On board our trusty whale watching vessel, Dream Catcher, we set off in search of Gansbaai’s Marine Big 5. What a day it turned out to be. We set off towards The Shallows in search of the Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin, South Africa’s rarest coastal cetacean. We were really lucky to have some eagled eyed guests on board who quickly spotted one of these majestic creatures. These marine mammals were certainly playful today, providing us all with some excellent views and surfacing on many occasions right next to the boat. Even though we are still in cold Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin is still sighted in these waters and we have catalogued around 29 individuals in the last few years. Gansbaai seems to be the furthest westward this species is seen on the African coastline. All the three dolphins we have seen today have been catalogued before, providing valuable data towards their conservation.
we journeyed on behind the Dyer Island system next in search of our elusive Bryde’s Whale. On the way, were stopped by two very cute African Penguins, these guys are usually very skittish around the boats so it was great to see them so comfortable around us. The African Penguins have a sad story to tell. In the 1800’s, their homes made from Guano (hardened bird droppings), which the birds would burrow into to lay their eggs and keep cool. These homes were destroyed by people using the guano for fertiliser, furthermore in one season over 1 million eggs were taken from the island to be sold as a delicacy. With nowhere to raise their chicks and lay their eggs, they suffered a huge population crash of over 90% in 20 years. However, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust is working hard to house the birds by placing small houses on the island for a pair to live in, while also building a Penguin and Sea Bird Sanctuary to house sick and injured birds. Before moving in search of the whales again, we were once again stopped by two Giant Petrels, a large sea bird which migrates to our coasts all the way from New Zealand.
The Whales certainly proved elusive today as the first sighting came from our spotting Kira, very far off in the distance, but fortunately, it was very calm, perfect for spotting whale spouts. It was then once more spotted by another crew member. It seemed as if the whale was heading away from us but as we perused the animal more spouts were seen from several whales, hinting that we may have stumbled across them hunting for fish. This was reaffirmed by the presence of many bird species, the Cape Cormorants, a sooty shearwater, and a beautiful lone Cape Gannet may have also been feeding in the area.
We had some brilliant sightings of the whales today, it took us a while to finally catch up with them but boy did they put on a show. The one whale we followed surfaced many times very close to the boat, and coupled with amazing conditions provide some amazing views of the huge animal. These whales were named after a Norwegian man named Johan Bryde, who set up the first modern whaling stations in the country. They can grow to a length of around 14 meters and weigh around 40 tones. Some unbelievable sightings of some truly amazing animals, we even spotted more whales on the way back to Dyer Island.
We headed for Geyser Rock to say G’day to our local Cape Fur Seal Colony. This was to be our last sighting for the day. These amazing animals were very boisterous today causing a huge commotion on the island. At this moment on the island we mainly have the females and their pups, and also juveniles of a few years old. The males of the species live out at sea fishing for most of their lives, only returning to the rock to mate. Sexual Dimorphism is prevalent in the species, this means that there is a noticeable physical difference between the sexes. Males can weight in excess of 300kg and have shaggy blonde manes, were as the females are quite slender and weight around 75khs to 100 kgs. We spent some time here taking in all the seals had to offer before ending the trip back in the harbour. What an amazing day and some sightings that will live long in the memory of everyone on board.
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