The Great White Shark season at African Shark Eco Charters draws to a close

End of the season

Far too soon it seems my season with African Shark Eco Charters has come to an end. How the months have flown by so fast I have no idea, but what a time its been! I am so lucky to have shared it with a huge number of people from around the world on a daily basis! The guests we’ve had on board have been so much fun, all incredibly varied –different cultures, languages and ages (from 8 to 80!), but almost without exception each and everyone has gone away with a new respect (or a continued one!) for these beautiful animals. For me that is the most important part, trying to change the ‘media view’ that people have – into a much more real and understanding one. I will take such a lot with me from my time in Simon’s Town, not least memories of the sharks but also of the other wonderful creatures we’ve encountered out on False Bay, the amazing scenery and obviously the fantastic people I’ve met and worked with. The moments that have happened out on the water in False Bay, are things I will store in my memory bank forever!

The last week has unfortunately been completely controlled by the weather and the strong winds that have been coming into the bay. The days we have managed to go out have been great, numbers of sharks are definitely going down considerably – however, to make a good trip it isn’t the numbers of sharks but whether or not they are willing to ‘play’ with us. And most days we have been very fortunate with their behaviour. Including a couple of decoy breaches! But sadly I do have to finally admit that its the end of my season, and I have to return home to England! African Shark Eco Charters will still be running a few more trips over the coming couple of weeks, but depending on shark behavior and the weather its unclear exactly how many!

I saw right down his throat!

Thinking back over this great white shark season at Seal Island, and there are a few stand out memories of these amazing animals. The great white shark ‘the nutter’ has definitely provided several of these moments! For me the most memorable was the day I was pulling the decoy in out of the water, leaning over the side of the boat picking it up, when he leapt out of the water and grabbed it from my hands.  I saw right down his throat, that big open mouth and teeth from only a couple of feet away. It was over so fast, but yet I will remember that forever!!

There was also one afternoon trip in May, where ‘the nutter’ spent more time out of the water, than in! That’s airjaws in action right there! But speaking of Airjaws, the breaches on our decoy, just wow. Seal Island is the only place in the world you can take boat trips to see this – and speaking from experience every single one is so special! I’m not sure how many I will have seen in total this season, but each one gives me such an adrenaline rush of amazement! These animals can easily weigh 1000 kilos, and launch themselves out of water! I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to jump up out of the water of a swimming pool, but it’s near impossible! The strength in these beautiful creatures is beyond words.

I should put it on my CV!

This animal power I have also managed to experience in a different way. On 5 different occasions the sharks have outwitted me whilst I’ve been working the seal decoy, and they’ve been sneaky enough to manage to grab it! This game of tug of war that ensues with a great white shark is one of the more bizarre things I can say has happened to me, in-fact I almost feel I should put it on my CV!

Hands down my favourite shark this season has to be Zamelek. An unpredictable great white shark, full of character with a very bizarre behaviour of just wanting to swim round and round the cage!! Those cage divers lucky enough to see him from the cage would come out of the water with their SCUBA hoses wrapped around and around themselves, as they had just sat turning in the cage to watch him.  It was great to hear that his satellite tag had finally come off and he has travelled to Mozambique. I hope that we will see much more of this shark in the seasons to come!

Propguard has been another regular with us – a 4metre, very fat, pretty chilled shark. Shes been around almost the entire season, very distinguishable with her cut up dorsal fin – and always gets shouts of excitement from the people in the cage when she swims on past. Other regulars have been Pinky, Alan, Pomegranate, George, Iris and Grace. As well as many more!! These great white sharks have given us and our guests such amazing shows on a daily basis, we have been very fortunate!

However, it’s not just the sharks that have made this season what it was. The day we had our boat in the middle of a pod of 2000 common dolphins who suddenly turned 180 degrees like they had hit a wall, is another sight I will take with me. The dolphins are always great fun when they turn up around the boat, leaping and playing in the boat wake. The photos that many guests have taken this year of these common dolphins could easily be at home in National Geographic. Usually close by the dolphins are the whales. Often we see the whale blows from a distance, occasionally come across them on our trip to/from Seal Island, but one unforgettable trip a humpback came so close to Blue Pointer II that one of our guests saw him from the cage!!!

My most favourite place in the whole world!

Every morning as the sun has risen over Seal Island, I have counted my blessings. I knew every day that this was my most favourite place in the whole world. With the sun throwing its first rays of the day over the far mountains, the sharks hunting, and the seals calling; there is no better place. (Except sometimes it would be nice not to have that Seal Island smell!!! But hey no-one’s perfect J )

The camaraderie on our boat is also such a laugh; a lot of English v South African-isms, going on, and being the only woman on the boat you would think the 3 men would win. But as the guests pointed out the other day, I can hold my own with them – probably something to do with growing up with 4 brothers….! The football chants to get the sharks to the boat, the guests banter as they join in on our dancing and singing, and the whoops of joy as the sharks arrive will echo around Seal Island long after we are gone!

Thankfully the end of the season is not all bad news. It just means that in a few months we get to do it all over again. I’m already so excited to be returning to Simon’s Town in 4 months time, and I haven’t even left yet! My words do not give these sharks and this place justice. If you are reading this then it means you have, or are considering coming to visit. Theres no other possibility, just yes! This is something and somewhere that every person in their lives has to visit, if not then you will be a much poorer person for it. But you won’t know that until you come!

Good bye for now, but see you next season!

So for now I have to say goodbye, but I hope the last trips that African Shark Eco Charters have planned will be fantastic. Sadly I will be back on a plane winging my way back to sunny England… But as soon as those great white stomachs start to rumble, and they begin heading back to Seal Island for their fill… I shall also be back! And hope to see you all soon!!! Start booking your places for next year, I have a feeling it will be a fantastic one!!

See you all soon

Kimberley x

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