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Shark Bytes

June 2016 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

A Mako shark off Cape Point

Posted on Thursday, 7 July 2016

Two very important things happened in Cape Town this past month;

The vitally needed winter rain has fallen and a few Great White sharks have finally remembered where Seal Island is!

We have also had great weather conditions and this has allowed for a couple Pelagic Shark trips off Cape Point giving us an opportunity of learning more about the cetaceans in mid- winter.


The Great Whites Return!

As we approached early June we felt sure that the sharks would be returning any day but we had to wait until the 12th before we got our first visitor in nearly 9 weeks to the boat. A couple days before this, a few predatory events were observed and recorded however even though there clearly was a shark in the area it did not show itself at the boat.

On the 12th we saw 2 predatory events in the early morning and upon anchoring I felt myself boiling inside with anticipation; it was almost like waiting to see a Great White shark for the first time! About an hour into the wait a gorgeous, curious 4 meter female appeared. I think we were all so shocked at the sight of her (wow, we finally got a shark!!!) that our crew, our guests and I went into complete excitement over drive.

Guests were scrambling for camera’s, masks & snorkels and the crew were just, well we were just scrambling!

This shark was so magnificent and gave us a fantastic show as she graced us with her presence. She approached the bait many times and gave some terrific close passes alongside the cage.

In a strange kind of way the absence of sharks for such a long period really brought home to me exactly what that excitement feels like when seeing an iconic animal for the first time. It is a life’s dream for so many people to come to South Africa and see an animal that has captivated and fascinated them for such a long time and I felt privileged to be reminded again how this feels.


After this initial arrival we’ve had sightings on most trips but a few misses as well so it has taken a couple of weeks to become more confident. We have seen predatory events on almost all the Morning Trips and a number of them have been some high energy chases on the surface close to the boat which has been excellent viewing.

Some guests (and crew) have also seen some spectacular initial predatory breaches on seals so even though there are still not a lot of sharks at the Island there has still been a lot to see.

Interestingly the shark activity around the boat has been slightly better on the Afternoon Trips.

There has been a large 3.8 meter male that was recorded on about 8 different trips and a number of other male sharks in this same size range.

We don’t seem to see sharks that frequent Gansbaai or Mossel Bay too often at Seal Island but about a week ago we had a large 4.2m female that been tagged in Gansbaai around our boat. She has subsequently been seen on another 2 trips so it’s been great to have a “Gansbaai tourist” in our neck of the woods.



Even though we have been seeing between 1 and 3 sharks per trip, the shark activity is certainly not what it should be at this time of the year. What I really want to focus on is how appreciative our guests have been. We have been very clear up front as to the current sightings situation so that everyone could keep their expectations in check and for the most part it has been amazing to see how much everyone has appreciated each sighting, no matter how short, of a truly remarkable animal. Working with wildlife as well as on the sea has its challenges and both are natural elements that we cannot control, no matter how much we want to! In today’s day and age and the constant instant gratification we have come to expect, I think it’s a good idea once in a while to remind ourselves that there are some things we can’t control, but if we appreciate even just the small things we will walk away feeling much happier about life!

This shark was so magnificent and gave us a fantastic show as she graced us with her presence.

Are We Shark Repellent’s??

After that philosophical paragraph I need to at least share a life hearted moment with you all.

In early June, Chris & I were due to do a short piece for Discovery Channel Canada on photographing Great White sharks. With our sharks missing in action we re-located the film shoot to Mossel Bay where they were having fantastic shark action.

Literally as we rolled down the steep hill into Mossel Bay the operator called us to say that they’d just had a day of no sharks.

What???? We couldn’t believe it!

Two days of no sharks in Mossel Bay followed and we finally decided to jump ship and head down the coast for a last ditch effort in Gansbaai.

Our friends there were quite concerned that we would bring our bad luck with us (and I think left garlic cloves hanging over our doorknob!) and successfully succeed in chasing all Great White sharks out of South African waters.

Thankfully we broke the curse and managed to photograph and film a beautiful breach in the early dawn the following day. Phew!


Pelagic Shark Trips

We have had a really great month of weather with many flat beautiful days. It can be rare to have conditions good enough to go off Cape Point in winter but this past June we managed to do it three times. We are normally flat out running Great White shark trips so being quieter and with good weather, it was a great opportunity to explore the open ocean off Cape Point in winter conditions.

On all trips the water temperatures were good and we were finding water between 16.5 and 18 degrees Celsius, with mostly clear water visibility. The great news is that with very little wait we saw Blue and Mako sharks on all trips, with one trip bringing a total of 3 different Mako sharks.



We were also extremely excited to have yet another Sperm whale sighting, this time of a relaxed female as well as a huge mega pod of about 3000 Common dolphin.

Despite all the great sightings, my highlight from the 3 trips was the phenomenal amount of pelagic birds we found behind some of the commercial trawlers.

I can’t tell you what it feels like to be surrounded by thousands of albatross, petrels, shearwaters and gannets all shouting the odds while competing for the by-catch and fish offcuts being dispatched by the trawlers. It was a complete sensory overload.



Old Friends Return

The arrival of a number of our regular annual Seal Island guests has already begun and as we head into July many more will be returning. It certainly is a highlight each year when we are able to host and spend time with our shark-crazed friends. Spending as much time out on the water really does allow you to see different behaviour, get better shots and of course seeing Great White sharks is totally addictive!

We have already made new friends from this season and we hope that they too will return in the shark seasons to come.


There are still 3 spots left on the August Great White Trail Expedition so we hope some of you can make a last minute trip.


As we head into July we sincerely hope the regular Seal Island sharks will too be returning!


Until next month


To read our last three Shark Bytes click on the link below:

May 2016 Shark Bytes

April 2016 Shark Bytes

March 2016 Shark Bytes


Cape Point - Cape Town, Great White Shark Cage Diving, Great White Shark Predation, Mako Sharks

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