I can’t believe how quickly the first month of the year has passed us by. Even though it feels a little late I’d like to wish you all a happy, successful and shark filled year ahead.
In this newsletter I’ll be briefing you on the shark activity in Gansbaai and False Bay; our recent adventure with Puma’s in Torres del Paine; Chris’s snorkelling experience in Antarctica; a spontaneous trip to The Kgalagadi and a rundown of our Special Expeditions in 2016.
Great White Shark Activity
Chris & I hosted a couple of private shark dives in Gansbaai in late December and early January and were lucky enough to get our trips in before all the sharks departed the area.
The Gansbaai boats were all working the inshore area as this is where most the sharks are found over the summer period. They are known to feed on other species of sharks as well as some fish species that are found on the inshore reef systems.
The water was unusually warm, just under 20C. At this time of the year we would expect it be as cold as 12C in this area so this was a remarkable difference to the norm.
In fact the waters off Cape Point and in False Bay were also much warmer than usual and in some places registering around 24C. I was certainly enjoying my daily sea swims and in the warm offshore waters, sport fishermen were coming across warmer ocean species including Oceanic white tip sharks which are very rare to our area. We assume that these warmer ocean temperatures were due to the El Nino effect.
Before I get side tracked I must mention that the shark sightings in Gansbaai were fantastic. On our trips we saw as many as 11 different individual Great white sharks and these interactive animals gave our guests great opportunities to cage dive, and all leaving with memorable life experiences.
I feel like we just sneaked our trips in as the day after our last trip all the sharks vanished from the Gansbaai area. As I sit writing today, 26 days later, the sharks are still missing in action.
It’s anyone’s guess as to why.
Very strong South East wind blew for a number of days, replacing the warm water with cold upwelled water and a temperature change of close to 10 degrees Celsius took place. This is often a catalyst for disappearing sharks but we are none the wiser as to why they should have stayed away for such a long period.
Of interest, the Mossel Bay area is also experiencing extremely low sightings at a time where they would normally have good inshore shark activity.
At Seal Island one of the other operators had a few brief drive-by sightings over a 3 day period. On board White Pointer 2 we have been out twice with unfortunately no success. We have had good common dolphin sightings and the Island has been interesting to watch with the now 2-3 month old seals interacting. It is still early days for our False Bay season so we will be exploring again next week.
The Shark Spotting program in False Bay is reporting 80% less sharks sighted this past summer. With no sharks in Gansbaai and very few in Mossel Bay, the big question is “where are they?”
It never ceases to amazing me how often these animals make us realise how little we know about them!
From the Blog
Our blog is updated at least once per week so don’t forget to check in with us once in a while to hear about all our shark and wildlife experiences. We also love to hear back from you so please feel free to post a comment and interact with us!
What To Do when the Wind Is Blowing!
Chris and I found ourselves landlocked due to heavy winds forecast and decided on an impromptu trip up to The Kagalagadi in the hopes of catching the first heavy thunderstorm of the season.
“The smell of rain is very distinguishable but for me the smell of the first water droplets hitting the dry parched earth and mixing with the dust is as synonymous as a Black-maned Lion King walking down a riverbed surveying his domain. The smell is so strong it hits you in the back of your nostrils, gets stuck in your throat, and is so over powering it can be difficult to breathe.
It signifies so much…
It rained continuously that first night and we woke up to water laying in the veld and flowing in some places.
The rains had begun.
Each night for 3 nights we had the same heavy constant rain and although we never got the classic Kalahari thunderstorm we were looking for, we had the privilege of watching the change that the first rains bring.
The first obvious change was from seeing a lion under practically every tree to all lions literally vanishing overnight. Their normal prey of gemsbok and wildebeest had migrated to look for new grazing in the dunes and they were no longer dependant on drinking from waterholes.
No matter how much rain fell by late morning most of the big pools of water had dried up; either soaked into the earth or evaporated into the atmosphere. I guess it would still take a lot more rain to fall for the riverbed to become waterlogged.
By the third morning we started noticing the first green shoots of grass appearing in the riverbed, and soon it resembles a carpet of green moss. Where previously we had seen small herds of springbok much larger herds were now reuniting together in the riverbed to feast on the fresh growth.
What we quite liked about all the lions disappearing was that our modus operandi had now changed. Instead of looking for possible action we now focused on what was present; and that was spending time with the springbok.
I loved watching the new foals that were just a few weeks old, and the whole herd with their white behinds fluffed up as they tried to dry their “danger flags”. They are such soft and gentle animals and it was incredibly peaceful just sitting and observing them.
But, the biggest pleasure was knowing that after a great struggle over the previous dry months a new bountiful season had just arrived for them.”
Read the full blog here…
Puma Experience, Torres Del Paine
As you know most of my blogs are about our wildlife experiences. This time round I am not only going to write about Pumas but I will also relate a personal experience of ours that centres around the joys of travel and of what can go wrong… if you’d like to enjoy a good laugh at our expense I urge you to read about our adventure to Torres del Paine!
“About 5 kilometres outside of the park we noticed a guanaco making a very distinctive alarm call and with all the body language telling us that it was looking at a puma. We piled out the car and low and behold there was a mating pair of Puma walking alongside each other on the shoreline of a big lake.
