Guide Summary and Photographs
It is not every day that one is taken completely by surprise at sea, but, today was definitely one of those days… in the most magical way possible! Every day during the first leg of the trip, we take a stop at the Uilenkraalsmond estuary to do a water reading and explain a little bit more about the area we find ourselves in. Today, my explanation was rudely interrupted by the appearance of none other than a Southern Right Whale! The whale popped up out of nowhere 10 minutes into the stop only 20m away from the boat! We got a spectacular show with this gentle giant; spy hopping and rolling on his back for an amazing 20 minutes! These Baleen whales travel an astonishing 3 000Km from their feeding grounds to mate and calve in our sheltered bays, moving at a maximum speed of only 17km/h.
After this exciting show, we took a stop by our African Penguins, finding two adults in front of the island, and some sitting on a rock at the edge of Dyer Island in Sponge Bay, which was somewhat unusual. We went on to see around 40 Penguins in total, with several large rafts taking advantage of the fish driven closer to shore due to the cold front moving over the country. Following a quick stop with our Cape Fur Seals, we moved behind the island towards our sister company’s beautiful vessel, Slashfin.
Unfortunately, it was around this time that we caught word of a 3rd Great White Shark washing up, this time a 4.5m Male in Struisbaai. Although this is a completely normal and natural phenomenon, this is something we have never experienced in the area and so it has been heart breaking for us to watch these majestic animals become prey.
Back to our stop at Slashfin, we managed to spot both a Giant Petrel and a White Chinned Petrel hanging around the chum slick, which was great for all the birders on board. Our birding luck increased exponentially just a kilometre behind the island when Kira spotted a -not so- Shy Albatross, which went on to approach us, gliding beautifully. This is the largest of the Mollymawk Albatrosses with an impressive wingspan of up to 2.5m!
Not 5 minutes later, we had a Yellow-Nosed Albatross wander into our field of vision. It is said that that these extraordinary birds can stay at sea for up to 5 years before returning the land, travelling up to 16 000Km in a single flight. We had several more Shy Albatrosses pass us by on the way home, moving gracefully through the air in all directions. The ocean was also plentiful with Sooty Shearwaters –another pelagic species-, Cape Gannets and Cape Cormorants. The last bird for the day was a Sub Antarctic Skua sitting on the water just outside the harbour. All in all we had a bird count of over 10 species, which is not bad for a 2 hour stint on the water! Although the ride was a little rocky, it was well worth the amazing things we got to experience out there on the water today.
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