DiveCareDare

DiveCareDare

Tony Isaacson - Diving Naturalist. As a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor, AWARE shark conservation specialist and adventurer, I have dived in some of the most amazing diving locations on the planet. I have been scuba diving since 1970 and have logged over 3000 dives in more than 20 countries around the world. I’ve documented the marine diversity in exotic locations like Komodo, Fiji, Vanuatu, PNG, Tahiti and the Galapagos Islands. In 2013, I inspired Navy Clearance Diver and bull shark bite survivor, Paul de Gelder and a 60 Minutes film crew to dive with bull sharks at the Ultimate Shark Encounter in Fiji. I was a consultant on the making of documentaries on Leafy Seadragons (for Channel 9), The Great Barrier Reef (with Richard Fitzpatrick for the BBC) and filmed underwater footage in Indonesia and off the Queensland and New South Wales coasts for TRAVELTHERENEXT TV. In July 2014, I headed to South Africa for the Sardine Run and dived with the great white sharks from Durban to Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a great advocate for sharks, sustainability and ecotourism, and I regularly volunteer for Reef Check and Grey Nurse Shark Watch in Australia.

View Full Profile →

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 15 other subscribers

Slideshow
Slideshow

DIVING WITH COW SHARKS AND CAPE FUR SEALS | SIMONSTOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Diving Videos

COW SHARKS AND CAPE FUR SEALS | PISCES DIVERS FALSE BAY, SOUTH AFRICA

Simonstown on the western side of False Bay near Cape Town has an international reputation as the place to go to see great white sharks breaching 3m out of the water off Seal Island. This is a spectacular experience provided by naturalist and photographer Chris Fallows and his wife Monique of Apex Shark Expeditions.  They label False Bay as the ‘Serengeti of the Sea’ because of its marine diversity, and as well as their infamous shark cage diving and shark breaching trips, they also promote two other types of dives which are contracted out to local dive operators.

These experiences include an opportunity to dive with Cape fur seals and the primitive seven-gilled cow sharks in the kelp forests of False Bay. These dive sites are on opposite sides of a rocky outcrop known as Partridge Point near Cape Point Nature Reserve where there is a small seal colony.

Winter time (June to August) is best for diving here because the plankton count is lower making visibility much better. 5-8m visibility is good in these waters and anything better than 10m is an outrageous bonus. However weather conditions and currents can impact on this so checking local conditions before a dive is a good idea, although a luxury that most divers can’t afford because of their need to book ahead.

We dived today with Mike Nortje, owner of Pisces Divers. He was easy to spot as he wore contrasting shades of yellow fins and had an uncanny sense of where to point in anticipation of a shark or two moving past. While divers might be wary of a passing great white shark at any moment given their prominent numbers in False Bay, Pisces divers don’t appear to have a history of any sightings of great whites. It seems that the great whites just don’t approach scuba divers according to Mike.  So believe me when I say you can concentrate on the diversity and colour on these dives and not be looking over your shoulder constantly!

We dived off Mike’s boat although both dives could have been shore dives and were a maximum of 18m only. The boat drove 15mins out of the harbour to get to the dive sites and the water was a ‘warm’ 17 degrees.  I had on 4 layers of clothing being toasty warm for each of our 45-50 mins dive but a ‘local’ diver from Johannesberg wore a dry suit.

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

Mike and Tony in the kelp forest

The scenery here more than matches anything I have seen on the Great Barrier Reef as feather stars, anemones, urchins, sea squirts and sponges provide a kaleidoscope of colour and an environment that is a macro-photographers dream.
Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay  1
Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

Basket sea stars are more often seen in deep water but on both dives with Pisces they were found on soft corals in 10m of water. They are known to actively feed on mysid shrimps which could be seen in huge clouds of many millions. I had never seen as many mysids in one place before and they particularly drew my attention as mysids are the staple diet of leafy and weedy seadragons found in my home state of South Australia.

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

There was also a fascinating small cuttlefish which when it moved off it changed colour three times adapting to its surroundings, ending up a dark green as it entered the kelp forest. An amazing demonstration of camouflage.

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

The kelp along the shore was below the low tide zone.  There would have been a group of 30 or more Cape fur seals resting on the rocks but our first dive experience was dominated by three, very playful sub-adult seals about 1-1.5m in length. They seemed to delight in checking out the points of difference between one photographer’s set up and the next. The GoPro camera in particular was a tempting snack as they were bite sized compared to some camera set ups a metre or more across.

