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Shark Bytes

February 2009 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

Posted on Saturday, 28 February 2009

Greetings from a lovely warm month in Cape Town. The warm settled weather means that we have been able to do a fair amount of trips this month and most of the time we have had great success.


Pelagic Sharks  

Throughout February we have been running Mako and Blue shark trips and although the water visibility has been good and bad the sharks have been seen in fantastic numbers. In fact the blue shark numbers have been so prolific that it has been very necessary to use the cage in order to dive on all trips. Usually within 30 minutes there would be more than 5 different blues around the boat and at this point it does become a little too difficult to watch ones back at all times.

We have previously not used a cage for our pelagic trips but have found that this option has made this trip accessible to more people to enjoy diving with sharks in the open ocean environment.

We have also had great success seeing mako sharks and have seen on average 2 per trip. The makos are so different to blue sharks and behave much more closely to the great whites. For instance, when we have a blue shark arrive at the boat I always feel confident that it will stay the whole day with us as long as we have a bait in the water. The makos are completely unpredictable and if you are wanting to dive with them you better make sure you are ready to dive as soon as it arrives. We have found that a mako shark can stay from a couple of passes around the bait to a couple of hours at a time. So, one really has to make the most of their presence.

It has been interesting that this summer when we have seen the makos they have arrived pretty soon after we start chumming, then as soon as the blue shark numbers start to increase they seem to be wary of coming in.

Blue sharks are gregarious and do not mind being in close proximity to each other. We often observe them bumping into each other when around the bait and they seem non-plussed about this. Again makos are different and do not like to be close to other mako sharks at all and even being close to blue sharks is not for them. We often see them swimming off with great speed when they are not comfortable. The mako is supposed to be one of the fastest fish in the sea and it is very impressive to observe them when they put on these bursts of speed.


Cetaceans in the Deep

One of the most exciting aspects of our pelagic trip is heading out into the open ocean and having the possibility of seeing almost anything! This month we had good sightings of dwarf mike whales, two large bull sperm whales and a large school of common dolphins. Chris & I guessed the school must have been close to 1000 strong and there were a number of tiny juveniles amongst them which is always special to see.

For this particular school we immediately picked up that they looked a little different to the common dolphins that we normally encounter and although they were the same size and patterns their general colour was a lot more muted.

I have done a little bit of reading and have learnt that there are two species of common dolphin, short-beaked and long-beaked. And one of the characteristics is that the long-beaked species does have a generally more dull appearance.  So, it is always good to learn something new!

I think most people have a dream to dive with dolphins and compared to sharks I think most people have the impression that dolphins are friendly and would be great to be in the water with…not our experience! We thought that being surrounded by almost 1000 dolphins it should be a good opportunity to get in the water with them. As per normal the “dive” consisted of bailing into the water and within a few seconds the large school had left us in the dust!

After a number of tries and our group was getting back onto the boat when one of our guests had a mako shark approach him which provided for an exciting moment! We have also observed many mako sharks free jumping when being out there so this gives the impression that there are good numbers of them around.

We normally find the sharks swimming on the surface and although we can be surrounded by literally 100 sharks it can be surprising

Hammerhead Sharks

Towards the end of the month we were blown out in Cape Town and had a good opportunity to visit one of our favorite shark spots a little further up the coast. The weather was good here and not much swell, so just about perfect for shark watching.

We have been visiting this area for many years now and it is a very special place to have great shark encounters. One small area seems to be a nursery area for smooth or scalloped hammerhead pups. These sharks are between 80cm and 1.2 meters, so probably 1 to 3 years old. As they normally gather around a pinnacle where there can be a strong wash they are most likely able to feed on things that are gathering in this current.

Many people are fascinated by this strange looking creature and we have found them to have loads of personality as well.

We normally find the sharks swimming on the surface and although we can be surrounded by literally 100 sharks it can be surprising difficult to get them close enough to dive with. We still cannot work these little chaps out…sometimes they can’t get enough of our bait and other times it is as if we are not even there. But, it is always great fun and excitement just watching them as they scoot around on the surface.

This time, while trying to get them close to the boat, we were surrounded by about 10 yellowtail and this was an unexpected opportunity to dive with these gamefish.


Bronze Whalers

In the same area we can come across bronze whalers (copper sharks). These are normally sub adult and can also be tricky to dive with as they can be wary of us in the water. We did see 3 different bronze whalers but they were not keen to stay around once we got into the water.

This shark can also breach out of the water and we were lucky enough to see this on this trip. The reason why they breach is not clear, but it does not seem to be related to feeding. If one is looking in the right spot at the right time it is very spectacular to see them as they catapult out of the water.


Ragged Tooth Sharks

In the last couple of years we have had great success finding ragged-tooth sharks in this area. On this trip we found between 5 and 6 different raggies in water shallow enough to snorkel with them. An added bonus is that when snorkeling with the raggies we also saw about 5 spotted-gulley sharks and as it was on the reef we also had a great time just observing the endemic fish species in the area. The sharks are normally very relaxed and it is easy to approach them closely underwater.

We will be organizing a trip to this area in February 2010 that will also include mako and blue sharks off Cape Town. So be sure to look out for this trip that should provide opportunities of seeing a wide range of shark species.



In the next 5 days Chris & I will be leaving for India where we have planned an all round nature trip hopefully finding one-horned rhino and of course the magnificent tiger!

This will be our last break before the start of the Great white shark season at Seal Island. Despite the economic crisis worldwide I have been surprised at the amount of booking we already have for this Great White shark season. So, if any of you are thinking of coming out this year it would be a good idea to contact us soon.


On “Photos of the Month” we have posted various pelagic trip photos as well as images from our raggie dive. The images of the blue sharks and the divers on this newsletter have kindly been used with permission from Dave from Sharkbookings.com and the images are copyrighted accordingly.


So, until next month!


Best wishes

Monique Fallows


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