SNORKELLING WITH ‘SINGING’ WHALES
Whilst on our recent trip to South Africa hoping to dive on the Sardine Run, we were given a bonus encounter of these amazing leviathans of the sea. Whilst looking for the sardine bait balls in the waters at Coffee Bay, three humpback whales including a mother and her baby cruised by. There was no time to don scuba equipment, so with only snorkels and masks we all got in the water to take a closer look.
They were truly amazing and the sound they were making took us all aback. It was nothing like the high pitched whale song we had heard before, such a deep gutteral almost painful straining sound. WIERD!
This was a truly memorable moment, especially when at one point when they came up from the deep so close to one of our group that he had to try to push himself away from the side of the huge animal. AMAZING!
Thanks to Roland Mauz and his team from African Dive Adventures who gave us this incredible encounter.
What do you think of their whale ‘song’? Have you ever hard anything like this before?
For more, see our recent post Snorkelling with Humpback Whales at Coffee Bay, South Africa.
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[Video Footage by Tony Isaacson. Video Production and Editing by Roger Barrett, TraveThereNext.com]
FLYING THE ‘MOSQUITO’ SPOTTER PLANE FOR THE SARDINE RUN
Big Louis is the man. He lives in Limpopo, the northern most province of South Africa and owns a 2-stroke ultralight spotter plane, aka ‘the mosquito’. He comes down to Coffee Bay with his wife, two teenagers, yorkie and 6 week yorkie x schnauzer puppy purely for the Sardine Run. It is his third or fourth season with Roland and Beulah and they work together as a team. His mission is to be the ‘eye in the sky’ and fly all day up and down the coast around Coffee Bay in search of the sardine action for African Dive Adventure clients.
I had the pleasure of going up with him today to experience the Sardine Run from this different perspective. After a spectacular day yesterday with the best personal encounters of whale action you could ever wish for, I was more than happy to give up my seat in the boat for another kind of action in the air.
Louis kitted me up on the beach outside the Ocean View Hotel with a helmet, microphone and seat belt. I had to make sure both my cameras were securely fastened to my person. Nothing was allowed to be loose or it could fall in the water, worse still hit Louis on the head or fly into the small engine behind me and stall the plane. With that in mind and a little intrepidation, off we went.
DIVING BAIT BALLS ON THE SARDINE RUN IN COFFEE BAY, SOUTH AFRICA
The Sardine Run is a very special natural phenomenon. The sheer number of sardines involved results in a feeding frenzy along the coastline of South Africa and in terms of biomass is said to rival East Africa’s great wildebeest migration.
The Sardine Run is where shoals of sardines drift north up the east coast of Africa to KwaZulu Natal and Mozambique from the cold waters of the Cape of South Africa. These shoals can be more than 7km long, 1.5km wide and 30m deep and are very easily spotted by planes or from boats on the surface.
It is usually around May-July and involves billions of sardines. They spawn in the Agulhas Bank, the southern most point of South Africa and then head north along the south east coast of Africa. The run occurs when a current of cold water heads north from the Agulhas Bank to Mozambique, where it heads out into the Indian Ocean. The Agulhas current is a warm, more northern current that pushes the cooler Atlantic southern current up against the east coast and hopefully forces the drifting sardines inshore so the run can be witnessed.
The Sardine Run is all about the water temperature. It has to fall below 21 degrees to happen. Sardines need cold water and will not be seen if the water is too warm. The run does not occur every year and in the last 23 years, it has failed on three occasions including 2003 and 2006. This year the weather is quite unseasonal. Today the air temp is 25C, unheard off at this time of the year.
DIVING A BAIT BALL IS ALL ABOUT ETIQUETTE IN THE WATER
The dive and snorkel briefing is all important as this is such an unusual phenomenon, if you do the wrong thing, you will disturb the bait ball action and it all ends for everyone. Then the search has to be repeated to find another bait ball.
We have received some fabulous feedback about this promotional video for the Sardine Run. At the end of the day, word of mouth prevailed and our group of shark savvy divers has an international line up from from Portugal (via Angola), Fiji, Austria and Australia, including Townsville (via Vietnam and China).
Our hosts, owners of African Dive Adventures, are Roland and Buelah Mauz based at Shelly Beach, Margate/Protea Banks near Durban, South Africa.
Our first dives will be on their home patch to see grey nurse sharks that they call ‘raggies’, oceanic black tips, bull sharks, dusky whaler sharks and an outside chance of tigers and hammerhead sharks.
We will then head further south to Coffee Bay, near Waterfall Bluff where David Attenborough filmed the most extraordinary sequences for his BBC Special on the Sardine Run.
Our spotter plan will be relying on hundreds and thousands of Cape gannets and massive groups of dolphins to point our dive boat into the centre of all the action.
I received news this week that the sardines are currently 80 km off shore. If we are to believe the predications, our arrival for the 14th July will coincide with the time that the greatest shoal on earth will be concentrated against the South African coast at our location – fingers crossed!