We have been incredibly fortunate on our road trip around South Africa in terms of opportunities. People have been incredibly generous and eager to help and for that, I will be eternally grateful…especially since funds are running out FAST.
While a discount is offered for the Raggy Charters experience through the Nelson Mandela Bay Pass, we were given the opportunity to sale with them as part of a media educational and we cancelled plans so that we could join them. What a breathtaking experience! Once again I find that I don’t have enough words to describe those awesome few hours.
It’s not whale watching season yet so we went out with very few expectations. Port Elizabeth isn’t named the Bottlenose capital of the world for nothing though and we had a huge pod of dolphins join us soon after we left the harbour.
Apparently the rule of thumb is for every dolphin you see on the surface, you should count 3 as there are usually 2 below for every one. So the pod of about 20 we saw was actually about 60-80 dolphins. Some of the dolphins were barely a few days old as we noticed contraction marks on them as they leaped between their parents. SO MUCH CUTENESS!
We headed to the Island of the Cross or La Croix to drop off a researcher who needed to count penguin eggs. The seasons are completely crazy at the moment and, since so many areas have been overfished, penguins breeding cycles are completely out of wack. Penguins usually follow the cycle of eating lots before they moult so that when all their feathers fall out and they can’t hunt for food, they are fat enough to survive while they wait to become waterproof again.
Now that they have to swim further to hunt for fish, they aren’t eating enough to survive moulting season and then when they lay eggs during breeding season, they often can’t bring back enough food (since the food has already been digested by the time they come back – due to distance) and they can’t feed their chicks. This means that they choose to feed the stronger chick to ensure survival and the other chick gets abandoned or starves to death. This is usually when SAMREC in Port Elizabeth steps in and comes to their aid.
What the researchers are hoping to see is that they are actually going through 2 breeding seasons in a year so that they can compensate for the chicks that aren’t surviving while they wait for the new Marine Protection Area (MPA) paperwork to kick in. They are having the area around the island declared a MPA so that the penguins have enough fish to eat and there is a stronger chance of survival.
On the way back from the island, we were met by a pod of dolphins that seemed to have a resident seal hanging out with them. According to the Raggy Charters professionals, this is a rare sight and it was a special treat to see. In terms of bird life, we spotted loads of Cape Gannet dive bombing into the ocean to catch fish. We even had a persistant bird circle the boat who was hoping to steal any fish we may have had on the boat. I can’t remember the name. Can someone help?
This was such an informative boat trip that I actually wish I took notes. I’m having a hard time recalling everything I learned, but maybe you are curious about it to go find out for yourself 😉