Its whale time again! Yes, the humpback whales have arrived and we have seen quite a lot of them this month. Most of the sightings have been of whales breaching far out to sea, where the big splash of water gives them away. We have however also seen some closer in shore and have been lucky enough to watch them as they travel along. During one particular Ocean Experience, we watched various groups of whales breaching and travelling and also saw a pod of spinner dolphins travelling alongside one of these groups of whales. This is just the beginning of whale season so we are excited to see many more of these gentle giants in the months to come.
Humpback whales - photograph by Michelle Smith
June is winter in our part of the world but it certainly did not feel like it this month, we experienced wonderful warm and sunny days and great weather only getting colder in the evenings and early mornings. We had a couple of windy days which created some swell out to sea but the remainder of the month we had flat, calm sea conditions with clear water. Visibility averaged around 15-18m, with a handful of “green water days” where visibility was around 8m but we were also rewarded with some wonderful clear days with visibility at 25m plus. Water temperature at the beginning of the month was 24 degrees Celsius; this dropped to 22 by mid month and then went back up to 23 by month end. Not bad for winter diving – our water temperatures were warmer than a lot of other area’s mid day temperatures on land!
Morne and Elaine came down with a group of divers to escape the Gauteng winter for a few days and they had some wonderful dives. The group’s first dive was at Gogo’s where they saw a hawksbill turtle, a big potato bass, geometric eels everywhere, a white capped prawn gobi with his shrimp in the sand and Anelle found the tiniest little cowrie shell crawling along the sand; it must have been about 5mm in length! The following dive at Pineapple Reef was the most entertaining. First we saw three big honeycomb rays, a honeycomb moray eel, schools of fusiliers and slinger and then as most of the group was ascending we saw Boris the potato bass charge down the reef followed by a huge school of slinger. We watched intently as we thought he had caught a fish but we saw something yellow lying on the sand at the top of the reef, in amongst all the fish. Then Patrick swam down and picked up what turned out to be James’s weights! They had fallen out of his pocket whilst he was doing his safety stop! We had a good giggle and were entertained by the fish for the remainder of the dive as they stayed close to us, constantly swimming in and out to see if there was anything else worth chasing.
There have been some small sharks at Elusive over the past two months. Last month we saw a group of four of them from a distance and they were a bit shy, so as we tried to approach they swam away and we could not get a great view of them. It has been bugging me as I was not sure what type of shark they were and because of their small size, and slender head I was starting to think perhaps they were some type of hound shark. But this month they got a bit braver and actually circled around staying in the same area. One dive we saw them from our safety stop so still could not make them out properly and I then thought perhaps they were some juvenile sharks and all I could make out was a faint white on their fin tips, so then I thought well, maybe they are white tip reef sharks but the shape of the head still had me baffled. Then on another day when just Gerald and I were diving, we finally saw the sharks properly. It was towards the end of our dive, in the same area of reef where I had seen them before and there were three of them circling in the flat rocky area at the edge of the reef. I paid close attention and noticed again the shape of their head, their eyes and black markings on the second dorsal fin. I excitedly asked Darryl once back on the boat and he said straight away that they were milk sharks but when I told him about the second dorsal fin being black he said they were in fact blackspot sharks (Carcharhinus sealei)! I went and checked on Dennis King’s Sharks & Rays E-book and yes, there was a perfect picture of the sharks we had seen. These are requiem sharks which grow up to a maximum length of 100cm and typically weigh from 3-4kg. They feed on small fish, crustaceans and cephalopods. They are found singly or in small groups and are rarely seen by divers but occasionally caught by shore anglers. The ones we saw were full size and I am looking forward to seeing them again.
Another exciting shark sighting was whilst we were doing our safety stop at Coachman’s Ledge. Just Richard and Anke were left and as I turned to signal two minutes left I saw the tiger shark right there behind us! He was big, approximately three to four metres in length! We spent the remainder of our safety stop circling, watching the shark as he came into view and then moved out of sight a few times, before finally disappearing just as quickly as he had appeared.
Congratulations to the following divers:
Drew and Catherine Carr
for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving course
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Ondyne
The Rocktail Dive Team