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Shark Bytes

March & April 2007 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

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.

 

 

The park that we would be spending our time at was Bandhavgarh National Park in central India, not an easy destination to get to and involved a 15 hour train journey from Delhi!

Bandhavgarh is said to be home to the highest density of tigers in the world and within this 100 square kilometer park territories of 6 tigress and 2 adult males are found.

We were in the park for 11 days and had tiger sightings on 9 of those. Almost all of the encounters we had were very close sightings as you can see from the photographs.  I find it difficult to describe what it is like to actually see a real live wild  Bengal Tiger! They just take your breathe away and I found myself literally shaking on a number of occasions just from being overwhelmed by this magnificent animal. I have always said that a person must at least once in their lifetime see a great white shark. One of the feelings that you get from seeing this animal is the tremendous presence that it has and I think that this comes from being the apex predator in our great oceans. The same holds true for a tiger.

We had one of the best guides in the park take care of us on our visit and again it goes the show how important it is to go with someone who has passion and knowledge of the animals. One of the aspects that I enjoyed most was learning about the characters of each of the tigers, their movements and even the Family trees. It makes each encounter that much more special when one actually knows all about that individual animal’s trials and triumphs.

Not only is the Park about tigers, Chris & I really got to experience all other aspects of the park such as listening to the different calls of the animals, and finding out what each call meant. We saw over 110 different bird species including a pair of Brown Fishing Owls on a nest. We visited the Mahouts elephant camp were we played with an 18 month old female elephant and finally if all that was not enough we had a very special encounter with two Indian wolves. This species is the oldest of all wolves and from where all species of wolves that occur today have originated from. If you can picture the scene it was outside of the park in a heavily forested area, dusk with a full moon rising and in the path ahead of us two lone wolves gently trotting towards us!

As you can see there were so many highlights and I am sorry that I do not have the space to write more about this.

If anyone is interested in doing a trip like this please contact us and we will gladly pass on all the contact details of the best people to go with. It is also surprisingly affordable.

Upon return to Cape Town we went straight back into shark trips and to our surprise found that the white sharks seem to be returning to Seal Island a little sooner than expected. In past years we have found April to generally be a quiet month for white sharks but since we have been back home we have had tremendously good sightings.

On most occasions we have been seeing 5 or more individual sharks around the boat. There have been no predations or breaches but we have observed a number of scavenges on dead seal carcasses which is normal for this time of year.

So, we hope that May is going to be a good month for both great white sharks and the pelagic sharks. We will keep you posted next month.

You will notice that Photo’s of the Month is devoid of shark images and that the Tigers have taken preference!

 

Until then, best wishes

Monique Fallows

 

 

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