For most marine life a red toxic algae bloom is very bad news, but for African Shark Eco Charters it has been fantastic! The sudden algae bloom due to an increase in sunlight (it’s now officially spring in False Bay!) while high concentrations of nutrients exist, takes most of the oxygen out of the water, and means fish and crustaceans cannot survive in this harsh environment. The ones that can, will move away, but as we drove around the island on Monday the presence of many floating crustaceans proved that this is not possible for all life. Red tides are usually made up of dinoflagellates which produce a neurotoxin which is detrimental to many organisms. However on a positive note, the great white sharks have been using the algae bloom to their advantage! With the now very low visibility in the water, hunting at Seal Island has dramatically increased in the last few days. The blood red waters encompassing the island give a very macabre feeling to the area, especially when our boat travels through it causing the red water to gently ripple showing the thick red layer of water. Some of our guests can be forgiven for asking the question, “is that the seals blood?” The sharks are good hunters, but certainly not that good!
Sunday’s African Shark Eco Charters trip was definitely one we will all remember for a very long time, for only one reason. An hour into our trip the bays activity had been very quiet, with little or no hunting. At the end of an unsuccessful decoy tow, Graeme (crew) was pulling our decoy seal in before we went to grab our cage to begin the diving. As the decoy reached the engine at the back of the boat, there was a huge sound, a screech from Graeme, followed by a big splash. I wish I could see this moment over in slow motion! A decent sized shark had fully breached, out of the water, grabbing our decoy only 1 metre from the boat!! The splash alone had covered everyone on that side of the boat with water, and left them all with stunned looks on their faces. Especially Graeme!! It all happened so fast he never moved a muscle! I’m pretty sure you don’t want to get any closer than that to a breaching shark!! Only 1 person on our full boat managed any kind of a photograph as it was all so unexpected and sudden, but hopefully it will be posted on our Facebook page so you can see my distance estimate is not an exaggeration!! This gave a hugely elated mood to our entire boat trip, with lots of jokes and laughter all morning. None of us will forget that in a hurry!!
Today’s trip was also incredibly spectacular, with around 10 predations in the space of 20 minutes as we arrived at the island. This is hunting we have not seen on this scale for several weeks! Then again, the highlight was our decoy tow. Three decoy runs, and three full breaches! The best record for African Shark Eco Charters this season! Unbelievable! For the rest of the morning we had around 4 sharks at the boat for the cage diving, so nearly every group got great close up viewing from the cage. The algae bloom made some of the viewing difficult, but ensuring our guests sat with their heads out of the water we could then shout and tell them where to look making a better great white viewing possible. Apart from a smaller shark nicknamed Pinky, we have not recognised any of the great whites around the island for a few days. This may indicate a new group having moved in, and may in part also explain the increased levels of feeding.
But with the end of the season in sight I’m already getting sad that these great creatures will all be moving off soon. However, some very exciting news; hopefully you all remember Zamelek – my favourite shark from this season, who had a habit of going round and round the cage? Well his satellite tag has finally popped off!! After spending over 4 months at Seal Island and moving off at the end of July his tag reveals he has gone north up the African coastline to Mozambique! So if anyone on holiday up there sees a great white shark looking lost? Send him home, there’s still plenty more seals and decoys for him to eat!