False Bay 2016 in a Nutshell
Great shark action, especially on our deep trip where we dove with 40+ blue sharks and a feisty shortfin mako!
When we arrived in False Bay this year, there was good and bad news. Conditions were excellent but a big storm was on its way. The most weather dependent of our planned dives was a trip out into the South Atlantic to dive with blue sharks and makos. So, we scheduled that one first before the waves got too high.
Waking up to flat calm seas (not unusual inside False Bay) we headed to Cape Point and stopped to enjoy an epic sunrise then continued another 38 miles out to sea to chum for sharks.
Blue sharks started arriving almost as soon as we cut the engines. Before long we had a dozen or more beautiful blues swarming below us. Twenty minutes into the dive a mako raced in out of the depths looking for the source of the slick. Unlike most makos, this one didn’t seem intimidated by the amount of sharks already in attendance so it stayed with us for the entire dive.
By the end of the session, there were blue sharks all over us. We counted at least 40 at once but there could easily have been quite a few more.
On our next leg of the shark safari we visited a small seal colony at Partridge Point inside False Bay. We dive this spot because although we love great white sharks, the much larger seal colony at Seal Island is far too dangerous. The little one at Partridge Point rarely gets white sharks showing up – as far as we know! lol
Then it was time to hit the reef and see what catsharks we could find. We opted for Millers Point; a famous spot for catsharks and one of my all time favorite shark dives. We were hoping for sevengill sharks but they have been somewhat elusive for the last couple of years; ever since some orcas killed one of them and left it on the bottom of the reef. The cats on the other hand were as abundant as ever. We found three species – pyjama catsharks, dark shysharks and the exquisitely patterned puffadder shysharks.
With five species in the bag and the best was yet to come. Our next destination was Seal Island; home to 70,000 cape fur seals and scores of enormous great white sharks. Arriving just after dawn, we began by scanning for natural predations. This involves all hands on deck while we scan the horizon in all directions for anything from small disturbances to dramatic explosive breaches as white sharks slam into their hapless breakfasts of fresh pinnipeds. Our first morning there, we witnessed four natural predations. Three of these were successful (from the shark’s point of view) and there was one in which the seal managed to elude its pursuer and limp back to the island. It is extremely hard to capture natural predations on camera but we all saw the spectacles unrfold. Watching a 5m great white shark thrashing at the surface as it tries to chomp down on an extremely nimble, adrenalin-charged seal is a sight you will never forget!
Once the topside action slowed down, we lowered the cage into the water to get a closer look at the ‘men in the grey suits’. The action around the boat was excellent. All of our guests got great views of the sharks up close. Jumping in at the last minute, I squeezed my housing through the bars and waited for a close pass. Unfortunately, the next shark came in fast and furious and pinned my camera against the outside of the cage with its flank. I gripped it with all my might, but I could feel it slowing being pulled from my grasp as the shark grazed past. Ten seconds later the shark was gone and my housing remained in tact except for a huge scuff on the dome port where its sandpaper-like skin had scraped across it. So, no white shark pics for me except for this one just before the shark pinned my housing to the cage. That night, I pulled out the polish and after a lot of buffing, my dome port was as good as new 🙂
On our next dive we went to Pinnacles; a 25m deep reef that is covered in beautiful invertebrate life as well as catsharks galore. Dragging myself away from the sharks I tried to capture some of the vivid colours. Even though these images are pretty good in my humble opinion, I still don’t feel that I did that lovely dive site justice!
We finished up at a site we haven’t dove before named Ark Rock. We chose it because there was one catshark that we had yet to encounter and we were told this was a good spot for them. Sure enough, we came across at least a dozen leopard cat sharks as well as lots of other species too. Ark Rock turned out to be a beautful site so we’ll definitely visit it again next year.
When the storm hit we didn’t want to waste a day hunkering down in the hotel so we decided – against the better judgement of the locals – to climb a nearby mountainside to visit a cave. Dodging fallen trees we made our way to Fish Hoek and began the climb. It was insanely windy but we made it upto the cave and looked down on the stormy terrain.
The next day we finished up with a game drive at Aquila Game Reserve in the interior. Although it was overcast on the drive there, the sun shone through while we were out in the jeep so the wildlife photography opportunities were really good!
We hoped to squeeze in one more dive before leaving False Bay but the storm decimated the visibility so we skipped the final splash and relaxed in Simons Town. Some of our group wandered down to Boulders Beach to see the penguins. Meanwhile, I drove out to Cape Point to photograph the wildlife including a few bonteboks; a critically endangered species of antelope that can still be found on the Cape.
All told, although we had to contend with a storm, it was a great trip with excellent shark action. One thing that made it even better was our awesome group of intrepid shark divers that never lost their enthusiasm.
Our False Bay, South African Shark Safari remains my personal favorite shark diving trip. If you’re a shark fanatic and you haven’t done it yet, trust me, you’ll love it! Join me next year: South African Shark Safari 2018