We describe an ‘Ocean Experience’ as a ‘game drive’ out at sea and if there were a marine ‘big five’ list, it could look something like this: humpback whales, whalesharks, dolphins, manta rays and leatherback turtles. That’s exactly what our ‘big five’ list looked like this month. The very first day produced two whalesharks, 6 humpback whales, a big pod of bottlenose dolphins and a manta ray; followed by another whaleshark the very next day and then yet another on the 4th of September. But that’s just the first few days of the month, there were many more special outings.
Another very special encounter was shared with a pod of spinner dolphins. These dolphins are much smaller than bottlenose and travel in much larger groups. They are very fast and can often be seen jumping clear out of the water, spinning in the air before splashing back down into the water. It is not always possible to snorkel with them because they travel so fast but this group seemed happy to play next to the boat, so we took our chance and slipped into the water to try and swim with them and swim with them we did! They did not mind us at all and kept swimming back to us, we could even hear them squeaking and watched them blow bubbles as they swam, almost teasing us to follow them deeper.
Another special dolphin moment was shared during a dive at Gogo’s. Three bottlenose dolphins swam right down to the bottom, had a look at us as they circled a few times then raced off out of sight.
Whale encounters were still plentiful with groups travelling far out to sea and quite close to shore. We saw quite a few mothers with calves, as well as loose groups of adults travelling northwards and southwards, as this time of year see’s an overlap of whales still heading northwards towards Madagascar and others already on their homeward journey, southwards, back to Antarctica.
An unexpected and magical sighting was that of a Leatherback turtle! Clive saw a dark shape in the water and thought perhaps it was a baby whale but on closer inspection he realised what it was. Everyone got a chance to see the leatherback before it dived down and disappeared. These turtles are normally only seen during turtle nesting season, which begins in mid-October, so this was not only a rare sighting but also an early one. Leatherback turtles are different to any other turtle in that they do not have the characteristic hard turtle shell; instead they have a leathery carapace. They do not live on coral reefs year round as their food source of jellyfish is found much deeper, these turtles have the ability to dive to depths of around 1000m and more in search of food!
Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys Coriacea)
With turtle season nearly here we expect to start seeing more loggerhead turtles during dives as they do live and feed on our reefs. Both loggerhead and leatherback turtles are endangered which makes these encounters even more wonderful. Turtle season is a special time of year where guests have the opportunity to accompany one of our local turtle guides as they drive the beach at night, looking for turtles and carrying out their research work. This is important work and helps us to understand these creatures more which in turn we hope will help to save then for future generations.
Gugu one of the turtle guides with guests measuring a leatherback turtle
The month ended just as spectacularly as it began with more whale, dolphin, shark, ray and whaleshark sightings. Little Justin, nearly four years old, got to see a pod of bottlenose dolphins and a little scalloped hammerhead shark – not bad for his first boat ride! Derek and Russell had the most incredible day with just the two of them on the boat they watched humpback whales travelling along as they travelled to Solitude for a magical dive, which produced a spotted eagle ray just sitting into the current above the reef; schools of soldiers and snappers all over the reef against the backdrop of green tree coral and two huge giant kingfish! They then got the chance to snorkel with an eight metre whaleshark, a first for both of them. Not a bad way to celebrate completing your advanced course Russell!
The last launch of the month was a happy and a sad occasion. Dallas and Michelle, the lodge managers; and Antoinette, the lodge food and beverage manager were all going to be leaving us within the next few days, so they took the opportunity to get out on the boat and have some fun. Antoinette did her second PADI Discover Scuba Dive and loved it; she even got to stroke Boris – well done! Dallas and Michelle got to snorkel with not one but two whalesharks at the same time! A fitting goodbye present from Neptune!
Dallas, Michelle and Antoinette on behalf of the dive team we would like to thank you all for your hard work and friendship and wish you all the best in your future endeavours.
Congratulations to the following divers:
Garrett Young, Peter Ehrenkranz, Uri Epstein, Guy & Brigitte Elkeslassy, Antoinette Froneman
for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving course
Russell de la Harpe
for completing his PADI Advanced Course
Yours in diving
Darryl, Clive, Michelle
The Rocktail Dive Team