Predation Season at Seal Island, South Africa
Posted on Thursday, 14 July 2016
With the guests on board and the safety briefing completed, it’s ropes off and White Pointer Two begins to ease out of Simon’s Town Harbour. Sunrise is perhaps an hour away, and the surrounding Cape Peninsula remains asleep beneath the starry night sky. Only the flecks of streetlamp gold colour the inky black waters of False Bay. The morning air is brisk and fresh, and as with every day, filled with our guests’ excitement and anticipation of hopefully seeing a Great White shark. And for everyone at Apex Shark Expeditions, we all share those emotions too. And even given the many years of experience we have with these most wonderful animals, for us each day still feels like the first, coupled with a longing to be able to share our experiences with our highly valued guests.
The journey to Seal Island, Cape Town takes approximately twenty-five minutes, and the boat crew use this time to brief the guests on why such an early morning start is necessary. The reason: the time before and after sunrise is perhaps the highest in terms of predation activity. For the Great White shark uses the now slowly-increasing light levels in the water to detect and track any incoming groups of Cape Fur seals as they return to Seal Island after an evening (or even up to four days) feeding on the fish found beyond Cape Point. Their route back will take them directly to the south end of Seal Island, to the safety of ‘the launch pad’ from where they will clamber back onto the island. But it’s this last section of water where the Great Whites can strike, within tenths of a second, and from depths where their upper body camouflage makes them undetectable. But once they strike, often the speed is such that the shark’s body completely breaches the surface before crashing back down into the Bay.