Guide Summary and Photographs
On the 1st of January this year, we made the move over from the hustle and bustle of our traditional whale season to what we often refer to as the “off” or eco season. For many, this marks the end of cetacean sightings until June, but for us, it marks the beginning of a season full of surprises. At the end of my boat briefings in the mornings, I often find myself saying that we have no idea what we might experience out there on the ocean, which has to be by far my favourite part of what we do here. Eco season is a truly magical time of year to come on board with us, from watching the seal pups learn how to swim to searching for Brydes Whales between the swells and seeing the Sub Antarctic Skua of the season. Below, I’ve detailed all the reasons I have for eco season being my favourite time of year as well as some of the best sightings from our Marine Big 5 Safari’s.
One of the very first questions that we’re asked by most of our clients when they walk in is “What are the chances of us seeing a whale?”. This is always a tricky question to answer, as our residential Brydes Whales are found mostly where the fish are but, based on our sightings data from the past 3 months the answer is, pretty great actually! We’ve had about a 70% success rate with our Brydes Whales sightings thus far, including more than 7 Brydes Whales on one trip and the awe inspiring sight of a breaching baby Brydes in January this year. With more and more fish coming through our waters in the coming months, we’re positive that sightings are only going to get better and better.
As for the other cetaceans in our bay, we’ve been having some spectacular Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin sightings recently, with some of these dolphins even putting on a show for us, launching themselves out the water and even the occasional bow ride! We’ve also seen the Bottlenose Dolphins come through once or twice, and with the sardine run closing in, we’re really looking forward to the gorgeous Common Dolphins gracing us with their presence. These incredible creatures are often found in the midst of bait balls, where hundreds of diving birds can be seen descending onto schooling fish who have been herded by the dolphin and other marine predators from below.
We’ve also been having some great shark sightings over the last few months with our Great Whites slowly returning back into the bay, to the absolute delight of all. There is nothing quite like seeing these iconic predators come up to investigate the shark boats, but, we’ve also been lucky to see two other species of shark this season. Bronze Whalers became a common sight for a bit, giving our clients some lovely views of their shimmery copper skin. We’ve also had 2 incredible Blue Shark sightings, with these iridescent animals absolutely stealing the show as we tracked them out in deeper water. Sting Rays have also made the occasional appearance on our tours, not counting the time we had the entire crew deceived by a sneaky piece of kelp.
Eco season is also by far the best time to visit Geyser Rock, with our playful pinnipeds being the source of endless entertainment when we stop to spend a bit of time with them. In February, we start to see the little pups start to swim, joining hundreds of adults in the water who are seeking some relief from the heat in the water as well as getting up to all sorts of tomfoolery, such as messing around with the kelp in the same way as a Labrador would a chew toy. Their neighbours, the endangered African Penguins have also been treating us to some great sights, with a raft of over 100 birds being spotted along with some porpoising penguins a little earlier in the year.
The birding has also been outstanding so far, with Gannets, Petrels, Shearwaters and Skuas all making their presence known in the bay. We’re also really looking forward to seeing the first Albatross of the year, which we’re hoping to spot in the next couple of months or so, as the westerly winds start to blow. I’d also like to give our Cape Cormorants and our Terns a special mention, both a picturesque sight on the water and a great indication of fish, there is nothing better than finding thousands of these birds feeding together as it is really a sight to behold.
We’re very happy to say that the best of eco season is still to come, with some of last year’s best sightings happening in the months of April to June with giant baitballs, large schools of dolphins as well as the first Humpback Whales of the season. If you’re interested in joining one of our tours or you’d like a little more information, please do not hesitate to contact our lovely booking ladies. I’d also recommend keeping up to date with our sightings by following our daily blog.
If you haven’t already, we hope to have you join us soon.
Written by Jax Bath, Guide and Videographer.
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