Apologies for the combined January and February report, 2012 started with a bang and diving was so good and so busy that I am only now sitting down to write this newsletter.
Weather and sea conditions for January and February were excellent overall, despite some after effects from two cyclones positioned off Madagascar. Luckily, on both these occasions, the swell did increase but sea conditions were still alright to dive in. The remainder of the time we had lovely warm water averaging 26-27 degrees Celsius and the viz. sat at an average of 18-20metres for most of January and February, dropping only during the two cyclone periods to about 10metres.
With turtle season still in full swing guests had lots of opportunities to watch female loggerhead and leatherback turtles laying their eggs, as well as watching the little turtle hatchlings start their epic journey down the beach to the ocean. Towards the end of January we were lucky to see a leatherback turtle swimming on the surface near Pineapple Reef. This is a wonderful sighting as these turtles do not live on shallow coral reefs but are deep sea dwellers, so it is not often that we get lucky enough to cross paths with them.
Summer is always a good season for shark and ray sightings and we have been blessed with lots of grey reef sharks, black tip sharks, a couple of white tip sharks and a small hammerhead shark swimming along the surface. Darryl had an up close and personal visit from a Zambezi shark whilst diving at Elusive. We only had one whaleshark sighting in January and unfortunately none during February. Rays have been abundant including blue spotted, electric, honeycomb and a two metre long guitarfish. A not so common sighting of a feather tail ray at Elusive was also quite exciting.
What has been really disappointing this season is the lack of ragged tooth sharks! We usually get anywhere from 10-40 female ragged tooth sharks congregating behind Island Rock, specifically at this time of year. They usually live in the colder waters off the Eastern Cape and then migrate northwards up the coast towards Durban; where they mate with the male ragged tooth sharks, in the Aliwal Shoal area; before continuing northwards in search of warm water and a sheltered resting place during their gestation period. They usually stay in our area for approximately three months before heading back to the Eastern Cape to give birth to their young shark pups. This year we saw only one female raggie at Island Rock at the beginning of January and still have not seen any more to date. We do not know why this is – water temperatures seem to be warm enough, perhaps due to the cyclones off Madagascar?
On a happier note, Gabriella Lubner, aged 10, completed her PADI Open Water course and was truly spoilt by the ocean. Her first dive at Aerial produced a hawksbill turtle, one of the biggest pick handle barracuda’s I have seen in a very long time, a spotted eagle ray and a manta ray! During her second dive we sat and watched a leopard shark resting on the sand at the edge of the reef. The following day, we saw bottlenose dolphins; played with Boris the potato bass whilst being totally surrounded by slinger, watched a green turtle eating seaweed, saw honeycomb and geometric moray eels, live cowrie shells, nudibranchs and so many fish.
Gabriella with mom and dad, stroking Boris
Green turtle eating seaweed
Dale Smith also completed his PADI Open Water Course and had a wonderful dive at Pineapple Reef where he also got to play with Boris but the highlight of the dive was when we followed a free swimming honeycomb eel. We swam behind it, watching as it poked its head inside various holes in the reef. We thought at first that it was hunting but then realised that it was just looking for the right place to settle in and make its home for a while.
honeycomb eel looking for a suitable home
Well done, you are both very comfortable divers - wishing you lots more magical dives in the future!
Congratulations to the following divers:
for completing her Bubblemaker Course
Sabine Kretschmer; James, Cyrus & Cecilia Van Smeerdijk; Thomas Barry
for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving course
Gabriella Lubner, Dale Smith
for completing their PADI Open Water Course
Yours in diving
Darryl, Clive, Michelle
The Rocktail Dive Team