February 2009 Shark Bytes
Posted on Saturday, 28 February 2009
Greetings from a lovely warm month in Cape Town. The warm settled weather means that we have been able to do a fair amount of trips this month and most of the time we have had great success.
Throughout February we have been running Mako and Blue shark trips and although the water visibility has been good and bad the sharks have been seen in fantastic numbers. In fact the blue shark numbers have been so prolific that it has been very necessary to use the cage in order to dive on all trips. Usually within 30 minutes there would be more than 5 different blues around the boat and at this point it does become a little too difficult to watch ones back at all times.
We have previously not used a cage for our pelagic trips but have found that this option has made this trip accessible to more people to enjoy diving with sharks in the open ocean environment.
We have also had great success seeing mako sharks and have seen on average 2 per trip. The makos are so different to blue sharks and behave much more closely to the great whites. For instance, when we have a blue shark arrive at the boat I always feel confident that it will stay the whole day with us as long as we have a bait in the water. The makos are completely unpredictable and if you are wanting to dive with them you better make sure you are ready to dive as soon as it arrives. We have found that a mako shark can stay from a couple of passes around the bait to a couple of hours at a time. So, one really has to make the most of their presence.
It has been interesting that this summer when we have seen the makos they have arrived pretty soon after we start chumming, then as soon as the blue shark numbers start to increase they seem to be wary of coming in.
Blue sharks are gregarious and do not mind being in close proximity to each other. We often observe them bumping into each other when around the bait and they seem non-plussed about this. Again makos are different and do not like to be close to other mako sharks at all and even being close to blue sharks is not for them. We often see them swimming off with great speed when they are not comfortable. The mako is supposed to be one of the fastest fish in the sea and it is very impressive to observe them when they put on these bursts of speed.
Cetaceans in the Deep
One of the most exciting aspects of our pelagic trip is heading out into the open ocean and having the possibility of seeing almost anything! This month we had good sightings of dwarf mike whales, two large bull sperm whales and a large school of common dolphins. Chris & I guessed the school must have been close to 1000 strong and there were a number of tiny juveniles amongst them which is always special to see.
For this particular school we immediately picked up that they looked a little different to the common dolphins that we normally encounter and although they were the same size and patterns their general colour was a lot more muted.
I have done a little bit of reading and have learnt that there are two species of common dolphin, short-beaked and long-beaked. And one of the characteristics is that the long-beaked species does have a generally more dull appearance. So, it is always good to learn something new!
I think most people have a dream to dive with dolphins and compared to sharks I think most people have the impression that dolphins are friendly and would be great to be in the water with…not our experience! We thought that being surrounded by almost 1000 dolphins it should be a good opportunity to get in the water with them. As per normal the “dive” consisted of bailing into the water and within a few seconds the large school had left us in the dust!
After a number of tries and our group was getting back onto the boat when one of our guests had a mako shark approach him which provided for an exciting moment! We have also observed many mako sharks free jumping when being out there so this gives the impression that there are good numbers of them around.