Shark Byes May 2019
Posted on Saturday, 1 June 2019
Greetings from wintery Cape Town where we are thrilled about the good downpour of rain we received for most of last night! In the latest Shark Bytes we bring you sharky news from along the South African coastline, a sneak peek on the newest Air Jaws that we just finished shooting for Shark Week 2019 and an account of our fantastic trip to Uganda where we spent time with no less than 8 different species of primates.
SEAL ISLAND, FALSE BAY NEWS
2019 was never going to be a year of certainty for any of the shark diving operators along the South African coast. The last 3 years have seen a dramatic decrease in the numbers of great white sharks seen at all three locations as well as the unpredictability of sightings. On the flip side of that, new predatory shark species have filled the gaps left by the great whites and ironically from a tourism point of view these other shark species are actually more engaging around the cages so guests have been getting some really interactive shark dives.
Towards the end of 2018 it was becoming increasingly apparent that Sevengill sharks were becoming increasingly present at Seal Island, perhaps in the absence of Great white sharks. They have been at Seal Island over our entire summer period and are still present in great numbers.
As such we are now operating shark diving trips 12 months of the year at Seal Island with these really interesting “dinosaurs of the sea”. I say dinosaurs as the Sevengills are in evolutionary terms 180 million years old, and have literally outlived the dinosaurs! We have had a huge learning curve in terms of working with these sharks over the past months and are now at the point where we are seeing them on 99% of our trips. They are incredibly interactive and stay around the boat and cage for long periods of time. Some of the sharks we are seeing are up to 2.7 meters in length so they are massively impressive and make for a world class shark cage diving experience. In fact the feedback from our guests is always that the trip was an amazing shark experience.
We are now seeing between 5 and 9 sharks per trip with the highlight being the extremely good water visibility. For most of May we have had between 8 and 12 meters of underwater visibility making for exceptional diving conditions.
We have also had pretty regular sightings of schools of common dolphin and a number of Brydes whales making for good all round nature experiences.
We don’t know what June will for hold for us but if 2017 and 2018 are anything to go by we are hoping to see the arrival of the first few Great white sharks back to Seal Island sometime in mid-June.
GANSBAAI AND MOSSEL BAY NEWS
During May Gansbaai did have a week long period of a handful of Great white shark sightings. Although the Great whites continue to be very unpredictable here the Bronze whaler/Copper sharks are still present in the area. It is interesting to note that they are still present despite the drop in water temperature. It seems that, as with Seal Island, if a gap opens up in the food chain as well as the threat of another predator no longer being an issue, there is good reason to stay in that area.
The presence of the Copper sharks has also meant there is a very good shark diving opportunity in Gansbaai and until the Great white sharks return we certainly hope their presence remains.
In the Mossel Bay area the Great whites have started to return back to their Seal Island. Over the summer months the great white sightings have also been unpredictable here, seen in lower numbers and for some periods, not at all. Over the last few weeks the Great Whites have become more regular which is a relief indeed.
In general we are finding there is confusion regarding the shark situation in South Africa at present.
Please watch below where Chris shares his thoughts on this hotly debated topic. We hope this will help you to put the current situation into some sort of perspective.
A NEW AIR JAWS FOR SHARK WEEK 2019!
There is at least some very good Great White shark news to be shared from South Africa! We have just wrapped up shooting a brand new Air Jaws show that will be screened on Discovery Channel’s 2019 Shark Week. It was filmed with our normal crew of Producer Jeff Kurr, Hosts Chris Fallows, Dr Neil Hammerschlag, Alison Towner and Dr Enrico Gennari with cameramen Tony Sacco , Andy Brandy Casagrande & sound man Henau Marais.
The entire show has been filmed in South Africa and we were successful in capturing extremely unique and equally fascinating Great white shark behaviour. Our filming and observation locations were in Plettenberg Bay and Mossel Bay but I am not going to give the game away just yet!
Over the last 5 years we have been seeing a general eastwards shift of all bio mass up our coastline. A small seal colony located close to Plettenberg Bay has been growing over this time and with this the presence of Great white sharks has also been increasing. The number of sharks are still very limited and as such the situation is precarious but it is exciting to know that new things are happening.
You’ll need to red flag watching this show … it will certainly bring something new to your thoughts about hunting Great White sharks and Cape Fur seal behaviour along with filming with new techniques & angles!
In order to fully habituate a chimpanzee it takes between 7 and 10 years. This is a big commitment but as there are financial and social economic rewardsit means there is a reason to protect the Chimps and their rain forest habitat as well as creating incredible opportunities for people to spend time with these primates. The protection of the habitat cannot be underestimated as of course an entire eco system is at stake.
With the Chimpanzees it is possible to do two different activities. A “wild track” with a troop that is in the process of becoming habituated as well as a one hour session with a habituated group.
We were very fortunate to do both and both experiences were very different.
On the wild trek, the walk through the rain forest was just magical and many different bird calls could be heard, if not seen due to the high tree canopy. On this particular walk we heard and then spotted Red Colobus monkeys which was a new mammal for us. Chimpanzees will hunt and eat other primates so the sight of these Colobus monkeys meant that the chimps were not likely in the immediate area.
As we made our way deeper into the dense forest we were suddenly enveloped in the sound of screeching chimpanzees. It was electric and the continuous screeching seemed to surround us as the calls became more and more fever-pitched. We were in no doubt that they were close!
Our excellent female guide started to indicate watching certain areas close to us and we began to pick up the large dark shapes of chimpanzee as they moved through the forest. As these chimps were not fully habituated they do not spend anytime close to you and on sight they will race up trees and jump from branch to branch and tree to tree. When they did come to ground it was surreal watching these dark shadows virtually glide through the thick and overgrown forest. It felt like watching ghosts in the night just on the very edge of our vision.
It was such a sensory experience and I could not wait for the next vocal racket to erupt. When it did the reverberation through the forest was tremendous and shook one right to the core. Its right up there with hearing a lion roar deeply in the night…
What I truly loved about this experience was the wildness about it. Although we did get very good views of the chimps it was fleeting and extremely exciting.
The habituation experience was completely different. The troop we were visiting were easy to find and it felt very strange, especially after our wild trek, to just walk up to the troop and literally sit down a few meters away from them. They seemed completely unfazed, even as we sit with the Alpha male, his female companion and their new-born chimp.
As with the Gorillas an hour is allowed with them and in this time we were able to sit and basically look them in the eyes, it was very special indeed! They were very social with lots of grooming, playing and play-fighting going on. And to our absolute joy there were many vocal screeches that took place in that hour. It really has to be right up there with one of our best wildlife encounters… a complete sensory experience: great visuals, forest smells, and all the different sounds and vibrations.”
Until next month!