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Trip Reports

Marine Photographic Expedition South Africa

written by Monique Fallows

False Bay South Africa

Posted on Monday, 25 April 2016

False Bay South Africa


During our early autumn months False Bay is normally alive with wildlife activity and as such a whole host of marine predators, and prey, can be sighted.

Together with Pangolin Safaris and photographic and wildlife guide, Grant Atkinson we put together a special weekend for wildlife photography enthusiasts intent on doing something different…. a marine game-drive!


Saturday arrived with truly glorious weather bringing flat calm seas and perfect spotting conditions. As we left Simon’s Town harbour, tens of gannets were sitting in small flocks on the water. Although we could clearly see their already full bellies, they could not resist the feeding opportunities when loosely grouped shoals of anchovy started showing themselves on the sea surface. They proceeded with shallow dives and the photographers on board had a great opportunity to shoot shallow diving gannets.

With the sea conditions being so calm we were able to turn the boat engines off, sit quietly and just listen to the sound of the anchovies moving on the surface. The light pitter patter was like rain falling on a corrugated iron roof. We also watched in fascination as they fed with their proportionally large mouths wide open as they skimmed plankton on the surface.

The gannets were soon joined by offshore Sooty & Cory’s Shearwaters and small flocks of penguins who thought they’d share in the spoils.

Next stop on our False Bay adventure was Seal Island, famous for fantastic shark cage diving opportunities and intense predation activity between Great white sharks and Cape fur seals. Unfortunately we were experiencing a drop in shark activity so instead decided to make the most of the flat conditions and give our group the chance to get up close to the 60,000 strong seal colony that inhabits the Island. This provided a great chance for beautiful seal portrait images.

Leaving Seal Island in our wake we pushed further into False Bay for our last chance of finding other marine wildlife. Chris & I were spotting from the roof and although I was standing right next to him I could not for the life of me see the feeding gannets Chris had spotted some 3 miles away! And I certainly don’t think the guests could quite believe he had seen them either!

Chris managed to prove us all wrong and as we approached the diving gannets a mega pod of around 1000 common dolphins also came into view. The immensely spectacular sight of hundreds of diving gannets and feeding dolphins had the camera clicks going in over drive. It was like we were on our own personal Sardine Run!

One of the guests was so over-awed by the spectacle that she turned to me with tears in her eyes saying it the most beautiful sight she had ever seen which made my heart very warm indeed.


Seal Island South Africa

The pressure was on to produce the same kind of results the following day but thankfully the weather gods were in fact kinder to us with even less wind and higher temperatures.

I always find it fascinating how different each day at sea can be…opportunities to see amazing wildlife and behaviour are always there if you just spend the time looking for them.

Chris had gone offshore for the day so Ryan and I were in charge of spotting, and yes, after Chris’s impressive dolphin spot the day before I was feeling the pressure even more!

Shortly after we left the harbour Ryan and I both shouted at the same time as we saw a huge breach about a mile away from us. At first we thought it to be a small pod of humpback whales but as we got closer we found (what we assumed to be) a female Brydes whale running hell for leather away from two other Brydes whales who were in hot pursuit of her.

It was difficult photography but incredible behaviour to witness as the 12 ton whale practically breached towards us on multiple occasions in her effort to evade the amorous males who were chasing her.

Seal Island was also different on this second day as a slightly bigger swell meant that we came across a perfect little wave for the seals to surf on the Northern end of Seal Island. Dave expertly held the boat in position as the cameras fired away hoping to catch the beautiful streamlined shapes of multiple seals enjoying their Sunday surf!

Rafts of gannets, shearwaters and penguins were still present and we were able to spend a good amount of time photographing these species from low water angles.

Just as we were about to turn and head back for home I spotted a thin dark line on the water ahead of us, a tightly bunched school of about 400 common dolphin!

The completely flat and wind-free conditions meant that our guests could take images both above the water and looking down into the clean unbroken surface…it was a magical time spent with them and many a memory card was filled up!

The show wasn’t over yet and half way home from Seal Island we came across the mega pod of dolphins feeding again with hundreds of gannets.


It was the perfect way to end two perfect trips!


The guests not only got to spend time with and enjoy a large variety of marine wildlife but had great tuition and advice from Grant and Toby on photo settings, shutter speeds and photo compositions.

A big thank you to Pangolin Safaris for putting the trips together.


Shark Expeditions - South Africa

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