DIS­COVER SOUTH AFRICA’S MA­RINE BIG 5

Tourism Guide Africa - - CONTENTS -

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.

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