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Shark Bytes

July 2013 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

A Great White shark breaching on a Cape Fur seal.

Posted on Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Dear Shark Lovers,


Wow, wow, wow …. That pretty much sums up the last few weeks’ activity at Seal Island, reminding us all once again what an incredibly unique and spectacular place this is.

Most of our news this month is focused on the natural predation activity and also the return of more of our favourite and regular Seal Island sharks.


Great Water Visibility

Shark sightings around the boat and predatory activity had been building towards the end of June but a 5 day period of bad weather in early July did cause some decrease in activity.

Once the weather started to settle down again we found that the water visibility at The Island was fantastic and was averaging at 10 meters plus (very good for us!). The settled weather made for perfect cage diving conditions and all guests were having fantastic views from underwater.

However, the great water visibility seemed to have a huge effect on seeing breaches on the decoy and these were very few and far between.

We are not entirely sure but we think that with the water visibility being so good the sharks may be able to pick up in the last split second moment before hitting the decoy that it is not exactly what they are looking for. Rather than waste unnecessary energy they seem to pull out of the final attack. 

The great water visibility has stayed with us the whole of July and so the low rate of success on the decoy has continued for the whole month.

This was no problem at all though and we focused our attention on great cage dives and the intense natural predation activity that was to follow…



An Intense Amount of Predation Activity

Due to the huge demand of our Predation Specialty 10 Day Expedition each year we decided to host 2 trips for the 2013 Season.

We could not have picked more appropriate dates as the intense activity kicked off right from 16 July, day number 1!

We arrived to light winds and 38 predatory events in 3 hours, including a spectacular full breach on a group of seals. Our guests could not quite believe what they were seeing as for some this was their first ever Great White Shark sighting!

Over the next 4 days we recorded just over 120 events…These kinds of mornings are hard to describe. Everyone is focusing really hard on looking for seals and splashes that indicate an event is in progress or just scanning the sea-scape hoping to catch the sight of a Great white shark in full flight. The crew is calling out seal movement, what direction they are and how far from the boat … the skipper is reacting to the directions and the energy is high. It must sometimes sound like a military operation to those who are new on the boat.

But, to do this properly, it is the only way. The events are incredibly sensitive and if you are not paying attention it is very easy to run over seals that have not been spotted or approach too close to an event. Everyone has to be on their game in order to have the least amount of impact on the area and at the same time witness amazing natural history and behaviour.

These 4 intense days took place leading up to bad weather and peaked just before a short winter storm hit Cape Town.

Weather seems to play a vital role in predation activity and we do see these activity spikes with the build up to bad weather. It could be that more seals are returning to haul out on Seal Island and this in turn attracts more hunting Great white sharks to the Island.

Just after the bad weather we had a few quiet days with little hunting activity. It could have been that the batch of sharks that had been at Seal Island for the previous few days had eaten and had their full.

It was time for them to move out and a new batch of sharks was yet to move in…

There were still a couple of sharks around, including Deux Rossi, and since the great water visibility was still present we made the most of some fantastic cage diving and getting a different perspective of the sharks underwater.   

As the wind began to turn round to a moderate northerly direction so too did the predatory activity start to increase again and the next cycle began. In the following 3 days we were back up to recording 20 plus events per day.

When it is so intense like this it is sometimes important to step back and digest exactly what we are seeing and what is taking place. There are few places on earth where natural predation or predator/prey interactions take place on such an intense level.

When a lot of sharks are present at Seal Island and are in hunting mode there is tremendous competition between sharks. The pressure means that they most likely push each other to hunt even when they maybe don’t feel they have the advantage. As such on these busy days it more than likely that the sharks are trying to hunt multiple times on a morning, a lot of times without success.

When they are successful they need to consume the seal very quickly as there is a very high chance of losing their meal to another shark. There is often a lot of splashing going on with each event and other sharks will be cued into these sounds. Likewise if one shark is unsuccessful the seal will move off from the predation event but another hunting shark will be waiting and another event will take place… so it makes sense that the pressure between the sharks creates these extremely high predation days.




We arrived to light winds and 38 predatory events in 3 hours, including a spectacular full breach on a group of seals.

