Pelagic Bird Watching

A Whale of a time!

The Sperm Whale...

Today's charter was one to remember... Skipper, Alan told the guest that he hadn't seen a Sperm Whale in about 5 years. "We were on our way out to a well known fishing/bird watching area roughly 23/24 miles to the south west of Cape Point called "The Canyon" when an adult Sperm Whale decided to show itself right next to our boat" - He quickly put the vessel into neutral and watched as this magnificent animal put on a show for the guests.

Our guide, Cliffie Dorse, and the guests managed to get some really amazing pictures of this Sperm Whale hyperventilating before embarking on a 45 minute dive into the depth of these pelagic sea grounds

Sperm Whale Facts:

  • Sperm Whale's significant name is: Physeter macrocephalus.
  • Long grey/black skin, block shaped head that can take up to 1/3 of the whales body.
  • Can reach up to 16-20 meters in length. 
  • Can weigh up to 41,000kgs.
  • Largest heads, largest brains and loudest recorded sound of any animal on earth.
  • Their diet consists of mainly squid, fish, octopus, rays and megamouth sharks.
A photo, our guide (Cliff Dores) took of a Sperm Whale on our Pelagic Charter!

A photo, our guide (Cliff Dores) took of a Sperm Whale on our Pelagic Charter!

Pelagic Bird Watchers to the rescue!

A recreational fishing vessel in distress...

After a successful Pelagic Bird Watching day trip off Cape Point, South Africa we were on our way back to Simonstown, passing through a well known fishing area called "Buffels Bay" when one of our guests from Cape Town Pelagics noticed a flare that had been set off about a mile to the left of us, followed by a second flare which was clearly directed towards us. Our skipper quickly turned our boat around and headed in the direction of the signal flare - As we got closer it was clear that the boat with two male occupants waving us down were in distress and in need of assistance! The skipper of the distress vessel made it clear that their single engine would not start and that they had not been carrying a radio to call for help - We had just traveled through 8 miles (14 km's) in thick fog and the wind was rapidly increasing. They were drifting quickly and needed to be towed to Buffels Bay slip way. 

Fortunately, we were in the right place at the right time and were happy to assist! We decided to make this post not to ridicule anyone , but rather as a reminder of the importance of safety at sea, especially in our Cape waters! The maritime safety law is there for a reason and we cant emphasis enough how important it is to abide by these rules and regulations!    

We wish everyone a happy festive season and keep safe out there! :)

Assisting a recreational fishing vessel in False Bay, South Africa!

Assisting a recreational fishing vessel in False Bay, South Africa!

The Humpback Whale!

On our way back from a well known fishing area called "The Canyon" we were greeted by 2 Humpback Whales not far off Cape Point - By law we have to keep a certain distance from these amazing animals, but by their sheer size of 40-60 ft long and weighing around 40 tons allows for suburb sightings even from a distance! Fortunately, because we were on our way back from a Pelagic Bird Watching Charter our guests had their cameras with them and were able to get some amazing pictures of the Humpback Whales breaching!

Humpback Whale Facts

  • The Humpback Whale is a species of Baleen Whale and feed off small prey such as: Krill, Salmon, Smaller Fish, Mackerel and Herring.

  • Full grown adults weigh roughly about 36 000 kg's and range in length from 12 to 16 m.

  • They Humpback Whale has a fairly low dorsal fin with a wide base and long pectoral fins.

  • They are known for their "breaching" behavior where they will launch themselves completely out the water.

  • Their blow is usually seen as a tall, single plume measuring around 4 meters high.

  • Males are known to produce a complex "whale song" which can last 10 - 20 minutes, which is rumored to be some sort of communication.

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Humpback Whale Breaching on a Pelagic Bird Watching Charter!

Humpback Whale Breaching on a Pelagic Bird Watching Charter!

Pelagic Bird Watching on-board "Destiny"

Yesterday, we headed off Cape Point, heading for the well known "Canyon" area in search of Pelagic Sea Birds! Unfortunately we weren't able to find any trawlers or long-liners (which usually have thousands of Pelagic Sea Birds following) so we decided to use an alternative method known as "chumming" to attract these birds. Chumming is the practice of luring various animals, usually fish, but also birds, by throwing "chum" into the water. Chum is bait which consists of fish parts, bone and blood, which attract fish or birds, owing to their acute sense of smell. We managed to lure a fair number of birds which included; Pintado Petrels, White Chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, Southern Giant Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel, Wilsons Storm Petrel, Subantarctic Skua and the Black-Browed Albatross, which is featured in the picture below.

Our guests managed to get some really amazing pictures of these magnificent sea birds and we soon after started making our way back to Simonstown, but our day wasn't quite over yet - About 8 miles from Cape Point we came across a pod of Orca Whales, which were busy feeding and putting on a show! This is a huge playing factor on why the Great White Shark season in False Bay, Seal Island has been so slow lately. The Orca Whales, also known as "Killer Whales" have been targeting Great White Sharks along our coastlines and killing them for their livers, which is known to be the most nutritional part of the animal!

It was a great trip for everyone involved! :)  

Photo: Jeffery Slater

Black Browed Albatross.jpg

The Pilot Whale!

Today's Pelagic Bird Watching Charter was nothing but spectacular - Our skipper, guide and 5 bird enthusiasts headed in a South West direction off Cape Point in search of the magnificent Pelagic Birds! At the tip of Cape Point itself the bird life was phenomenal - there were several large groups of birds including Common Terns, Cape Gannets, White-Chin Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters all feeding off massive bait balls of anchovy, which were being chased to the surface by Yellowtail and Katonkel fish.  We were off to a great start! 

Much to everyone's amazement, we started seeing thousands of Pintado Petrels about 25 nautical miles off Cape Point - This was highly unusual for this time of the year as they usually migrate north by mid August. Soon after we had four species of Albatross greet us including the Southern Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Shy Albatross and the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross. Everyone managed to get some amazing pictures throughout the morning and it was time to start making our way back, but just to add the cherry on-top we were greeted by a group of Pilot Whales which started to follow us home!  

Pilot Whales are interestingly the second largest dolphin in the ocean after the famous "Orca Whale" otherwise known as a "Killer-Whale" and belong to the family of "delphinidae". 

These intelligent mammals received the name "Pilot Whale" from the belief that the pod will always follow a single leader, which is why there is speculation of these mass stranding's that occur from time to time. The pilot whale diet consists of fish, octopus, squid and shrimp and are known to dive up to 500 meters while searching for food. They also known as "Long-finned Pilot Whales", (you can see why in the picture below) and calve between April and September and are found practically everywhere around the world!

Bird Guide: Vince Ward



Sundays Pelagic Bird Watching Charter saw only one trawler, but it was heading home (back to Cape Town) with relatively few birds following behind. We did however have a good day out - Birds seen today included a Northern Royal Albatross, Manx Shearwater's, Shy Albatross, Black Browed Albatross and White Chin Petrels

Interestingly, we also saw 6 Egyptian Geese heading out to sea, with very little chance of surviving - There was no explanation for this according to our Birding Guide: Cliffie Dorse

On our return to home, we encounted a few Humpback Whales not far off Cape Point, which wrapped up the interested day for us!