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Shark Bytes

June 2008 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

Posted on Monday, 30 June 2008

Dear Shark Lovers


Historically June is one of our two best months for the sharks at Seal Island. We usually see high numbers of sharks around the boat as well as natural predations and breaches on the decoy.


Bad Weather

In 2007 we were hit by atrocious weather and big swells and as a result sightings were way down.

This June has seen even worse weather than last year and we have had to cancel just under half of our trips during June. This bad weather was been due to low pressure systems that are generated in the deep south of the southern ocean. 

We were lucky in the sense that this June on the whole we were not too badly affected by big swell and as such when we were able to get to sea the shark activity on most trips has been very good.

Bad weather can of course provide spectacular scenes. We spent almost an entire day at Kalk Bay Harbour  earlier in the month watching a large ground swell backed by very high winds lash this traditional fishing harbour. The power of these waves was just astounding and would send water and spray meters high into the air.


Shark Sightings Around the Boat

We have had high numbers of sharks around the boat but it has been interesting to see that there have not been a huge amount of different sharks coming in and out of the Seal Island area. Usually we will see the same sharks for a couple and days which will then in turn be replaced by a new batch of sharks. This month we have seen the same sharks stay around for longer periods of time and as mentioned there has not been the usual high turnover of sharks.

The visibility has varied from a very good 15 meters to an extremely poor 2 meter pea soup! When the visibility has been good we have made the most of the diving. On one particularly good weather and visibility day just Chris & I and our crew headed out after the morning trip to enjoy the sharks in the afternoon. The weather was perfectly flat calm and the sharks were fantastic.



One of the sharks that were sighted for the first time this season was a 3.3 meter female that we have been seeing for 2 seasons previously. She has a distinct marking just below her left pelvic fin which makes her easily recognizable. She is great to have around the boat as she normally approached the decoy or the bait vertically from below, giving us all a rare sight of the white belly of a great white shark.

We have seen her on many trips this month and on one of the trips we had a mother and daughter make a very special trip to South Africa from The States for a once in a lifetime trip to see a great white shark. This particular shark made quite an impression of them and so we named her “Amber” (the daughter’s name!). It is a lovely name for a beautiful shark.

Some people may think it is a bit strange that we give the sharks that we know well names. From our point of view it helps greatly with data points and in getting to know the actual animal. I also feel that it is interesting for our guests to know the history behind a particular shark and really helps to put across the point that these sharks do all indeed have personalities of their own.

We did also have another good sighting of “Schumi” around the boat at the beginning of the month and so far we have seen her in April, May and June.

An Unusual Shark

We have also come across an entirely new shark that we have never seen before. This is surprising as she is fairly large at just under 4 meters and has really stuck around for about 2 weeks now.

In my 9 years at Seal Island and Chris’s entire history of working with great white sharks we have never come across a shark quite like this one. We have aptly named her “Cruella” (Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmatians). This should give you some idea as to her behavior! 

On the code of conduct for working with great white sharks we are not allowed to feed the great whites sharks which is something that we agree with completely and do our utmost at all times not to do. In fact we pride ourselves on how little bait we actually lose over a season, with most of it going to the steentjies (the small chaub-like reef fish that come up to the boat).

Now, Cruella is a different story…it is difficult to describe her exactly but without being aggressive she is deadly in her ability to get both the decoy and the bait from us. Most sharks cautiously have a look at the bait when first arriving at the boat and some might actively go for it on occasion after surveying the situation. Cruella is different and would appear from nowhere as an almost full breach on the bait. I usually take care of the decoy behind the boat and sit on the engine and I can tell you in one week I looked directly down that shark’s throat three times as she come flying up towards the bait!

It became so ridiculous that we would have to take both the decoy and the bait out of the water and on one trip we even picked up anchor and moved in the hopes that she would not follow us.

We sometimes come across very unique sharks in terms of personality and she sure of one of those. Our guests absolutely loved seeing her and although we did as well sometimes it is better to just observe from a distance!


Natural Predations

There has not been a lot of seal movement and as such we have not seen a very intense amount of natural predations. There have been a number of busy days and some of these events have been very spectacular sights. Chris feels that from a photography point of view there are perhaps 10 exceptional photographic opportunities in a season. We had two events only a few days apart that he was able to capture. One of these images is of a great white shark breaching out of the water with its mouth wide open and the seal still in frame. You can view these images on Photo’s of the Month. On both occasions the seal managed to evade capture and this was after a protracted chase on the surface.


As we get into July we are hoping that the weather will start to calm down a little although as I sit here writing Cape Town is being hit by yet another round of bad weather and it looks like at least another couple of days are lost to us.


So, until next month,


Best wishes

Monique Fallows


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