October & November 2012 Shark Bytes
Posted on Friday, 30 November 2012
Dear Shark Lovers,
This month’s newsletter is not too sharky but if you are a nature lover I am sure you will enjoy hearing about our month long trip to Mano Pools and Hwange National Parks in Zimbabwe.
Great White Shark News
Chris & I planned our Zimbabwe trip for leaving Cape Town at the end of September. Normally the Great whites would already have departed Seal Island and headed for the inshore area during the last 2 weeks of September.
As we reported last time, there were still a few of our toothy friends around and in fact Poenas was able to run trips right up to 12 October. This is only the second season since beginning work at Seal Island in 1996 that the sharks have stayed this far into October. The other difference to the norm is that we were still seeing sharks around the boat so the cage diving was definitely worthwhile. Normally towards the end of the season the sharks are only focused on hunting cape fur seals and can at times pay virtually no interest in coming up to the boat
So, the 2012 Great White Shark season has certainly been full of surprises …
As I mentioned the great white move closer to shore over our spring and summer months. Their diet changes to feeding on migratory fish and other species of sharks that enter False Bay over this time period.
Chris & I spend some time at Muizenberg beach working with traditional net fishermen (treknet fishermen). They row a large net out in a row boat and then manually pull the net onto the shore. The downside to this type of fishing is a large amount of by catch. A big variety of sharks and rays can be caught and although it is legal for the treknetters to keep all species aside from ragged tooth and great whites, they have chosen to release all species.
Chris started this release program with them when he was still a teenager. This educational project has been a tremendous success and we reckon that close to 10,000 sharks and rays have been released over the last 20 years. The fishermen are actually very excited to be able to release the sharks and understand the importance of sharks in the eco system.
During November we attended a number of catches with sharks. It was fantastic to be able to handle and release 2 ragged tooth sharks, 6 bronze whaler sharks (including a very large shark of 2.8 meters) and a good amount of smooth hound sharks, not to mention many rays that consisted of mainly bull rays and blue sting rays.
Mako & Blue Sharks
October and November are early months for these trips, mostly due to the South East wind that blows strongly this time of the year. But, we did manage to do one trip last week that produced 2 mako sharks and a 3 blue sharks. I was not able to be on the boat but I know that Chris, Poenas and the guests were really excited to be able to dive with these two beautiful open ocean species.
The high season is now approaching so we are really looking forward to spending more time off Cape Point in the following months.
Zimbabwe Trip Report
After a long season at Seal Island Chris & I always plan to spend time in the bush with a good dose of land animals! This year we chose to visit Hwange National Park and Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. We had many amazing experiences and of course it is always good for the soul just be immersed in nature and be off the grid for a while.
Below I am sharing some of the highlights but the trip report can be viewed here.
We probably had our best ever elephant experiences in Mana Pools and although there are many that I could tell you about I only have space to share a couple. Our camping area seemed to be in the middle of an elephant highway down to the Zambezi River and every day we would have many different elephants walking past our tent. There was a particular herd of 4 elephants that would come every day around lunchtime. I took to calling them “Mrs Stumpy Tail and her friends”. Mrs Stumpy Tail had most likely been attacked by a lion at some stage and had more than half her tail missing, so this group was very easy to identify. They must have been very used to people as we could stand easily within 10 meters of them as they would casually saunter by or stop to feed on our huge shady tree. It became a little routine that I would look forward to their visit every day, and there was always huge excitement as soon as we spotted them in the distance.
We also had a very close encounter with a tiny baby elephant. We were actually sitting watching all the animals under the magic tree when we came across a mom and very young baby elephant, it still had very pink ears indicating that it was not more than a few weeks old. It seemed it was just old enough to start exploring its surroundings. Chris was out of the car, lying on the ground taking photographs. The baby elephant became very curious of our car and it seemed intent on approaching for a closer look. It is never a good idea to be too close to a mother and calf (the females can sometimes be aggressive) so I started moving our car away for it. It kept following me to a point where a lodge vehicle had stopped in front of me and I could not go any further. The baby elephant saw its chance and ran up to our front left tyre, and began rubbing and scratching itself against it. I couldn’t move anywhere and I definitely became nervous when the mom started moving towards me. She stopped about 3 meters away but was actually really relaxed with the situation … my heart was racing and it definitely was a unique encounter that I will remember for a long time.
We were also able to watch an elephant mother with an even smaller calf, maybe only a few days old, over a period of 4 days. Because the calf was so young they could not travel very far and in the tough conditions the tiny baby needed to rest very often. The reason I mention this pair is that it was incredibly endearing to see how well this mother looked after her baby. She was highly protective and very nurturing and caring when the calf needed help with anything… just a very special bond to have witnessed.