It’s my favourite time of year again! No, not the holiday season in December – that will come soon enough. It’s whale season in South Africa! While I enjoy going on safaris in the bush, the ocean has always fascinated me as whale. Since moving to Cape Town, I’ve been in awe of dolphin and whale sightings. So, when my colleagues Marlin, Brad and I got the opportunity to go on a Big 5 Ocean Safari with Marine Dynamics, I was giddy with excitement.
From Cape Town to Gansbaai
Gansbaai is only a two-hour drive away from Cape Town. And if you take the coastal route, you get a sneak peek of what’s waiting for you. Here and there, we get a glimpse of the glittering, deep blue ocean. And we couldn’t have asked for better weather conditions on this sunny winter’s day!
We arrive at the Great White House in Gansbaai and meet the friendly Marine Dynamics team. Sipping Rooibos tea in front of the gigantic fireplace, I admire the whale bones above our heads. Suzi’s skeleton is something one would expect to find in a natural history museum. The whale had an unfortunate encounter with a vessel and was stranded in the area. Now, Suzi reminds guests in the restaurant just how minute we are compared to a majestic whale.
Everyone On Board The Dreamcatcher!
Every ocean safari starts with a quick safety briefing, so we watch a short video about Marine Dynamics and their projects. After grabbing a breakfast muffin for the way, we collect our life vests. Although there’s a zero chance of rain, I grab a long raincoat as well.
If sailing and boating around the Cape have taught me one thing, it’s that having an extra layer of protection is always a good idea! Together with the crew, international and local tourists, we walk down to the little harbour, where we board the Dreamcatcher.
Marvellous Marine Dynamics
What makes an ocean safari with Marine Dynamics so special are the marine biologists. On each trip, at least one expert on the boat explains everything one wants to know about South Africa’s marine life. We have the pleasure of having Jade with us. She keeps us updated on sightings and our planned route at all times. And now and again, Jade even throws in a joke – she definitely knows how to keep the passengers entertained.
Immediately after launching the boat, I turn on my whale-watching mode and scan the horizon for spouts. The ocean is so flat that we can see (and feel) the waves created by the HMS Birkenhead shipwreck. Why does this name sound so familiar? Well, when the steam frigate sank in 1852, Captain Robert Salmond commanded “Women and children first!” for the very first time in history.
A Fin Time with the Humpback Whales
But back to why we’re actually in Gansbaai. We gaze out at the ocean and, suddenly, two crew members next to me start pointing to a splash in the distance. Whales!
“Breaching at one o’clock”, announces Jade. And we have the honour of six humpback whales accompanying us for more than 30 minutes…and they come really close to the boat! But just as we want to leave them alone and check out the other side of the bay, they come up directly next to us. Everyone jumps up from their seats and rushes back to the railing. What a remarkable moment!
The Sharks Are Back in Town
A stop at Dyer Island, home to the endangered African penguin and more than 6,000 Cape fur seals, is part of every Marine Dynamics tour. Other sightings depend on the season, which makes each boat trip even more exciting. You never know what Mother Nature has in store for you!
Towards the end of our ocean safari, we head to Slashfin, their Shark Cage Diving boat. The great white shark population in the Western Cape drastically declined due to increased Orca activity in the waters. However, the sharks seem to be back in town. And we get a glimpse of a “small” 2.5 metre-long female great white shark. Overcome with the joy of seeing one of my favourite animals, I try to hold my phone as steady as possible. Have I mentioned how unbelievably lucky we are with our sightings today?
A Surprise Ending
Just as we head back to the harbour, I’m suddenly pretty sure we see a dolphin. And yes, Jade confirms that we have two dolphins nearby. And not just any dolphins, two endangered Atlantic humpback dolphins. There are only about 1,500 left in the wild!
I feel a bit emotional as we head back ashore. The Atlantic Ocean sent out its very best cast to perform for us today! As we head back to Cape Town, we all discuss excitedly how special this day was for us, and, again, I think of how many secret wonders the deep blue sea holds.
See the Ocean Big 5 with Marine Dynamics
Have you always wanted to see whales and other marine life in their natural habitat?
Marine Dynamic certainly knows how to have a whale of a time! Contact our Travel Experts to start planning your South African whale watching holidays. We can’t wait to welcome you (back) to Africa!