A very special day at sea!

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Bella

Bella – Photos by Josh Nolke

I just knew it was going to be a special day at sea yesterday. Don’t ask me how I knew – I am yet to discover the method in my madness or why my intuition told me it was going to be special. But my intuition didn’t disappoint, despite the less than ideal start with motor troubles as we headed out to Seal Island under stormy skies.

Our arrival at the island started out with a double rainbow over False Bay…surely a good sign? Yet the seals and sharks were very quiet; there was little activity around the island and despite our best efforts we struggled to find any natural predation events or groups of seals to follow. Right until the moment that is, well after sunrise, that our skipper Poenas spotted a predation event occurring and we motored over to see if the shark was still at the surface. The shark was swimming calmly at the surface and literally moved right next to the boat. We watched as it rolled its eyes back and calmly consumed its meal. I just couldn’t believe my eyes at witnessing such a rare event. To see a white shark hunting is one thing but to witness it afterwards and so closely is a very special moment for guests and crew alike.

We began to tow our decoy and yet again the sharks were quiet with no breaching. We tried again and there was no breaching but then suddenly we had a shark follow our decoy instead. We watched as the shark approached and investigated our decoy. And yet again I couldn’t believe my eyes at witnessing this rare event. Follows do not happen often and it is a pleasure watching the shark fin slice through the water giving the presence of the shark away to us all.

The sharks were just not making sense this morning; they were surprising me and turning my expectations upside down. I couldn’t wait to anchor and see what was in store for us. We waited and we waited some more on anchor whilst another rainbow covered False Bay. A bright red jellyfish, a Red Bandit, popped up beside our stationery decoy seal. And then our moment arrived. A magnificent 3.8m shark calmly approached us, promptly took hold of our decoy seal and gently moved away and cut the rope. Off floated our decoy and the shark disappeared, or so we thought. We watched eagerly and the shark proceeded to surface twice to take hold of the free-floating decoy and investigate it further. The shark slowly banked on its side with the decoy in its mouth and gave us a view of a stunning white pectoral fin with its perfect black edging and then a deformed caudal fin or tail. This shark had a wonky tail and a thick scar along one side of the tail. The shark spent the remainder of the morning coming and going from our boat and we discovered she was a female. She had bright white gills, her deformed tail and she was incredibly curious yet calm around the bait and decoy. Time and again she investigated both slowly, banked away and returned to us for another look. It is fair to say I fell entirely in love with her and was given the privilege of naming her Bella.

Bella

Bella – Photos from Josh Nolke

As we headed back to shore all I wanted to do was collect our second group of guests as quickly as possible and get back to the island, desperate to try and find Bella again. And she didn’t disappoint. Whilst she didn’t stay as long she did visit us and our guests had the pleasure of meeting her and seeing her relaxed manner and distinctive markings.

We had another double rainbow on the way home and this one framed Simon’s Town lighthouse perfectly. If double rainbows are a sign of such unusual days at sea for us then I can’t wait for more to come.

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About Author

Kathryn has lived in the UK, Egypt, South Africa and New Zealand and is a trained scuba diving instructor and Great White shark safari guide. She is the author of No Damage (December 2014), the Managing Editor of The Scuba News New Zealand, a freelance writer, public speaker and co-founder of the marine conservation cause Friends for Sharks (August 2014). In 2015 she organised and completed a 10-month global speaking tour in aid of shark conservation: 87 events, 8 countries, 7000 people. Learn more about Kathryn’s book, No Damage at: http://www.kathrynhodgsonauthor.com/books/no-damage/

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