maandag 13 februari 2012

13 februari 2012 - Sharks and Albatrosses

With several days of bad weather altering our plans it has been a hectic few days. During lunch with Remke and Jules i called Cape Town pelagics and was shocked to hear that the pelagic was going ahead. Windguru was still forecasting a swell of over 4 metres....when i arrived at Houtbaai i was pleased to see that our boat was a mighty 9ish metres....oh joy!
The ride out, 35km to the shelf, was fast, rough, bumpy, horrible, etc. The best we could manage was to hang on one handed as the boat crashed from wave to wave, sending us flying from our seats. The use of bins, legs etc was limited to say the least.
Our captain, who, like our guide, was excellent and once he honed in on a trawler on the horizon we found ourselves among hundreds of White-chinned Petrels, Wilson's and European Storm petrels, 50+ Shy Albatross, a juvenile Wandering, a couple of Atlantic Yellow-nosed (several yellow-nosed sp) and 10+ Black-browed, Subantarctic Skuas, Sabine's Gulls (maybe 50), Arctic and a single Pomarine Skua, Sootys, Cory's types and Greats. Watching the trawler bring its net in was fantastic, birds everywhere, and the swell just about bearable (others weren't so fortunate).
The photos will follow when i get chance to look through all 1600 of them. By mid afternoon the swell dropped, the sun was still shining and we even picked up a couple of Grey Phalaropes on the ride back, as well as the numerous Cape fur seals feeding in the mix.
Thoroughly drenched we dried off with coffee in the harbour (sorry about the puddle of water in the restaurant), and i couldn't stop smiling after brilliant birding and surviving at sea!
Remke picked me up and we went to fish and chips before she had the great idea to dash to table mountain as the weather was still holding, and we had a few hours before going out for Katies birthday.
Ill prepared we boarded the cable car, enjoyed the view, the cloud descended again an we headed for the cable car home. After 30minutes it became clear that there was a problem, which was confirmed, upgraded on the advice of the technician to more serious than thought and therefore we stayed on Table mountain until 2230. By then we had missed dinner, arriving home at 2300. By this time i had been up since 0500, still soaking wet, covered in salt from pelagic and now aware that my long awaited shark diving trip was leaving at 0510 in the morning. There were some 200+ other people behind us in the queue so who knows how late they were home.
Today was the shark dive. This has been a dream of mine for many years and i quite positively get some kind of emotional high from even seeing Great Whites on tv.....but i never thought i would ever see one, let alone get in the water with one (FIVE!!!)' albeit from the safety of a cage.
Thankfully my seasickness tablets worked again and i got to enjoy 10 minutes in the cage. Although exciting the views from the boat were much better and we spent 3 hours watching animals up to 3.5 metres coming to the chum. My hair stood on end, one of the real big 5 for me and a dream come true. Yet another life highlight for me and one i will never forget.
After a nice lunch, beer and watch of the dvd for sale i was picked up by Remke and we said more goodbyes. I hate saying goodbyes : ( although we missed several by being stuck up a mountain!!
This also meant that i couldn't sign as second driver for the hire car, so Remke has driven for nearly 8 hours today. Now lying in dorm bed at cool surfers hostel, fish and squid for dinner, beer brewed in Knysna, fire burning etc. Tomorrow we continue east to East London. Hostel looks great again, private room, wooded grounds, pool and chance to relax after the manic last few days.
Some shark photos below, pelagic photos when home if no time before. Just 9 full days to go now......

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