Posted on Thursday, 25 June 2015
At a very young age I had such a passion for all animals. Whether it be a snake or bat at our holiday house at the Breede River, or the many animals we harboured at our house in Cape Town. As I grew older I had a great urge to save and rehabilitate animals. In the middle of my BTech in Nature Conservation at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, I volunteered at an Organisation called SANCCOB (The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Seabirds). Here they rescue and rehabilitate penguins and marine birds, such as cormorants, kelp gulls and gannets. This is where I realised I had a big love for gannets! After gaining some experience in the rehabilitation, I was in charge of looking after a placid and relaxed gannet. I named him Gandalf the Grey at the time, knowing the juveniles turn into a beautiful white as they get older. After leaving SANCCOB to complete my studies, I knew that I would want to work with animals. I passed many job opportunities, until the chance to work with Apex arose.
I always knew I would never be the person to have a desk job. I have always been the adventurous and “outdoorsy” girl in my family. Whenever I am given the opportunity to go out to sea, I remain in awe of the wildlife we encounter. One of the most natural and fascinating encounters of marine wildlife I have witnessed, are the bait balls formed by dolphins, and sometimes joined by many other forms of marine wildlife. The dolphins are able to pack hundreds of sardine together by herding them as a sheep dog would, and blowing bubbles which confuse and separate the sardines. This swirling mass of food is followed by hundreds of Cape gannets. The reason I am so intrigued by them is due to the strategies they evolved to successfully dive and capture their prey. Before entering the water they fold their wings and feet back, acting as missiles that enter the water at startling speeds of up to 120km/h, and as deep as 20m.They have protective eyelids that protect their eyes when diving, as well as having front set eyes that aid in judging distance on these high speed dives. These specialised birds also have air pockets within their shoulders that act as airbags.
Not only do the dolphins and Cape gannets feed on the bait balls, but if you are lucky you will often be able to see a Brydes whale join in on the feeding frenzy by lunging into the bait ball, mouth agape and sucking in hundreds of sardines at a time!
I have been extremely lucky and have experienced some amazing sightings in the bay, however next on my list, and I hope yours too, is the Sardine Run. From May to July each year millions of sardines travel up the east coast of South Africa, causing masses of excitement with guests and wildlife alike. The sardines swim closely together to avoid becoming meals from the predators. Wildlife you can encounter: Copper Sharks, Spotted Ragged Tooth Sharks, Black Tip Sharks, Dusky Sharks, Common Dolphins, Indian Ocean Bottlenose Dolphins, Killer Whales, Brydes Whale, Cape Fur Seal, Cape Gannet, Petrels and Shearwaters, Blackbrowed Albatross, African Penguin. The Sardine Run is considered one of the most spectacular wildlife events on the planet!
Kirsty MacSymon - Apex's Greenhorn
To read a blog on the Sardine Run click here.
For trip information on the Sardine Run Expedition click here.