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

The seals swam to us, through us, around us, between us and above us.  At no time did they touch us but they were certainly close enough to be touched. There was no fin or snorkel grabbing as I had experienced in the Galapagos. In fact these guys were very well behaved but really curious, and we all got some great close up video footage.  Every now and then my camera was filled with the eyes of a curious seal when I least expected it.

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

Our second dive was only 30 seconds away but on the other side of the rocks. The seals tended to be on the ocean windward side and the cow sharks in the more sheltered bay side. These prehistoric sharks do not have a dorsal fin and have seven not the usual five gills. I lost count of the number of these up to 3m sharks gently swimming around the kelp forest. They tended to swim over a very coarse sandy bottom and in the open part of the kelp forest. They were as casual in their demeanor as our grey nurse or the African ragged tooth sharks, being slow moving and indifferent to the presence of divers, their bubbles and flash cameras.

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

The sharks would come towards divers if you were stationary and would tend to swim away if we approached them.  So the trick was to be well positioned and wait for them to approach you, which they often did close enough to bump the camera if you didn’t move it out of the way.

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

I had never seen these sharks before and didn’t think I ever would in my lifetime. Even though they are widely distributed in the world they are usually in deeper water and in murkier conditions.

Cow sharks and Cape Fur Seals False Bay

Overall this day was a whole lot of fun and gave us all some first time experiences. The most difficult choice of the day was whether to go wide or use macro settings for our cameras as both dives provided ample opportunity for both. The dives certainly removed a belief that False Bay could only be enjoyed for great white shark experiences in cages.

 

[Photos from Dominik Radler and Tony Isaacson]

 

 

 

Related posts:

Comment

Diving Videos

One Response to DIVING WITH COW SHARKS AND CAPE FUR SEALS | SIMONSTOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

  • Diving Videos

    Maggie says:

    What amazing photos, the clarity of the water, the colours are fantastic you just want to be there

HOT VIDEO PIX:

SEPTEMBER 2015 HOT VID PIX: Banded Sea Snake Eats Moray Eel - a fight to the death. Watch what happens at the 3.20 mark... AUGUST 2015 HOT VID PIX: Tears of a Mermaid - On Location: "Tigress" Tiger Shark Shoot Documentary, a Mctrax Motion Production With Jim Abernethy in the Bahamas. MAY 2015 HOT VID PIX: The Insatiable Hairy Frogfish - watch this fascinatingly 'fugly' creature catch and eat its prey. MARCH 2015 HOT VID PIX: Woman romances large eel! Meet Valerie Taylor and her unusual friendship with a large moray eel... FEB 2015 HOT VID PIX: Divers off Costa Rica come across a giant manta ray tangled in fishing line. Watch how it allowed them to free it. What a life changing experience... DECEMBER 2014 HOT VID PIX: Flamboyant Deadly Cuttlefish - a short from Underwater Studios of Malaysia - taken on Kapalai island Sabah. Simply Stunning! NOVEMBER 2014 HOT VID PIX: Glow In The Dark Shark Attack! : Yet another goodie from BioPixels. We have never seen anything like this before, simply creepy but stunning! (Love that Red Epic slow mo camera guys - keep up the good work!) OCTOBER 2014 HOT VID PIX: Milking A Stone Fish: You heard it here! Dr Jamie Seymour from James Cook University talks about how to milk a stone fish, something I am sure we all need to know, ponder on and share, but never to personally try it at home. Love your work Jamie! SEPTEMBER 2014 HOT VID PIX: Ultimate Alien-like Spear Mantis Feeding On Fish In Slow Motion: Dr Jamie Seymour from James Cook University and Emmy Award winning cameraman Richard Fitzpatrick film club and spear mantis shrimps at 1500 frames per second. These guys just have too much fun 'at work'! AUGUST 2014 HOT VID PIX: Great White 4.5M Shark Bites Dive Rubber Ducky whilst filming on an Adventure Tour for the Sardine Run near Mossel Bay, South Africa. Thank you Riener for a fabulous interview on this most unusual behaviour of a great white. JUNE 2014 HOT VID PIX: Helping Out A Yellow Moray Eel - Gold Coast Seaway: Thanks to Dave Wyatt for this fabulous video of your helping out a poor helpless moray caught up in fishing wire as well as three hooks in its mouth. Good job Dave!

Slideshow

divecaredare divecaredare divecaredare divecaredare