Shark Spotting Is Not Always About Sharks

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Shark Spotting

Image credit: Kathryn Hodgson

There is nothing quite like a morning at sea to refresh yourself and feel at ease with life, even if you don’t see a single shark. Even if it is cold before sunrise, cloudy, damp and wintery as you huddle up in woolly hats and thick jackets. There is still nothing quite like a morning at sea in False Bay to remind you of the beauty of nature and it is impossible not to smile during our trips. One of our guests reminded me today ‘every single trip contains something wonderful’ and I couldn’t agree more.

The sharks have been noticeably quiet in both their hunting activity and presence at our boat these past few days and I have heard the other boats experiencing the same pattern. We have even heard of a similar pattern further along the South African coast at Gansbaai. Whilst the sharks have been busy hunting and have been present in high numbers at our boat until very recently, now they are a little quieter and more difficult to locate. We suspect a number of the sharks have moved away from Seal Island and are feeding elsewhere on smaller shark or fish species and I am absolutely certain they will return to us soon enough. They always do and such peaks and troughs in activity are quite normal each season, though I admit I am missing our regular sharks already!

Shark Spotting

Image credit: Kathryn Hodgson

 

However there is one HUGE positive to this lack of sharks for me and I can see it is the same for our guests….we are all learning to appreciate the sheer beauty of False Bay in itself. Because we are not distracted by sharks we have our eyes upon other sightings such as the wonderfully playful Cape Fur Seals and their unique behaviours both upon the island and also within the ocean. One can’t help but notice they are swimming somewhat lazily across the water whilst the sharks are elsewhere and we have all been enjoying them surfing in the waves at the northern end of the island and arriving in large numbers as they return from their fishing trips in the deep blue. It is a beautiful sight watching these sleek seals leaping high out of the ocean as they track towards the island with a golden orange sunrise overhead.

We have also been enjoying a pod of Common Dolphin, which is a welcome treat having not seen them recently. This morning we spent a long time with a pod of over five hundred individuals and they looked very elegant silhouetted against the rising sun. The water was so calm at the time that it appeared milky and Monique commented that it was almost like molten mercury with the grey sheen to the water. I always find the dolphins we see are especially heart-warming and inspiring and they are well known as a species of animal that lifts peoples’ spirits. Today was no exception. Our guests had a wonderful time filming and photographing the pod as they swam slowly next to us and then leapt into the air each time we picked up speed.

Shark Spotting

Image credit: Kathryn Hodgson

For me the main attraction in the absence of sharks has been the time to admire the light at sunrise. I have never known anywhere as varied in its light as this bay and it fascinates me to watch how it changes during the morning and shapes the feel of the ocean around us. This morning started with a sky full of stars followed by a moody deep orange light that framed the mountains and gradually built until the bright orange globe of the sun rose above the horizon just before 8am. It was a fantastic opportunity to take sunrise photographs with the seals upon the island in the foreground whilst also admiring the orange reflections upon our boat and the tops of the waves breaking nearby. No sooner had the sun greeted us with its warmth than a thick bank of cloud came down and there was a bright line of yellow light between the grey flat water and the thick clouds above. It was so different from just moments before and provided a very creative light for our guests’ photography with the dolphins today. But of course the favourite part for guests and crew alike was when the sun burned through the cloud and gave us a bright blue sky and warmth to enjoy all morning long.

So you can see there really is a great deal to enjoy here even when the sharks are busy elsewhere and I for one an extremely glad we went to sea today. And yes I am also pleased to report that a relaxed and somewhat chunky 3.8m male shark did come and see us on anchor just before the morning ended. He was the perfect end to our trip and I am really looking forward to when our regular sharks and perhaps some new ones visit us in due course.

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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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