Shark Spotters, Cape Town

This is my first shark post for ages. The good news is that I am pregnant, but the bad news is that this has made me sick for 4 months. It’s been really horrid, but for the first time yesterday and today I have felt much better. I am really glad. So now I have energy for looking at shark websites (look at those links – they are all really good) and I have found a new website that I think is great so this post is about that.

The website is: http://www.sharkspotters.org.za

It is really good for a lot of reasons. Shark spotters was set up by a surfer who didn’t want to get attacked by a shark but who also didn’t like the idea of anti-shark measures which kill sharks and other marine life just so that he could surf without being afraid.

So he set up Shark Spotters; he employs people who are finding it difficult to get work and teaches them about sharks and how to spot them. Then they go to places that are good for spotting sharks like up on the mountains around the coast or on a beach tower. If they see a shark swimming near a beach they sound an alarm and everyone knows to get out of the water. And they can tell people about sharks.

Since they started 3 years ago there haven’t been any shark attacks at all even though there’s a seal colony just nearby (where we went to see sharks) and one of the world’s largest populations of great white sharks in the world. I think this is a really good solution – provides protection for people who want to enjoy the sea without endangering the wildlife that lives there.

Who said hello?

The origin of the word “hello” is hotly debated by some.  I go with what Stephen Fry thinks but Wikipedia seems to disagree.  I think it is interesting anyway:

 When the telephone was invented people didn’t seem to know what to say when they answered it.  So a newspaper asked the public what they thought.  Someone suggested “hello” and here we are today.  Prior to “hello” when people saw each other they said “good morning”, “good afternoon” and “how do you do?”.  I think it would be good if we used a few more of those in our greetings.  Liven up the place a bit.

 Another word which was decided upon by the newspaper-reading public followed a debate about what you call those who watch the television.  Radios have listeners, do televisions have “lookers”?  Or “watchers” perhaps?  Apparently they have “viewers”. 

 I think words are pretty interesting.  Personally, I avoid terms like “unbelieveable” and use “fantastic” instead.  Except when I actually don’t believe you.

Is this controversial?

I have decided to get back on with the blog, following someone noticing it had stopped being updated!  I found it hard to write my blog after I had finished the South Africa story as I was very sad that that was over.  It was funny because it was such a fantastic experience that it sort of hurt.  It was also a bit frightening as it is quite tempting to run away to South Africa and live with the sharks.  Luckily for Ben I like living with him more.

 So now I thought I would write a little bit about a news article that I saw today.  It is all about Diana’s remembrance service.  This week every day on the local news there’s been a bit about Diana and now people are putting their flowers at the gates of Kensington Palace like they did ten years ago.  On the BBC news website there’s a photo of a couple of young people, I think they’re teenagers, looking very sad.  Do they even remember Diana?  What is this all about?

The thing that seems most strange to me is that I don’t think Diana was all that great.  She failed her O Levels twice incidentally – all of them.  She did some charity work which was good, but instead of making that the focus and actually carrying on something worthwhile there just seem to be a lot of concerts, services, statues and flowers.  So what does this “legacy” actually mean?  Seems a good opportunity for a trip to London for a bit of self-indulgent misery and a nice meal out.  Or is there more to it than I can see?

Shark holiday: Day 8

Saturday was our last day in South Africa, and we made the most of it. We were really glad we were able to go for an extra trip with Chris and Monique to see some more sharks. As we were staying in Cape Town it meant a transfer early on Saturday morning – leaving at 5:50am so we could get to Simon’s Town for a 6:45am start. Unfortunately some of the other people who were meant to be getting the same transport had thought they had cancelled so we sat outside their accommodation for about 15 minutes and so were a bit late.

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There were two boats going out on Saturday – one was for diving, and the other was Chris and Monique’s. We decided we would rather go on Chris and Monique’s boat again and not dive as the water is a bit cold for me and I liked that better. It was interesting being able to see the cage and the shark – makes the cage look quite small! This is the same kind of cage we went in but not on this boat.

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We saw lots of sharks again – Bob came back which Chris and Monique were excited about as they have seen him every year for 5 years. A couple of days later he breached on the decoy but we were back in England by then. There were three breaches near the other boat on Saturday but we only managed to see the splash!

We also saw a young great white – maybe 3 years old and about 2 metres long. She was very fiesty and we had to be a bit careful of her as she would be quite likely to throw herself against the boat and hurt herself. She was quite a brown colour. Young sharks have different shaped teeth to mature great whites – they are more grasping and are thinner so they are better for catching fish. When the shark is bigger its teeth are better for catching fish and seals. I think in total on our holiday we saw about 30 different great whites.

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Too soon the trip was over and we were heading back to Cape Town with some chips from the fish and chip shop in Simon’s Town. We were glad that we were able to use our room at the guesthouse for the day – normally check out is 10am but as it was quiet we were able to stay until 8pm when we left to go to the airport.

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We got a last walk along the seafront in the afternoon though, and then went and had dinner in a restaurent in a railway carriage. It described itself as “traditional African cuisine” although in a city with a long history of colonisation by English and Dutch people I’m not totally sure what that means.

Ben tried ox tongue and he did not like it. I don’t think I’ve hardly ever seen him not eat something but he really didn’t enjoy ox tongue; he said it was a bit like eating your own tongue. It looked a lot like lots of bits of tongue with all the taste buds showing. I had guinea fowl which was ok.