Predation Expedition #2

Just like we have regular sharks to Seal Island every season we so too have regular guests that make an annual pilgrimage each season! It’s a great time of the season for us to have these special guests on board who are true shark lovers and really appreciate the special interactions that we see out there.

Many of these guests were on the second expedition and I can truly say they were rewarded for all the time they have put in coming here.

The trip started with 4 days of miserable weather. We were able to go to sea but the sea was choppy and uncomfortable with rain and cold conditions! The sharks were hunting but it was challenging as we were getting thrown around the boat trying to get into good positions.

Finally the weather settled down and the action continued … This is what we always hope for, hunting sharks with perfect sea conditions… Added to this we still needed luck to be in the right spot to see the initial attack (which is usually the most spectacular) or be close enough to reach an on-going event. For the last 5 days of this trip everything went right for us and we just seemed to be in the right place every time.


White Belly Breaches

To see the snow white belly of a Great white shark is for me the most beautiful sight of these incredible animals. 

There were a number of events on the last few days of the trip that we got to see this sight, and all very big sharks in the 4 meter plus region.

On 2 events in row, just minutes apart we witnessed large sharks completely out of the water, bent almost in a figure of eight type of pose, white bellies exposed, as they breached out of the water, exploding through a group of seals. These were followed by huge open gaping mouths lunges, right in front of us, as the chases continue.

After seeing so many spectacular events we felt that the trip could not get any better and were not really expecting too much on the last day. But, I am happy to say that we were very wrong and we got to witness and photograph the most spectacular predation I have seen at Seal Island in the last 14 years.

We were following a small group of seals that were returning to the Island and as they were only 200 meters from the launch pad I looked up from the wheel of the boat and saw a massive 4 meter female shark completely airborne just 80 meters away from us. She had exploded through the group of seals and had narrowly missed a seal as it glanced off the breaching shark. The seals scattered everywhere so it was difficult to position the boat but just as I got us in position the shark came out like a Polaris Missile, white belly towards us and a seal firmly clamped in its mouth.

And that was it … the event was done and all was quiet, except for a small group of people who had just witnessed one of the most spectacular sights in all of nature.



Much Loved Sharks Return

I am very pleased to report that “Deux Rossi” is still present at Seal Island and we continue to see her on a daily basis making her winter stay at 6 weeks now. She is such an interesting shark so I plan to talk about her behaviour closer to the end of the season when I have a little more text space!

But … the amazing news right now is that we have had sightings of “Shy Guy”, “Cuz”, “Bentley” and “Amber” all in the past month.

Shy Guy is the 4 meter plus male that is a very successful hunter but never comes to our boat. This month we saw him hunting 3 times over a 4 day period and this is now his 11th year we have recorded him at Seal Island.

We often see Cuz around about the same time as Shy Guy so we were anxiously waiting for him to show himself. He did not disappoint and one afternoon we got a very excited Poenas calling us from the afternoon trip with the great news of Cuz’s return. This is also the 11th season for Cuz and I know that many of you who have had the privilege of seeing him will be very excited to hear this news.
We have seen him on one predation event and a number of times around the boat. We really hope he stays for a few more days so that we can enjoy his presence even more!

Chris & I have been talking about his age. When we first saw him back in 2003 he was 3 meters in length which would have made him approximately 9 years old. His growth has been slow over the last 11 years and right now he is just over 4 meters in length … but in terms of his age, we put him around 20 years old now, which is really amazing.

We have also had a very brief possible sighting of “Bently”. This female shark is has a very bent dorsal fin and is easily recognisable. She has not come up to the boat but we have seen her hunting so we are 80% sure it is her.

Amber was also sighted for the second time this season, She was last seen in early June and this month we saw her on a successful predation event. She approached our boat after the event and we got a great look of her. She is in tremendous condition, just over 4 meters in length and supporting a big girth! She seems well on her way to becoming a mature female, so God speed!  


It has been an amazing month at Seal Island and I can’t wait to see what August holds for us.


Until next month!


Best wishes

Monique Fallows


Shark Expeditions - South Africa, Great White Shark Breaching, Great White Shark Predation


Chanele Jenkinson

Lovely Shark Bytes as always. Thank you Monique!

Posted on: 19 December 2014

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