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Predation Season at Seal Island, South Africa

written by Dominic Canty

Sunrise at Seal Island, False Bay

Posted on Thursday, 14 July 2016

With the guests on board and the safety briefing completed, it’s ropes off and White Pointer Two begins to ease out of Simon’s Town Harbour. Sunrise is perhaps an hour away, and the surrounding Cape Peninsula remains asleep beneath the starry night sky. Only the flecks of streetlamp gold colour the inky black waters of False Bay. The morning air is brisk and fresh, and as with every day, filled with our guests’ excitement and anticipation of hopefully seeing a Great White shark. And for everyone at Apex Shark Expeditions, we all share those emotions too. And even given the many years of experience we have with these most wonderful animals, for us each day still feels like the first, coupled with a longing to be able to share our experiences with our highly valued guests.

 

The journey to Seal Island, Cape Town takes approximately twenty-five minutes, and the boat crew use this time to brief the guests on why such an early morning start is necessary. The reason: the time before and after sunrise is perhaps the highest in terms of predation activity. For the Great White shark uses the now slowly-increasing light levels in the water to detect and track any incoming groups of Cape Fur seals as they return to Seal Island after an evening (or even up to four days) feeding on the fish found beyond Cape Point. Their route back will take them directly to the south end of Seal Island, to the safety of ‘the launch pad’ from where they will clamber back onto the island. But it’s this last section of water where the Great Whites can strike, within tenths of a second, and from depths where their upper body camouflage makes them undetectable. But once they strike, often the speed is such that the shark’s body completely breaches the surface before crashing back down into the Bay. 

 

‘Predation!’ a crew member will shout, if lucky enough to witness it, and the boat will then hightail to where the event happened, to see if the duel of life and death between shark and seal is still active, or if it has reached its silent conclusion.

‘Predation!’ a crew member will shout, if lucky enough to witness it, and the boat will then hightail to where the event happened, to see if the duel of life and death between shark and seal is still active, or if it has reached its silent conclusion. Mother Nature’s way commands the utmost respect. The Great White shark must use speed and explosive surprise to capture its more-nimble prey. The Cape Fur seals must strain every sense and intuition to pass safely as they run their daily gauntlet. For both, the necessity to harvest their own food source from the ocean remains utterly vital.

 

The Great White shark is indeed an apex predator, but one that is extremely rare. With only an estimated three and a half thousand left in the world, to even see one is incredible. And so, with each boat trip, we cross fingers to hopefully witness a predation and, with equally breath-taking views, to attract one of these magnificent animals to our boat as the sun climbs higher into the sky. Sometimes the wait for this is very short. Sometimes it is longer, and as with all viewings in nature, there are no guarantees of a sighting at all. However, with the many years’ experience on hand at Apex Shark Expeditions, coupled with a bubbling passion and wealth of contributions to Great White shark scientific research, we feel well positioned to give you the best chance possible of an introduction to this most iconic of sharks.

 

 

So come on, join us on board White Pointer Two. You will be most welcome, and it really could be the trip of a lifetime.  

Tags:

Cape Fur Seal, Great White Shark, Great White Shark Predation, Seal Island - False Bay

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