2019 PREDATION EXPEDITION TRIP REPORT
Posted on Tuesday, 6 August 2019
The Great white sharks in South African waters are showing an increasing tendency towards shifting distribution and unpredictability over the past number of years. As such, at Apex we have focused our attention on taking our expedition groups to shark locations where we know the best activity to be taking place at that time to ensure a successful experience.
Our Predation Expedition has very specific aims of seeing and photographing Great white sharks breaching as well as predating on cape fur seals. In July 2019 we started the expedition with a different outlook. At home in False Bay the weather forecast showed three excellent days of being able to get offshore and dive with the Pelagic Sharks off Cape Point. Our target species were Mako and Blue Sharks.
This is the first year we have operated as many trips offshore in the winter months and it has yielded the surprising results of seeing a higher number of large mako sharks. The blue sharks have also been more sizable than the ones seen in the summer months. Using high tech sea surface temperature charts coupled with an extensive understanding of water, wind and environmental conditions we were successful on all three trips. Very good water visibility of between 8 and 20 meters meant great photographic opportunities as well and for all expedition guests it was a first for seeing and diving with these open ocean predators.
Added to the shark encounters, a great diversity of pelagic birds were seen, including 4 different species of albatross. Humpback whales are currently migrating up the east coast of South Africa and these athletic whales were also encountered with excellent boat viewing. With mixing weather systems and an approaching cold front the majestic Cape Point did not disappoint and provided a very moody and spectacular scene to photograph.
For the remaining week of the expedition we headed up the coast where our focus was decoy breaches and natural predation. We tried both evening and early morning sunrise trips in order to have the opportunity of different light conditions. The evening allows for beautiful front lit subjects whilst the early mornings give rise to spectacular sunrises and silhouette opportunities.
Although each breach is different, smaller and seemingly more athletic and enthusiastic sharks often breach higher. Perhaps they are not quite as experienced as they should be and each predatory opportunity is performed with full gusto. Some of the breaches were so high and so fast we called it “popping like popcorn”!
In total we had 13 breaches on the decoy plus a number of lunges. We also observed 24 predatory events, and managed to photograph a number of these. Photographing these natural hunting events is extremely challenging. Not only are the seals difficult to keep track of but the shark can jump in any direction. In our case this week we had four events that were close enough to get a very good photograph, and where the shark performed a full predatory breach, mouth wide open, in hot pursuit of the seal…but alas had jumped away from our view and away from the cameras!
In closing it was a very successful expedition. In the current climate we are thrilled that we still delivered opportunities to observe and photograph Great white sharks doing amazing and spectacular behavior that can be seen nowhere else on the planet with such predictability.