March & April 2007 Shark Bytes
Posted on Monday, 30 April 2007
Hello Shark Lovers!
Apologies, you may have noticed that I did not get round to doing the newsletter in March. We have been away so to follow is a condensed version of the last 2 months.
To start off with mid March saw the start of our Sharks of Southern Africa expedition. On this trip we focus on looking for a variety of different shark species that occur in our during the summer months.
We had a fantastic group, all past guests and despite the weather being on the bad side we still managed to see 10 different species of sharks as well as a few surprise highlights!
The first part of our trip took place 300km from Cape Town up the east coast. Chris & I try to visit here as often as possible during summer, not only because it is a wonderful spot and great hosts, but it is also home to some very special sharks.
Our target species were smooth hammerhead pups, bronze whalers and ragged-tooth sharks. We had great encounters with all three of these sharks although we were not able to dive with all of them due to the sea being too rough making it uncomfortable in the water.
On a shore snorkel we saw great numbers and a variety of indigenous fish found in this area such as white mussel cracker, yellow belly rockcod, (all these common names will make sense to informed South Africans). On the same dive Thomas and I encountered a small ragged tooth shark in shallow water. We were very excited but needless to say the raggie paid absolutely no attention to us and continued on its way. Earlier in the year Chris & I had snorkeled in the same area and had observed a striped cat shark hunting which we were fascinated by. We were fortunate to see this again and I spent a lot of time watching this small cat shark as he dived in and out of a number of gullies as he hunted for its prey. Towards the end of the dive we also came across a shark that we were all hoping to see, one of our favorites, the endemic spotted-gully shark!
Aside from all these shark sightings I have to say that the highlight of the trip for me had nothing to do with sharks at all.
On a very calm morning we were motoring along looking for hammerhead sharks when in a small bay we spotted a school of about 20 bottlenose dolphin. From far off the dolphins were in a very tight group and appeared very calm. Water visibility was also good.
Upon seeing this Chris suggest we try to dive with them if they chose to approach us. Now, I can tell you that we have tried this so many times without success and actually the first time for me seeing dolphins underwater was very briefly in January this year. We have found dolphins in our waters to be very unfriendly and not all interested in spending even a small amount of time with us in the water.
When Chris suggested we try to dive with them I thought that I really would just being jumping in, without having time to put on a wetsuit, to get wet and cold! As I waited I could see nothing and thought that once again we had bombed with the dolphins. Then, just within my vision I could see the whole school and as I got closer and closer they seemed very calm with us. In the next moment we were amongst the school and all the dolphins, including a youngster, would look up at us and seemed completely happy with our presence. We spent about 15 minutes easily swimming with them before they moved away from us. Within a few minutes we found that we were surrounded by a school of about 200 Leervis. This is a large gamefish that is not often seen underwater let alone in a large school. At that moment I could not decide whether to go with the dolphins or stay with the leervis. It was a great decision to be saddled with. In the end I felt we had encroached enough on the dolphins and spent the last few moments in awe with the Leervis.
The last part of our trip entailed being in Cape Town where although we had bad luck with the weather we had a number of very good white shark trips and a lovely mako shark on a pelagic trip.
I can tell you that our life is never boring and the day the Sharks of Southern Africa trip finished Chris & I were on a plane bound for India.
I know this is supposed to be a shark newsletter but I have to at least mention very briefly our latest adventure which involved Bengal Tigers!
As you may have guessed we are not only shark fanatics but are passionate about all nature. The Bengal tigers are one of those animals that we have always dreamed of seeing and when friends of ours began planning a trip we decided to join them. Unfortunately tigers are one of those animals that are so threatened we felt that we had to do this sooner rather than later to have the chance of seeing them.
We did not know what to expect at all and before we left I said I would just be happy to get a glimpse of this beautiful cat.