18 March 2017
Two words, Bait ball…
Written by Jax, March 18 2017
Guide Summary and Photographs
We had another unbelievably amazing day in our little corner of ocean paradise. It seems as though we have some pretty large schools of fish moving through which are bringing in the birds and mammals by the hundred.
The trip began in the shallows after which we moved toward Dyer Island to have a look for the Penguins. They were pretty difficult to spot as they were sitting on the boulders inland so we head towards Geyser Rock for our daily stop with South Africa’s only endemic seal species, the Cape Fur Seal. The island is still quite empty and whilst with the seals, we noticed the Cape Cormorants were leaving the island by the hundred which can only mean one thing; Lots of fish in the deep sea.
We decided to head behind the island because of this and it didn’t take long for Kira to spot a mass of birds about 2km away, but not before we sighted a Juvenile African Penguin. From afar, the white birds looked like Swift Terns but, on approach, we discovered that is was in fact several hundred of the most beautiful bird that one can find, the Cape Gannets.
We had stumbled upon a bait ball -which is a densely packed group of small “prey” fish trying to survive by adopting a safety in numbers approach-. The Gannets are famous for the diving capabilities, going up to 12m below the surface after hitting the water at speeds around 60km/h. When the birds begin to dive, the fish start to disperse, creating the perfect conditions for a feeding frenzy.
Birds are not the only animals attracted to this shoals. We saw a couple of seals milling around too and were on the hunt for a Brydes Whale between the birds when Kira spotted, for the 3rd consecutive day, the Common Dolphins.
The dolphins were incredibly active today, jumping out of the water whilst Cape Gannets dived in between them. It is probably my best sighting to date, everywhere you looked there was something profoundly beautiful going on; Gannets in the air and dolphins in the water on the right, Cape cormorants dominating both sea and sky on the left and the smiling faces of clients in between. We were also able to hear the high pitched vocalisations of the Common Dolphins from the boat, which just further enhanced our viewing pleasure.
At the same sight, we managed to find a Brydes whale who was also following the fish. By this time, the bait ball had dissipated slightly and had started moving in the direction of Pearly Beach. The Brydes Whale is pretty well known for their sporadic movement and so we had a little trouble keeping up with this majestic marine mammal, with the only evidence of his whereabouts being the footprints left on top of the water. After a good view of his exposed back and dorsal fin, we made our way back towards the shallows.
Here, we had a pretty great sighting of a Great White Shark that came for the bait twice in very short succession. It is always nice to have an active shark around the boat and he even exposed his dorsal fin as he swam past Slashfin’s seal decoy. This was the cherry on our Marine Big 5 cake with the sprinkles being two more African Penguins we sotted on our way back into Klienbaai Harbour.
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