“Excellent trip. Well informed staff. Great afternoon. Thanks.” – Chris
“Awesome trip, great stuff, seen all the Marine Big 5 :).” – Sarah
Today’s sea safari was filled with awesome sightings of the Marine Big 5 in some beautiful weather and perfect conditions. On board our trusty whale watching vessel, Whale Whisperer, our journey began scouting The Shallows for our elusive dolphin species, the Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin. Once again, our eagle-eyed guide, Kira, spotted three of these dolphins fishing just off our boat. These same three dolphins have been sighted very frequently in the last few weeks and have definitely warmed up to us and the boat. They started to perform for us by surfacing meters away from us and one even went that extra mile by showing us his belly, everyone on board was awestruck by these usually shy animals.
Reluctantly we decided to leave our cetacean comrades behind and headed over to Slashfin, our sister company’s shark diving vessel to see if we could catch a glimpse of a Copper Shark. We were soon in luck as curious shark was seen chasing the bait in front of a group of exited shark cage divers. All managed to see the shark so we then headed out over the De Clyde reef in search of a larger resident cetacean in deeper waters behind the island. While picking up a piece of kelp, a type of seaweed that thrives in the nutrient rich waters of the Benguela current, a very dapper lone African Penguin was sighted a short distance away. These little birds, were once known as the Jackass Penguin because of the noises they make, they are also Africa’s only penguins species. In recent times, African Penguins have had a hard life. Since the harvesting of guano on Dyer Island, they have been without burrows to raise their chicks. Thusly, the eggs have been picked off by kelp gulls and larger predatory oceanic birds have been feeding on the chicks. Even in some cases, the harsh African sun would become too much for the parent birds to bare, leaving the unprotected egg to fry in the heat to cool off in the water and avoid dehydration. Fortunately for the penguins, the Dyer Island Conservation trust has been placing artificial houses of the island for breeding pairs and also set up a rehabilitation sanctuary for injured or sick birds.
As we moved out into deeper waters, many species of pelagic bird species we seen, giving us a clear indication there were plenty of fish in the area. Some of these birds included Giant Petrels, Swift Terns, Sandwich Turns, Cape Cormorants and the beautiful Cape Gannets. It was a long wait before our first sighting of a Bryde’s Whale, and what a treat it was. Again, Kira had spotted whale spouts in the distance and luckily for us this Bryde’s while surfaced over half a dozen times very close to us, providing us with some excellent views of such a huge animal. Bryde’s Whales can grow to around 14 meters long and up to 40 tonnes in weight. They are our only resident whale we have all year round, Bryde’s Whales follow schools of fish in the deeper waters of the Dyer Island system. 4 out of the Marine Big 5 already!
Lastly, we headed for the famous Shark Alley where we would find our stronghold of 60,000 Cape Fur Seals on Geyser Rock to complete the Marine Big 5. Our playful little pinniped friends were in full swing today. The juveniles were playing and porpoising in the water, the newly born pups causing a commotion on the rock and even some bull seals were seen creating a ruckus in a small pool. Sexual dimorphism is prevalent in this particular seal species, males are significantly larger than the females and have a bushy mane of light fur. Cape Fur Seals are not true seals as their ears are external, true seals have internal ears.
Upon completing the Marine Big 5, we headed back to the harbour after an outstanding day at sea. However, as always, the ocean is full of surprises and we were treated to a raft of five African Penguins. After a better look at these “torpedos in tuxedos”, we finally headed back to Kleinbaai Harbour in high spirits, full of great memories and sightings on a fantastic day.
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