Posted on Monday, 29 December 2008
Firstly a very happy New Year to you all and I hope that you will all get to do something sharky in 2009.
I am really pleased to report that we have ended 2008 on a high note after having a number of amazing Pelagic shark trips in December.
The month got off to a rocky start as due to windy conditions we had to turn around at Cape Point three trips in a row. This was pretty frustrating because not only was it uncomfortable bumping our way up there but it is disappointing for the guests on board who did not get to see the sharks.
After this bad period we had got lucky with the weather on the next three trips and the sharks were out in full force as well.
On the first of these trips we headed off Cape Point and it soon became apparent that the sea was lifeless. There were very few sea birds and no sign of any fish life.
As we approached 25 miles from Cape Point both Chris and Poenas could see a large number of birds in a tight area. As we reached this we came across a large floating log and underneath this were about 500 Dorado. Dorado are well know to be attracted to floating flotsam but this was the first time I had seen dorado in our waters. As we came closer to the log the Dorado became curious with the boat and we could quite clearly see them as they swam just below the surface.
We offered our guests on board the opportunity of diving with them. Once in the water the divers were surrounded by the Dorado as well as a large shoal of yellow tail which was a rather unique experience for them.
Once the fish stopped showing interest we decided we try for sharks in the same area. As would be become the norm over the next few trips we only had to wait a few minutes for the first blue shark to arrive.
Cage Diving in the Deep
The water visibility was not very good and there was a strong current so for safety reasons we dived our guests from the cage. This worked really well as we ended up having about 15 blue sharks for the duration of the trip and also had three different mako sharks visit the boat through out the trip.
These two pelagic sharks are so different from each other. I always get the feeling that the blue sharks are almost like puppy dogs and I never feel threatened by them whilst in the water. I do believe that this is one of the best species of sharks to dive with, for that very reason, and also because due to their curiosity of us they always approach divers at a very close range.
The mako shark gives one a very different feel in the water. It’s bulkier shape and robotic like movements make it seem like a shark that needs to be taken far more seriously. I still don’t believe it is dangerous to dive with this shark under the right conditions and as such I often have a chuckle to myself as the body language of the divers change completely upon the arrival of a mako.
Flat Calm Seas and Large Numbers of Blue Sharks
We did have good weather again the following day and we headed out into flat calm seas. We went to a spot that was very close to the day before and were excited at the better water visibility. As the day before we did not wait longer than 10 minutes for the first blue shark and ended the trip with approximately 20 different blue sharks. We did also have one mako shark that would make short appearances throughout the trip.
As the numbers of blue sharks starting increasing we needed to have the cage in the water as once the numbers reach 5 or more sharks it does become difficult to keep a good eye on all of them.
There is one problem that we have found and that is the blue sharks are a little smaller than the great white sharks. They are also not afraid to venture right into the cage and the smaller ones can quite easily fit through the bars.
On this trip there was one particular little blue shark that was intent on seeing if life was better inside the cage and decided to pay a visit. Luckily one of our good friends was in the cage at the time and when the shark made its entry Jonathan picked it up and safely put it back on the side it was supposed to be. Both diver and shark were quite unperturbed!
It was a superb trip with sharks and good conditions all coming together. On those flat days when the surface of the ocean is not broken it is so easy to watch the sharks from the boat and 20 blue sharks together is a privileged sight in today’s time.
A Bird Trip
We did mange one more trip before the end of 2008 and it was also a cracker. Flat calm seas, good visibility and plenty of sharks. Again there was no waiting period for the sharks and the blues started to arrive in large numbers. We estimated no less than 30 blue sharks this time and one mako shark. What made this trip particularly special was the variety of pelagic sea birds that were attracted to our boat.
These birds are famous scavengers and we provided a good meal in the form of bait that was being used to attract the sharks. In no time we were surrounded by shy albatross, white chin petrels and various others. An albatross is a huge bird, almost like a flying turkey, and let me tell you they have a deep nasally sound that matches the bird in size.
We had about 8 to 10 of these albatross surround the boat that were fighting with each other for the fish. They were completely unfazed by both us and the sharks. They were so focused on getting the fish that they paid no attention to the blue sharks that were curiously swimming up to them and on many occasions we observed them running over the sharks, and beating the sharks to the bait. We have only experienced this crazy behavior once before. I think this time it had to do with the fact that there were very few commercial fishing boats out so we were most likely providing the best meal opportunity.
During the December pelagic trips we were also lucky to see a Northern Royal and juvenile Wandering albatross as well as a spectacled petrel and separate sightings of Manx shearwaters.
Throughout the month we have been seeing a variety of whales including a large bull Sperm whale, Humpbacks and possibly Dwarf Minke whales. We did also see one pod of Risso’s dolphins and a couple of Mola mola’s.
During this time of the year we do try and spend time down at our local beach working with local seine net fishermen where we help them to release sharks, rays and various restricted fish species. In years gone by large numbers of bronze whaler, ragged tooth, smooth hound and sometimes thresher sharks would be caught and then released. Sadly over fishing of all these unprotected species has led to a rapid decline in these populations and we see fewer and fewer sharks caught in the nets each year.
This summer there has only been a handful of sharks so far but in one particular net a very large bronze whaler as well as a large ragged tooth shark was caught. We measured this bronzie at just over 3 meters (10 feet) and discovered this to be the largest bronze whaler Chris has ever tagged in his 20 years, and more than 600 nettings he has spent time at. Both sharks were successfully released unharmed.
So, this has also contributed to ending 2008 on a high note!
Apex Job Availability
It is the time of the year where Chris & I start searching for a suitable guide for the upcoming Great white shark season at Seal Island. The season is from mid April to mid September only so we are looking for someone who would be available during this time period. Applicants do need to have a basic knowledge of sharks and it would be an advantage to have previous experience working with tourists. It is important that applicants have experience going to sea.
For anyone who needs field experience working with sharks this can be a very valuable experience working in one of the world’s best locations for great white sharks. If anyone would be interested in hearing more about the position please contact us to discuss this further.
So, as we wish 2008 goodbye we look forward to a positive 2009. I do sincerely hope that we will be able to share many shark adventures with you and also that some of you will be able to make a trip down to Cape Town to see the sharks for yourselves.
Be sure to check out “Photos of the Month” for pelagic shark images as well as our limited High season white shark packages for 2009.
Until next month…