Great White Sharks
Dear Shark Lovers
We have had a very busy month and have seen an exciting variety of sharks as well as some old friends!
To start off the month we were doing mostly pelagic shark trips and have seen plenty of mako sharks. Our wait time has also been very short which is always a pleasure and in a small way makes up for the 2 hour boat trip out there. We also did one trip last week where we unfortunately could not dive due to bad weather. The sharks were very good though and we saw 2 fairly large makos and two very big blue sharks that were both over 2 meters in length. This was the first time we have seen blues in about four weeks. We were also privileged to have a massive yellowfin tuna swim around our boat for about an hour. We estimated this fish to be about 200lbs and a lot taller than Chris! When yellowfin tuna get to about 100lbs they develop sickles and this tuna had sickles that were so long they were bending over to touch its back, something we had never seen before.
On the way home from one of our pelagic trips we came across a small school of common dolphins. As they approached our boat to ride the bow wave a shoal of sardines rose under the boat, obviously using it for protection. For some strange reason the dolphins lost interest and moved off but a pod of about 50 seals began to devour the bait ball. It was absolutely fascinating the watch the skill of the seals as they feasted but at the same time we were very respectful of the sardines that could only wait their turn. In fact everything was happening so close to us that we could smell the sardines on the breath if the seals. We even saw three very big bronze whaler sharks rise through the bait ball to claim their share, something we really were not expecting.
We normally do not do any pelagic trips during our winter months due to weather and the Aguhlas Current usually being further offshore, but in the upcoming months we want to give it a go and see what the different climatic changes bring. Shark Cage Diving
In April Chris & I wanted to dive with the sevengill cow sharks again but unfortunately did not get round to it. This month we made sure we had time and one afternoon Chris & I went for a dive. The water temperature is dropping now and it was a chilly 16 deg Celsius. We had been in the water for about 40 minutes, waiting all the time for the massive King of the Kelp beds to arrives. When we do this cow shark dive I always feel a little wary as the sharks seem to appear out of nowhere and the visibility can also sometimes be poor. It was getting to the point where we were deciding to finish the dive and Chris was taking a last few shots of a puff adder shy shark. I turned around to see a medium sized cow shark approaching us and didn’t have time to warn Chris. All sharks are curious animals and cow sharks are no different. This shark went straight below to where Chris was, giving him a nice surprise. Luckily the shark was very relaxed but still happy to give us close inspections. Soon after she arrived a very small cow shark, only about 1,2 meters in length showed up. This one was a little more excited and would repeatedly bump the dome point of Chris’s camera. I am always amazed at how sharks can make one forget one’s circumstances. We were both so cold before the first cow shark arrived but still managed to stay in for a further hour. In the end we saw 5 different cow shark including a very large female of about 2,8 meters. I guess the adrenalin is a quick cure for the cold!
Sharks are also an excellent cure for seasickness and often times guests on our boat who are not feeling great are cured within minutes of a shark arriving!
May generally signals the start of the great white shark season at Seal Island. The last two years in May have been very quiet so we were expecting the same this year. I am pleased to say that we have been very fortunate to have seen plenty of sharks on all our trips this month.
After a season of mako and blue sharks I had temporarily forgotten how immense white sharks actually are and it is very tempting to over size them. The sheer girth of a white shark usually makes them seem bigger than what they are. This is probably the reason for all the 6 and 7 meter white sharks that are reportedly seen by general water users when they encounter them. Shark Cage Diving
On one trip we recorded 15 different sharks that visited our boat, and on other trips we have seen between 8 and 12 different animals. In the last two seasons we have struggled to get sharks to our boat and I think the most we saw last year was 11 on one day.
When there are so many sharks around we get to observe very interesting behavior and body language. Although white sharks are solitary we personally think that they travel in loosely associated groups and over the years we have observed the same sharks to be present at the Island together. This still does not mean that they are happy to be in close proximity of each other. When two or more sharks are around the boat at one time the larger animal is usually dominant. Small sharks will give way to them with speed and sometimes only return once the larger shark has departed. We also observe sharks flexing dorsal fins, gaping and also hunching their backs. These communications between sharks are warning signs to each other to adhere to the hierarchy system. Shark Cage Diving