I stayed on the ridge to spot the 2 animals from a higher point and Chris walked down to the shoreline to try and photograph them as they came towards him.
Although they were relaxed they were definitely aware of us and upon getting closer to Chris the female decided to walk back up the rocky ridge, and right towards where I was standing.
She obviously was not aware of me so I stood stock still hoping that she would approach. At 15 meters away she saw me but must have felt unthreatened as she continued her slow walk in my direction.
At 3 meters from me my heart was in my throat and my adrenalin was pumping. She was right there in front of me and I got to look into her beautiful green eyes and exquisitely magnificent face. She was a deep russet colour and I can liken her to a mixture between a caracal without the long ears and a small lioness. She looked at me for a brief moment as she passed me and then turned back down to where her male partner was on the shoreline.
The sighting had been so unexpected that I didn’t have a camera with me but I was glad of it. I got to connect with that special animal for just a moment and it’s a feeling I won’t forget for the rest of my life.
The pair continued walking past Chris and when I met up with him again the two of us sat gazing at the puma pair from afar as they walked off into the distance.
Everything that went wrong on this trip to Torres del Paine was most definitely worth it for a wildlife moment like the one we had just had.”
Read the full blog here…
What A Ball
Chris talks about his incredible dive in a baitball off Cape Point with thousands of tuna, bronze whaler sharks and a byrdes wales.
“Bronze whalers of various sizes were competing with yellowfin & skipjack tuna and a few seals for a small bait ball. I levitated myself overboard and swam to the seething mass. Although the water was clear the commotion of the tuna and sharks crashing the bait ball had turned it into a mess of bubbles, scales and churned water. It was amazing. For about two to three minutes we watched in awe and then it was over. Elated we climbed onto the boat, when as they say in the infomercials we all hate, “but there’s more”…. In the distance a brydes whale lunged through bait fish and around it sharks, tuna and birds tore at the scraps. I fell over board and raced towards the frenzy, as I did so a Brydes whale swam under me, whilst all around hundreds of good sized tuna carouselled into the bait ball and at the same time sharks twisted and turned. This time the bait ball was sardines and the Bonze whaler sharks seemed that much more frenetic. A shark raced through the ball and banged Hans in the head before another one swam off with one of his cameras lights, epic!”
Read the full blog here…
Snorkelling in Antarctica!
“As I swam up to my first mini ice berg I could clearly see the shape underneath it, substantially larger than that above the water.
Under the berg a brownish tinge which I later saw was a swarm of feeding krill was the only life visible.
The bergs were rock hard, chiseled, worn and sculptured.
On one of our landings we had spotted an incredible bluish arched berg that was at least 25m high. I had to go have a look at it and was the only one in our group keen to check it out. I was dropped off our zodiac whilst the others went and climbed atop a smaller piece of ice a few hundred yards away. I was given strict instructions that under no circumstance was I to get too close to the berg or definitely not to swim through the hanging and rapidly melting giant arch way.
Hmm, I have never been that good at listening when it comes to anything involving adventure or something where my actions will not harm wildlife or another person and so with camera in hand I swam closer and took in the spectacular scene in front of, around and under me.
Having shot off dozens of frames of the monumental ice sculpture from a few yards away the young teenage boy’s mind inside me urged me to swim through while nobody was looking, ignoring common sense and my guide’s experienced words. I wanted the Darwin award for Polar idiot of the year and this was a solid opportunity. I moved forward and as I took my first stroke towards the arch a massive crack came from behind me as a chunk of ice half the size of a small car fractured off an adjoining berg about 15m away. The concussion of the ice slamming into the water went through me and quickly I came to my sense as the flood of adrenalin shook me to my senses. Quickly I swam away from the icy leviathan which had been waiting to gobble the idiot almost inside her gape.
I guess however a small part of me wishes I had swum under and through the berg!”
Read the full blog here…
Expeditions in 2016 with Apex
We hope to meet many of you this coming year as well as to welcome back familiar friends by having the privilege of sharing our passion and knowledge of sharks and wildlife with you. We not only offer day trips to Seal Island but also a number of life changing expeditions.
Super Sharks: May 2016
If you are looking to maximise your chances of seeing most of the large shark species in South Africa, this is the expedition for you! Great white sharks, mako & blue sharks, seven gill cow sharks, bull sharks, ragged tooth sharks and hammerhead sharks… phew, that’s a big bucket list!
The Sardine Run: June 2016
A spectacular opportunity to encounter and dive with a host of predators as they feed on sardines as they travel up the South African east coast.
The Great White Trail: August 2016
Our ever-popular expedition for the ultimate Great White Shark Fanatic! Join us as we visit all 3 Great white shark hot spots in South Africa: Seal Island, Mossel Bay and Gansbaai.
Isla Guadalupe, Mexico: November 2016
Convenient for those living in the US and perfect for those wanting to dive with Great white sharks in fantastic water visibility.
5-10 Day Packages: February to September
You just need to get yourself to South Africa and we take care of the rest: meeting you at the airport, organising your accommodation, extra activities in Cape Town and of course 5 days of sharks at Seal Island!
In February I hope to be able to report on our first sightings of Great White Sharks at Seal Island.
To read our last three Shark Bytes click on the links below:
November 2015 Shark Bytes
September 2015 Shark Bytes
August 2015 Shark Bytes