PUNTE NORTE, PENINSULA VALDES, ORCA TRIP REPORT
In terms of spectacular wildlife events I am sure for many of you a number of instances instantly come to mind. In my case Orcas stranding themselves in order to hunt sea lion pups is right up there, even though I did not know much about it.
During the middle of 2011 friends of ours booked an expedition in the hopes of seeing and photographing this unique behaviour. When David told us about it we immediately had our interest pricked and a few weeks later we were also booked!
I must confess that I knew very little about this wildlife event, where it was (other than Argentina) and the circumstances that bring about this hunting technique. I had heard about Mel. He is probably one of the most famous Orcas in the world as he is the only adult male that hunts in this fashion. When you see this footage, it is normally Mel in spectacular action. Chris & I were under the impression that he was the only Orca in this area that hunted and as he is said to be 50 years old we wanted to be able to do this trip before the end of his life.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana spans 55,000 square kilometres and is the second largest wildlife reserve in Africa. It is one of the most remote paces in Africa and when visiting here one needs to bring all fuel, water, food and one needs to be completely self sufficient. There are also no fenced areas and all camping is in the complete wild of “the bush”. (“The Bush” is what we South African’s refer to as “The Wilderness” or “The Outback”). Chris & I had spent time here 2 years ago and it was a very easy decision to return here even though the camping can be considered rough and with searing temperatures it can be at best uncomfortable. Very few people visit here and in our 2 week stay we saw no more than 12 other vehicles. There are also no phones or internet, it’s just a place to completely immerse oneself in nature and quite frankly there is nothing better for my soul!
January and February are considered the best months in The CKGR. This is the height of the rainy season meaning that the animals will migrate from the dune veld into the river beds to graze. There has to have been enough rain to provide good grazing and with late rain this year our first week was rather quiet. The park was dramatically different compared to our visit 2 years ago. Areas where we had seen lush and long grass pastures had been reduced to dust bowls. It seemed to be a tough time for all. The predators especially seemed to be taking strain as their prey had not moved into the lions’ territories. We sadly saw a number of lions in poor condition and this was a tough sight to see.
The weather report promised great conditions off Cape Point so we were really excited to head off on one of Apex's pelagic diving trips into the marine-life rich Agulhas Current yesterday. The water was 17C at Cape Point and at about 25 miles offshore we hit blue 22C water, the best we have had in a long time!
I have had a bit of a shark drought since the Great white shark season ended at Seal Island in mid-September so when we had the opportunity to do some filming in Gansbaai I was really excited to see and cage dive with the great whites again.
We had to wait for good weather as we needed perfectly flat seas in order to work inshore, the summer haunt of the Great whites. When the day came we launched at 5.30am to make the most of the perfect conditions.
There has been some negative news of sharks in the press of late so I thought it would be an opportune time to write about some very exciting and positive news that has happened for shark conservation in the last year. A number of shark sanctuaries or shark protected areas have been created, legislation in numerous important cities has been passed banning the trade of shark fins and awareness in China on the need to conserve sharks is making progress.
Chris and Monique Fallows have gone to great lengths to portray sharks as magnificent super predators that are highly efficient at what they do and thankfully that we are not on their menu when it comes to being prey. Accidents unfortunately do happen but with less than 20 shark attacks per year worldwide the chances are very slim. We still should not forget that sharks are predators and to access the situation each time before partaking in water activities. Having said all of this Chris likes to put his money where his mouth is. Over the years he has interacted with sharks in many different ways to show they are not the mindless killers they are often thought to be. Below is a graphic illustration of his efforts and experiences.
Many of us are horrified to hear about the “shoot to kill” order made by authorities in Western Australia after the recent shark attacks. Authorities may for the moment access any shark sighting and if they feel it is a threat to water users, they may kill that animal. Quite frankly I am surprised at the response from Australian authorities which is certainly backward and out dated. In South Africa sharks are still a very emotive topic but I do feel that public perception is changing and the authorities in Cape Town have employed a number of non-invasive measures in order for water users and sharks to co-exist as well as possible.
Chris & I have just returned from a fantastic wildlife trip to The Pantanal located in Brazil. Now that we are home we are really missing seeing the Great White Sharks. Their departure from Seal Island to the Summer inshore area has inspired me to write a short blog about their summer movements and especially their behaviour in the Gansbaai area and how this affects our shark cage diving trips in Gansbaai.
Dear Shark Lovers,
Well, sadly I bring you news from the last sharky month at Seal Island for 2011. It has actually been a great end to the season with better than normal activity. I know you will all have heard the news about the recent shark attack in Fish Hoek so I will also chat briefly about this tragic event. On a more positive side Chris & I have just returned from a 2 week trip to The Pantanal in Brazil. No sharks here but we got to see a vast amount of new creatures.
Chris and I have for many years wanted to visit The Pantanal, the world's largest inland wetland area. In the 1950's a road was partially built that would connect Brazil and Paraguay. It was never completed but this unfinished road now allows wildlife enthusiasts the opportunity to explore this incredible wildlife region.Our first stop was a 2 night stay at a traditional cattle ranch called "Pouso Alegre". The locals here are called Pantaniero's and are traditionally cattle and subsistence farmers. On this 10,000 hectare farm we were hoping to see the Giant anteater. We were unfortunately not lucky enough to see one but there were many highlights.