Posted on Tuesday, 31 January 2012
I don’t have too much sharky news to report as Chris & I have just been on a fantastic 3 week trip to The Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana.
We have done a number of Mako and Blue Shark trips but the highlight definitely has to be a helicopter flip in False Bay!
Mako & Blue Sharks
It was pretty hard to depart for The Kalahari, which is about as far away from the sea as can be, in early January. We had been having great weather and the pelagic water off Cape Point was beautiful. The last couple of seasons we have actually been struggling with finding blue, clear pelagic water and I would say most trips had been in green/blue water. This was still good for diving as the visibility was 10 to 15 meters but we did miss the lovely blue water of years gone by.
Interestingly, we had record shark numbers and on most trips we would end up with 20 to 40 different Blue sharks.
So far our 2012 season has brought great water close to Cape Point. On most trips we have not had to go further than 18 miles from The Point making it a far easier day on the legs!
This blue water brought with it good numbers of Yellowfin tuna and often times we would be returning home to find amazing life in the Cape Point area. Sometimes the sea would explode in white froth as the yellowfin chased bait fish on the surface, with the gulls, terns and other pelagic birds squawking above them. It was a phenomenal sight to witness and gives us great hope as this was seen on almost every trip.
We also managed to attract Yellowfin tuna to the boat on most trips giving an added bonus of an experience to our divers.
The downside is that it seemed this blue water had less sharks with it. On our best day we had 10 blue sharks and mako sharks were a little hard to come by. 10 is still a great number and I am certainly not complaining, I just find it interesting how different the two types of water seem to be.
We have also had sightings of common dolphin both inside False Bay and close to Cape Point.
At the moment we are having a bout of strong South East wind so it will be interesting to see if this water moves out after this weather, we will keep you posted in February.
In January we hosted another very successful expedition with Dr Alessandro De Maddalena. This scientific focus trip included Great white sharks in Gansbaai, Mako and Blue sharks off Cape Point, seven gill cow shark dives in False Bay as well as shark biology lectures. Another highlight was a helicopter flip along the inshore beaches of False Bay, specifically looking for Great white sharks along the coast.
We hired a number of 4 seater Jet Rangers and it turned out that there were 3 spots still available. We have a great team at Apex so Chris & I decided to treat Poenas, Karyn and Renee to this special trip. Many of you who have come out with us will know how the whole Apex Team adds to the experience so it felt great to give them this opportunity.
It was AMAZING ! In the 1 hour flight they spotted no less that 16 Great white sharks from the air, all mostly centred in one small area. As most of you know the Great white sharks change their feeding pattern during the South African summer and spend their time close to shore in False Bay, Mossel Bay and Gansbaai.
The conditions happened to be perfect on the day and the flat seas and clear water conditions provided perfect shark spotting from the air!
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve Trip
I know this is a shark newsletter so I am only going to include a sighting with 3 lionesses that Chris & I had in the CKGR. I do also know that many of you are not only shark lovers but nature lovers too. So, if you would like to read the whole trip report please visit our blog here.
Lioness, Queen of the Kalahari
I am saving the best for last! The afternoon before this sighting Chris had spotted a male lion crossing Leopard Pan. He was calling for his mate and as such we were on the lookout for the evasive lioness too.
During the night we could on and off hear the lion roaring and then the lioness answering in return.
I can’t describe what this is like, to be lying in your tent and listening to the call between the pair of lions, it is breath-taking, and not in a scary way at all.
In the morning we had a pretty good idea in which direction to head, a lions roar can travel far and we had last heard them in the early hours.
Just after dawn we came upon them on Leopard Pan. The male was lying some distance away from 3 magnificent lionesses.
It appeared that one of the lionesses was the mom to 2 almost full grown adult females. They were still extremely playful and this provided some beautiful sights as these 2 lithe and athletic predators ran about.
It’s a different story photographing lions off the ground, compared with cheetah, so Chris started from a long way off, using the car to protect his back. They were very comfortable with the car and as they ran and played along the pan they approached closer and closer.
The early morning light was beautiful and looking through my binoculars I could see that Mom had a gorgeous brown fleck in her right eye. To give you a quick laugh…we had bought ourselves a new pair of Swarovski binoculars last year and I only discovered on this last trip that we had the settings for someone with short sightedness. Chris couldn’t understand what all our friend’s ravings about these binoculars were about up until this point. I can tell you that putting it on the right setting has taken my game viewing to new levels!! And now I know why the binoculars were so expensive!
Anyway, I was admiring the lionesses through the binos when suddenly they were filling the frame. I always very closely watch for Chris (as he is just looking through the lens) so when they kept coming in a straight line (again it was just the path they were walking on, they did not change direction to approach us) I had my hand ready on the hooter, just in case. They had come so close, within 10 meters, that Chris could not get up and ease back into the car, it would have changed the entire dynamic and I am not sure what the sudden movement would have done to the lionesses. Chris had to stay put!
I don’t think he minded though, he was in his element with three huge lionesses bearing down on him as they touched shoulders like three warriors psyching up before battle. He was savouring the experience with Africa’s great cats. My heart was in my mouth!
At the ten meter mark they just casually veered slightly to the left and kept on walking.
Wow, what an incredible wildlife moment!
Both Chris & I are very aware and conscious about being in close proximity to predators, both on the land and in the sea. It constantly amazes me how accommodating they are to share their space with us, I wish humans would behave the same way. They talk to you with body language all the time so the key is to listen to them. Just remember that Chris has spent his life trying to understand animal behaviour, particularly predators, so he understands the risks and can anticipate a problem before it evolves. It also something he loves doing and like a racing driver understands the risks but uses his experience to minimise them.
So, that is all our news for January.
Don’t forget you can get daily and weekly updates on our facebook and blog page.
We still have 2 spots available on our Premier 2012 10 Day Predation Expedition in July this year. This is from a last minute cancellation so contact us soon if you are interested.