibility on both trips so the dives were fantastic with some very interactive sharks. It was also great to spend time with another crew that so obviously loves the sharks.

On this note Apex will be running an expedition in 2012 that visits all 3 Great white shark locations in South Africa. This is a trip not to be missed so be sure to check out all the info. The Great White Shark Trail.

Another great aspect of visiting Gansbaai is that it has really opened up our communication and we are now spending a lot of time discussing the two areas and checking on individual sharks sighted. This is all just for our own personal interest and understanding so it has no scientific relevance, but it has been so interesting to note that the Marine Dynamics crew do not recognise most of our “regular” sharks and we don’t recognise theirs. In fact there have only been about 4 individuals that we have both sighted.


Other News

I have also included some images Chris shot about 10 days ago at the famous big wave “Dungeons” off Hout Bay (Cape Town). It was an amazing thrill to watch these guys surfing 25 foot waves.

We have about 2 weeks left of what is historically the season at Seal Island. I hope this year the sharks decide to stay a little bit longer…in any case we will most certainly make the most of the short time left.

Chris & I also leave for Brazil at the end of September. We will be visiting the Pantanal and we can’t wait to experience all these new species of animals that we will hopefully encounter.

So, September’s news promises to be good!


Until then, best wishes

Monique Fallows



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