Summing up the surprises of the 2016 white shark season, Seal Island, False Bay

Leigh de Necker

 

White sharks typically visit False Bay’s Seal Island to take advantage of vulnerable young of the year Cape fur seal pups when they start entering the water to feed. This is generally between March and September, however, this season showed a number of deviations from the expected norms. We took a trip to the Island towards the end of January and before we even had any bait in the water, we had seen a shark. We were beyond excited by the chance of having an early start to the season. This was the first of many unexpected surprises the season had to offer. For February and March, we had amazing shark activity around our boat, seeing an average of 4 sharks a day and still enjoying the late summer, early autumn warm sunny days on the water.

Great White Shark False Bay

My first time in the cage early this season

 

But before we got too comfortable, leaving the sharks to do all our work for us, by the end of April and throughout May, they had simply vanished from Seal Island. There were some really bizarre theories as to where they were and why from crew, clients, fishermen and local shark nuts, but even today the mystery of their temporary disappearance remains. The crew had placed all their bets on the exact date that the sharks would return, and just before we had begun to completely lose our minds (and jobs) the sharks started making an appearance again within the first week of June.

Cape Fur Seal False Bay

An island barren of sharks, but full of seals (with an identity crisis), however, always beautiful

 

I nearly jumped right off the boat seeing the first shark breach (I always go mad seeing a shark breach, every breach is different and it simply never gets old), but this was a combination of that excitement coupled with relief at the sign that “the shark drought” had potentially come to an end. July was an incredible month with both breaching activity as well as shark activity around the boat. Despite the fact that during this time the sharks were always around, every day, every trip, every hour, in fact, was different. Obviously the breaching and overly enthusiastic sharks around our boat are always a treat, but there were a few really memorable, standout moments this season. Firstly, a shark over 4 m in length, coming fully out of the water attacking a kelp gull just 3 m away from our boat, having the crew and clients very much in the splash zone (this just minutes after I had told a client how breaching was rare in the afternoon, and that I had never seen a shark go for a bird).  On another afternoon in July, we had crystal clear waters with over 10 different sharks around our boat, flying at our bait and decoy consistently from all different angles! It was the best kind of chaos!

False Bay Seal Island Great White Shark

First attempt at grabbing our decoy