August is traditionally a windy month in South Africa with frequent cold fronts gusting their way from Cape town, northwards, all the way up the coastline. This weather makes for unpredictable sea conditions throughout the month where we tend to have great conditions before the arrival of a cold front with smooth seas, good viz. at around 18m and water temperatures hovering between 19-22 degrees Celsius. Then as the cold front gusts through the wind creates big swells which can make diving impossible.
We had quite a few days with big swell this month and unfortunately had to cancel diving but Neptune still produced the most magical Ocean Experiences! So memorable, that the De Graaf family went out twice and were truly spoilt. Their first trip produced spinner dolphins followed by one humpback whale which breached about ten times, then as we were returning to shore Clive saw a fin but was not sure what it was. We looked around but saw nothing, then as we were about to leave he saw it again – it was a mother humpback whales’ dorsal fin, just sticking out of the water and next to her was her baby. They must have been resting just beneath the surface before rising slowly to take a breath.
Two days later the De Graaf family went out to sea again, this time just the four of them, to celebrate a birthday. At first we drove without a sign of a dolphin, fish or whale and then we saw a whale breaching far out to sea. We headed out and there they were whales everywhere we looked! There were sets of two, here and there, travelling along; then there was a breach and then another - there were whales in every direction that we looked! Then Clive shouted “dolphins”, thinking that he had seen spinner dolphins jumping out of the water but as they jumped again he saw that they were big yellow fin tuna! We went a bit closer to see the tuna and saw more whales – this time a group of seven, all lulling around. As we sat watching the tuna and whales, the whales decided to have a look at us and came back towards the boat, circling around, almost as if they thought we were one of them and accepting us into their group. What a wonderful birthday present.
Another incredible ocean experience occurred midway through the month. The day started out grey and rainy and the sea was a bit choppy with some swell, but it was beautifully clean, with 25m viz. and guests were rewarded with sightings of whales everywhere, breaching, spy hopping, tails, pectoral fins, you name it – they saw it. It felt like the ocean was alive with whales. Ondyne spotted some dolphins and jumped in to see if they would hang around for everyone to snorkel with. They were a bit elusive initially but as she swam along one turned around and she was rewarded with a beautiful front and then side view of what turned out to be a Risso’s dolphin (Grampus Griseus)! She saw six of them but they did not hang around for long. These dolphins are widely spread but prefer an offshore habitat as they feed primarily on squid. Normally found in small groups numbering from five up to thirty although some super pods of up to several thousand have been sighted. This species weighs around 300-500kgs, making it one of the largest members of the dolphin family.
Seeing these dolphins was incredible but that was not all, while everyone was still in the water, discussing how they had not been fast enough to see the dolphins, they looked down and saw four humpback whales swimming beneath them! Two of them turned on their backs and looked up at the snorkelers before surfacing ahead of everyone. They did not swim far away but surfaced and lay there, rolling side to side, their huge pectoral fins splashing the water, seemingly not in a rush, just hanging about! There must have been about fifteen whales just lazing about, not in a rush to go anywhere – we eventually left them after about two hours! The most incredible whale experience ever!
Other great sightings this month have included snorkelling with bottlenose dolphins (Adri’s life long dream realised); snorkelling with 2 whalesharks; diving with a manta ray at Aerial; lots of round ribbontail rays; 2 white tip reef sharks; a giant kingfish; lots of nudibranchs; a baby paperfish; octopus; lots of green turtles and Darryl even saw a marlin from the boat.
Congratulations to the following divers:
Paige & Lauren Spilhaus
For completing their PADI Open Water course
Calvin & Paula Maughan
For completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving course
For completing her PADI Discover Scuba Pool session
Samuel Butson, Phoebe Jones, Kristen-Leigh Barrow & Skye Tucker
For becoming PADI Bubblemakers J
Yours in diving
Darryl, Clive, Michelle
The Rocktail Dive Team