Posted on Monday, 31 May 2010
Dear Shark Lovers,
I think I can say that overall May was a good month for sharking. Our Great white sightings in April were very good so I think that we all expected May to just get better and better. But I do have to admit that we had quite a number of slow days that left us wondering where the April sharks had gone off too!
May is the last month of the Pelagic shark season and although we had more trips booked we only managed to do 1 trip. Twice we headed up to Cape Point but had to turn around due to rough sea conditions. So, when we did get out there we really made the most of seeing the Blue and Mako sharks for the last time this season.
We were hosting a group lead by Yves Lefevre and this would be his first time to see a mako and a good look at a blue shark.
We headed 25 miles off Cape Point so after a very long boat ride we were really excited to find blue water and only a 2 minute wait for the first blue shark to arrive. Within an hour the blue shark numbers were up to 15 different sharks and all our guests had a great dive with them.
Yves had the last dive and was lucky enough to have a mako shark briefly visit the boat. It was fantastic to see how excited and privileged he felt to spend time in the water with both the blues and the mako shark.
I guess all true “shark people” are the same and any shark sighting is met with genuine delight and appreciation. After one of Yves’ cage dives with the Great whites he was more excited to have seen from the cage 2 striped pyjama cat sharks mating, well, I guess I would have been too!
At the end of the 2009/10 Pelagic shark season we have to say that it was a great success. We have really refined our techniques and methods in finding the right conditions for sharks and all trips have been successful with shark sightings on every trip. Blue sharks numbers have been high and we have seen between 1 and 3 mako sharks on each outing.
The Pelagic is Chris’s favourite shark trip and it can only be described as a Marine Adventure. When we head of Cape Point it is exciting having to read and understand all the conditions so that we may find sharks. The day starts with us not knowing where we will end up and the potential of seeing such a variety of marine species make this trip so unique.
But, for now, we must wait until November for our next adventure out there!
Great White Sharks, Seal Island
As I mentioned earlier our sightings of Great whites have been up and down. We have seen sharks on all trips and although sightings have been of varying degrees we do need to put things into perspective.
The Great white shark is a very rare animal and continued threats upon them only mean they will become harder and harder to find. There are only a handful of spots in the world where it is possible to encounter Great whites and although guests can come on our trips and see Great whites on only a morning spent with us at Seal Island, even a fleeting sighting is a privilege. Sometimes I feel I need to remind people of this. I have to admit that I was pretty angry when one of our guests came to me on the boat to say that she was dissapointed at how small the sharks appeared to be. I was left speechless as a magnificent 3.6 meter Great white shark gently cruised past us. It was ironic that about 30 minutes later the same guest had trouble entering the cage as she found the sharks terrifying. During the trip I did manage my anger a bit better and hope that by spending time to talking to her about sharks has helped change her perspective!
Aside from the above we have had some great groups of guests on our trips.
The best way to experience the Great whites and Seal Island is to book at least 5 days on the water.
Our 5 and 10 day packages are very popular and I know that all our guests get the most out of the experience doing it this way. It means that there is more chance of seeing a variety of behaviour and also get to recognise the different sharks that we see each day. This month we had groups from Spain, England, Canada, Italy, Germany, Finland and France. The Apex Team had a fantastic time with everyone and we hope to see all again next season.
Predation & Breaching Activity
We noted that most of the feeding events this month where again scavenges on dead seal carcasses. These scavenges were taking place in some very shallow areas and we were constantly amazed that the sharks were comfortable patrolling in depths that we previously thought where no-go areas for them.
We have started to see a few signs of the sharks hunting the young of the year seals but this activity has not got to the point where we monitor the seal movement and feel that a huge shark will come blasting out of the water in hot pursuit.
We did observe one protracted event where the chase went on for about 4 minutes. The seal got away but the shark did do one very spectacular backwards leap.
The regularity of breaches on the decoy have been good and we were seeing these on about 60% of our trips this month.
As we get into June we would expect both the predations and breaches to increase.
We have had a 2 week period of fantastic water visibility at the Island. Coupled with great shark numbers on most of the days meant that the cage diving has been very exciting and our guests have had awesome views of the sharks underwater. Some very lucky guests even had sightings of between 2 and 3 sharks at one time.
On the most successful trip this month we had a total of 13 different sharks at the boat and most of them really stayed around giving us great views. Chris was able to make use of his pole-camera and I know you will all enjoy the new pics this month.
I know that most people visit Seal Island to see the spectacular breaching behaviour but my favourite way to see a great white shark is when he/she is gently cruising around the boat. On flat calm days I feel that these sightings really make one feel a connection with the phenomenal sharks. Even though they are just slowly swimming around the boat they have such a presence about them and one is left in no doubt that they are completely in control of their environment and that they are one of the Apex Predators of the ocean.
Great Dolphins & Brydes Whales
There are still large amounts of baitfish present in False Bay so we were still sighting Common Dolphin and Brydes whales on at least 70% of our trips in May. On two occasions Chris came across the dolphins trying to mate. I know that dolphins are supposed to copulate for enjoyment but it did not sound like it was too much fun. The poor female was being harassed by a large group of males and I don’t think she had much say in the matter!
One of my highlights of the month was a dolphin sighting on a perfectly flat day.
It was so still that there was no noise from the moving ocean at all and it felt like we were sitting on the stage of a large empty theatre. On the way home, after seeing 8 great white sharks on our Morning trip, we saw that we were moving straight towards a group of about 200 dolphin. Chris cut the engines and we were all silent as we waited for the dolphins to pass by. To our delight almost all of them decided to check out the boat before moving on. It is difficult to describe but because the day was “still and quite” the sound of the dolphins as they porpoised towards us and exhaling loudly as they breathed was just magical.
The World Cup
South Africa is now just 10 days away from hosting the Football World Cup. The country is abuzz with excitement and we are looking forward to hosting many fans on board. June and July fall over the peak period of our season so we are hoping for great weather and sightings!
Chris & I will also be spending 5 days at Port St Johns. For the first time ever we are able to sneak away from Seal Island to spend a few days trying for the Sardine Run. We are really, really excited about this great opportunity. I don’t know if 5 days will be enough but we are ever hopeful that we will be lucky to experience this spectacular natural event. So, watch out for a complete report back next month.
Upcoming Expeditions 2011
Be sure to check out a number of fantastic Expeditions that Apex is hosting in 2011, including Sailfish on bait balls and our ever popular Sharks of Southern Africa.
Please book early if these trips are of interest to you as places are extremely limited.
Our facebook page for Apex Shark Expeditions is becoming popular and I know that many of you enjoy the frequent updates on our current sightings. Click here for the link.
Well, that’s all our news from May. Be sure to check out the Photo’s of the Month page for all Chris’s images from May.
Until next month,