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Wildlife Wednesday - the ocean Big 5 in False Bay

I'm not great on boats. So when a friend invited me to join her on a boat trip with Save our Seas shark research centre I was torn between being super excited at the thought of seeing great white sharks up close in the wild, and not wanting to spend 5 hours feeling green...

Seal Island


But I took my seasick tablets and put on my bravest face and headed to Simon's Town yacht club with Jo early on Thursday morning. I nearly backed out when I saw how tiny the research boat was (not even enough space for a toilet!) But the weather was perfect and Jo was very persuasive so I boarded with ginger beer and some trepidation.

The next 5 hours for me were a combination of some of the most amazing sightings of all of the ocean big 5 - sharks, whales, seals, dolphins and one lone penguin -  and an hour and a half of feeling pretty disgusting in the middle of the morning. For that period I just stood out of the way in the sun and as long as I didn't speak or move I was just about ok... 

Joy-Anne with a juvenile shark. Pic by ZA Sites


We arrived near Seal Island (a 20 minute high speed boat ride from the harbour) before dawn and got to see two sharks breaching and another predation scene of a shark enjoying a breakfast of fresh seal. The breaches are much faster than whale breaches I've witnessed before - they're over in a split second! But amazing to witness....

Once the sun rose and the main shark hunting time was over, the two members of the crew (Adrien and Ryan) began their main research - luring sharks close to the boat with a decoy (a 'penguin' named Frank) and some sardine chum in order to photograph and measure them. All data is recorded for Save our Seas. (Aside: The smell of the chum and the occasional waft of seal guano drifing our way from the island, combined with the swell, was not good for my seasickness which set in and stayed for the duration of this part of the trip.)

Playful seals


Eventually Adrien the skipper took pity on me and we headed back to dry land. The minute the boat was moving at speed again I felt instantly better and was able to enjoy our encounters with first thousands of playful seals and then as many common dolphins who chased the boat, skimming and leaping alongside us. This was a wonderful display and one I will never forget!

We spotted a shy Brydes whale spouting off in the distance and went closer for a look before turning for the harbour. The lone penguin we spotted at the last minute allowed us to officially tick off all of the ocean big 5 in 5 hours.


Beautiful dolphins


(Unless otherwise stipulated, all images by Joy-Anne Bromilow. All rights reserved)



About the Save our Seas Foundation

The Save Our Seas Foundation was established to support diverse projects around the world aimed at conserving and protecting our marine environment. The projects we support are based all over the world and fall into the categories of Conservation, Awareness, Research and Education, with a strong focus on sharks and rays.

Big thanks to Alison Kock of Save our Seas and Sarah Titley from Shark Spotters for this amazing experience!