DISCOVER SOUTH AFRICA’S MARINE BIG 5
South Africa has on its East the warm currents of the Indian Ocean and on its West the mighty Atlantic Ocean. This provides habitats for an abundance of amazing sea creatures. Among those creatures are the Marine Big 5: Great White Shark, Cape Fur Seals, Bottlenose Dolphin, Southern Right Whale, and African Penguin.
HERE’S AN INTRO TO THE MARINE BIG 5: 1. GREAT WHITE SHARK
The Great White is an ancient and adapted species of the ocean. It is believed to have been around for more than 70 million years. It keeps the oceans balanced because it is at the top of the food chain. In contrast to the common belief, Great White Sharks are not the mindless killers people believe them to be; they are in fact highly selective predators that feed on a wide range of fish, dolphins, and seals. Once their senses are fully developed, they can even detect the electrical impulses of their prey. There is still much to discover about these awe-inspiring creatures of the deep.
2. CAPE FUR SEALS
Just off the coast of Gansbaai, you can find a colony of over sixty thousand Cape Fur Seals at Geyser Rock. They are the only resident seals in the region. They are playful and proud and most of their diet consists of bony fish, however they also eat octopus, squid, and sometimes crayfish (rock lobster). Fullygrown male seals (also called ‘bulls’) can weigh over 300 kg while females (also called ‘cows’) weigh around 80 kg.
3. HUMPBACK DOLPHIN AND BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN
Make sure to visit Dyer Island when you are in South Africa. There, you will have the opportunity to encounter Humpback dolphins and Bottlenose dolphins. Humpback dolphins have large hump on their back, that’s why they are known as such. Bottlenose dolphins on the other hand are archetypal dolphins that you commonly see in aquariums and on television. Neither of these species ventures into waters deeper than 30 meters, that’s why human encounters are pretty common.
4. SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE
Southern Right Whales are seen in South Africa from June to December. Early whalers called them the ‘right whales’ to hunt because they were easy prey and also fetched a good market price. Hence the name Southern Right. Nowadays, they are the “right whales” to watch. Apart from the huge concentration of these whales in Walker Bay, the coastal pathways and the cliffs of Hermanus offer the best whale watching experience in the world.
5. AFRICAN PENGUIN
African Penguin is a rare species these days. In the 1900s, penguin eggs were highly sought-after because of their delicacy which as a result almost whipped out their entire population. Add overfishing and pollution to the equation and you will understand why this species isn’t doing so well. Because of their donkey-like bray, they are also known as Jackass Penguins. Their black and white tuxedo is known as counter shading because it is a form of camouflage. Their black backs confuse predators looking down towards the dark water below and their white bellies confuse predators swimming below looking up towards the light.