Posted on Saturday, 31 August 2013
I think we got a bit ahead of ourselves thinking that winter had forgotten to visit us in Cape Town this year… August has been hit with a bit of a vengeance reminding us all that The Cape of Storms definitely does live up to its name!
We lost a total of 11 days on the water and spent a few rough ones out at sea as well. Chris & I get really excited about big storms but the weather that we have had the last month has just been miserable, enough to keep us off the water but nothing that was too exciting!
Never the less we had a few more epic natural predation days and really good shark action around the boat.
We have also hosted a number of very successful expeditions which I will also be telling you all about.
Epic Natural Predation Behaviour
I wrote a lot about the truly spectacular natural predation behaviour we had witnessed over July, and this continued into the first 10 days of August.
On one particular morning we just managed to do everything right. When following seals back to the Island there are always many choices of which seal or group to follow. You have to be very lucky to see the first Great white shark strike on a seal, this is always the most spectacular and then of course you are right there for any follow up or on-going event if this happens.
On this morning we seemed to pick the right seal every time and we got to witness no less than 7 first time strikes, and they were all unbelievable breaches. There were no clouds in the sky and the morning light was perfect, casting a beautiful soft pink light around us.
We began following a small group of seals in … there is always less chance of seeing a hunt on the groups as nearly 90% of the time the predatory events take place on single young of the year seals, but it was a small group and the conditions were perfect…
As we were about 400 meters from the Island a huge great white shark did a spectacular full white belly breach on the group, she missed all the seals but the sight was something awesome. The pink light that I just mentioned lit up her belly with a pink hue and her mouth was still agape as she pursued the seal that had just had a lucky escape.
Chris was away giving lectures in the USA so unfortunately we do not have any images of this … but the mental image will stay with me for a long time!
On closer inspection of the guests’ images we were extremely excited to see that the shark was in fact “Amber”! We have also seen her around the boat so I will come back to her a little further down.
The other predations on this morning were also a lot of full breaches and although it is a very tough decision I feel this was the best day of the season so far… that is saying a huge amount considering the predation days we had prior to this. In fact Chris & I feel the period from mid Jul to 10 August is the best predation period we have had in all the years at Seal Island.
Seal Island can be a fickle beast, but when She works there is no place on earth like it!
More exciting news for us is that we saw the great “Cuz” hunting twice in early August. He did not spend a lot of time around the boats but he was certainly there in feeding mode.
After 10 August we had a 10 day period of very bad weather where we only managed to get to sea 3 times. The bad weather seemed to have a definite effect on the predation behaviour and since then we have had a number of days with no hunting at all and the other days with not more than 5 events per day. So, it has been a little tough trying to observe predation but we have been lucky on a few occasions.
The sharks are starting to display classic end of season behaviour whereby they either make a successful seal kill and then just leave the carcass or they take a very long time to consume their meal.
On one occasion a seal was mortally wounded by a shark and still alive after the shark had left it. These are always very tough situations to watch and I can’t say that it was pleasant watching from a distance and waiting for another shark to find an easy meal.
Eventually a shark did find the seal and in almost slow motion it did a full horizontal lunging breach on the seal, which was a relief to all on board.
As we were about 400 meters from the Island a huge great white shark did a spectacular full white belly breach on the group, she missed all the seals but the sight was something awesome.
Normally the sharks’ predatory tactics are breaches or tight twisting turns that enable the shark to line up the seal. I guess this is mostly due to the way the seal moves (using agility to tire the shark rather than trying to make a run for it) and this in turn dictates how the shark should hunt
We had an interesting event a few mornings ago. A shark had made a successful kill and we moved to the area hoping to catch the shark feeding on the surface. As we got there a small group of seals unfortunately moved directly over the predation area. We are not sure if it was the same shark that had made the kill but the group was attacked by a shark and splintered the group. One seal was left on its own and unfortunately did the wrong thing by trying to move as fast as possible to the Island. What followed was an incredible display of speed and strength as the shark powered through the water and easily caught the seal. The power was shown by the amount of water that was pushed around as the shark moved, and the speed was shown by the ease in which it caught the seal.
Shark Activity Around the Boat
I already mentioned briefly how fickle Seal Island is. Normally from mid-August onwards we experience a drop in activity around the boat but high numbers of predation events.
The year has seen the opposite. After seeing scarce hunting in the morning we would feel anxious about anchoring up but all on trips (including Afternoon Trips) we have had good numbers of sharks, averaging 5 – 9 sharks per trip, and they have been really interactive. We are not sure why they are not hunting but they certainly are at still Seal Island.
Amber put on a great show one morning and for the first time this season Chris got a very good look at her. He estimates her to be 4.2 meters in length and is in great condition on her way to becoming a mature female. One of our Shark Byte’s readers was on board and was very excited to actually see Amber after reading about her the past few years! This is now the third time we have seen her since June so she seems to have come and gone over the past 3 months.
“Charlotte”, a 3.4 meter female we saw in July has also returned this past week. She is very curious so is always a great shark to have around for cage diving.
We also have a new young 2.3m male on our books (!). “King of the Seas” received his name from one of the other shark boats as he does not give way to the bigger sharks. That might not be the most intelligent thing to do and we hope that he does not learn too hard a lesson from a bigger shark. But, he is amazing! He moves very fast and loves going for the bait … often doing spectacular lunges.
“Mr Frisky” has also become a firm favourite amongst the guests. As his name implies he is very energetic and really goes hard for the bait and decoy. He is very sneaky indeed and a real crowd pleaser.
And of course … Duex Rossi is still with us! I am still saving writing about her once the season finishes as she really deserves a special mention with lots of text allocation!
A Deformed Humpback Whale
The Southern Right whales seem to be a little late returning to False Bay and we have not noted too many as we travel between Simons Town harbour and Seal Island each day.
But we did have an unusual sighting of a deformed humpback whale. The deformity of the head is very evident in the images below. It would have been a birth defect so it is good news that the whales seems to be in good condition and has made it this far. Interestingly, if you look at its tail fluke you will notice that it has injuries from being attacked by orcas, which also would have happened when it was much younger.
Amazing Groups this Year
If seeing a Great white shark is a life’s dream for you, the best way to experience this is to book a longer stay and give yourself the best opportunities of seeing different behaviour and getting to know the individual sharks that visit the boat each day.
As such we tailor a number of focused expeditions each season with set departures and also have 5-10 day package stays.
We love having the groups on board. By the end of the trips new friendships are made and a lot of fun is had by both guests and the crew.
This past August we finished up our second Predation Specialty Expedition, we then hosted another Field Course on Shark Biology with Dr Alessandro De Maddalena (the members of this group were huge Mr Frisky Fans!), The Great White Trail Expedition then made its annual trip to False Bay and then headed up to Mossel Bay and Gansbaai and we had many 5 day guests in between.
One of the highlights of the season has been hosting amazing people who are true shark and wildlife fanatics so I want to say a special thank you to you guys who make our time out at Seal Island that much more special!
Spaces are already filling up for 2014 so if this is something that you want to do, I suggest having a look at what is on offer for next year.
So, with good sharks still around the boat at the moment we have our fingers crossed that the sharks stay at Seal Island for a few more weeks before heading inshore as per their Spring movements.
I shall keep you all posted …
Until next month