Our flight was at 11.30pm but we had to be there 3 hours earlier. We got to the airport and then had the longest smoothie in the world, trying to keep it going until we had to leave. By the time we boarded Ben was so tired he went to sleep even before we took off. I had some brandy to help with that. The flight back was ok but there were some very noisy old people behind us who kept shouting at each other and then they poked Ben. They also coughed a lot and very productively which made quite a breeze.

It was about 12.30pm when we got to England where it was drizzly. I am very happy that I had the chance to go and see the great white sharks in South Africa. It was even better than I had expected.

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End of Day 8

Shark holiday: Day 7

Friday was a free day in Cape Town. We were staying in the Jewish quarter where it was quite quiet and also quite affluent. A lot of people think Cape Town is dangerous but we didn’t see anything. Some people we talked to about that said that it’s just like any other city and if you go to the wrong place at the wrong time you may have trouble but not otherwise. We didn’t have any trouble or see anything, but then we were pretty tired so we were always home by about 9pm! All the houses did have 7 foot high fences with barbed wire and electric gates though.

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We thought we might go up Table Mountain on Friday but in the end we ran out of time. We hadn’t had breakfast many days this week so we had a nice big breakfast on Friday. Then we walked to Camps Bay. This was about 4km from where we were staying and has nice beaches. The water was very cold.

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Apparently Camps Bay is quite trendy – it has a lot of bars and cafes. It was really the only place in South Africa where we had a meal that was not very good. Ben had tortillas that were very tasteless and they served lukewarm mango juice that tasted like it had been watered down.

Along the street in Camps Bay there were a lot of people trying to sell things. We bought a little table which has a chess board on the top. We didn’t buy the pieces though. Ben was a shrewd haggler! Once you buy one thing they show you all sorts of things that they would like you to buy but we did not buy anything else.

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It was quite a hot walk back but the views over Cape Town were really good and it was nice to have a day when we didn’t have a schedule.

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Then we went back to Maarten’s guesthouse where we were staying and then found a tapas bar for dinner. I hadn’t had tapas before so it was fun to try. We ordered ten samples which was fun. Unfortunately one of the first ones I tried was anchovies which I do not like at all so that put me off a bit. We also tried squid which is a bit like egg pasta.

End of Day 7

<!–intlink id="124" type="post" text="Back to Day 6“–>

Shark holiday: Day 6

Thursday was our second trip scheduled with Chris and Monique in Simon’s Town. It was an even calmer and bluer day than the previous day, and another early start. I love lying in in the morning, but it was more than worth it to get up early to see the sharks.

We were hoping to see a shark breach but the calm was not broken by a jumping shark! However, we saw lots of sharks round the boat and close up. One shark had half it’s pectoral fin missing, we think from an accident from a boat. The propellors of the boat may have chopped it off if the driver was unaware that the shark was there or wasn’t careful enough.

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One of the things that became increasingly apparent during our holiday was how vulnerable great white sharks are. They are not able to reproduce until they reach maturity at around 15 years old and have between 4-9 pups in a litter. They think they produce a litter once every two years. So very few sharks reach an age where they can reproduce so shark numbers seem to be dwindling.

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Also a lot of the sharks we saw had a lot of bite scars and scratches where the seals have fought back. This is why sharks only feed on seals in the winter months, when there isn’t much else to eat. They would really rather eat fish as they are not so able to take the sharks on.

One of the other guests on the boat dived in the cage on Thursday. We could have done so too although as it happened I don’t think we would have had time. For me it was more enjoyable seeing the sharks from the boat as I got cold quickly in the cage as the water is quite cold. You get a different view from inside the cage but an excellent view from the boat too.

It was really noticeable that when the cage was in the water the sharks were a lot more wary. We definitely saw fewer sharks on Thursday, when the cage was in the water, and they certainly kept more of a distance. That might be because it was such a strange thing to find in their environment, or possibly because the metal cage gives off electromagnetic waves that the sharks are sensitive to.

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We were originally scheduled to spend two days with Chris and Monique and two days cage diving and so were going to go back to Gansbaai for another cage dive. However, we’d enjoyed the days with Chris and Monique so much that we decided that if we got the chance we would really prefer to go with them for another day. Luckily we heard Monique say they had a cancellation for Saturday so we took the opportunity and asked if we could come along. It would mean a transfer back from Cape Town as we travelling there on Thursday afternoon but they were able to sort that out for us.

When we got back from our trip my luggage turned up.

On Thursday afternoon we transferred to Cape Town which was different again from where we had been. It’s a very quiet time of the season at the moment but compared to Simon’s Town and Gansbaai it still seemed quite bustling.

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End of Day 6

Back to Day 5 part 2
On to Day 7

Shark holiday: Day 5 Part 2

We got back from the boat at around lunchtime and after we had lunch we decided to walk to Boulders Bay. This is a penguin colony so we got to see some nice penguins.

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It was also quite interesting seeing the rocks and doing a little rock climbing on them.

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It is quite strange when you get to Boulders Bay as there are fences and walkways that make it look a bit like a zoo. You think the penguins are caged in until you realise that it’s you that is being kept where they want you! Penguins nest in holes in the ground so it is actually quite important that people don’t walk over their nests. We saw some baby penguins. Penguins don’t smell all that good.

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At Boulders Bay you can pay to go on one beach or go on the next one free. This seemed a bit strange as the free beach had nice rocks, sand and penguins a lot like the beach you have to pay on. Some Americans came to see the penguins whilst we were there too. About 5 penguins hopped out of the sea right near us. The Americans insisted on trying to get the penguins to interact with them. Why can’t people just watch animals doing what they do? They were lucky not to be pecked. Penguins are good at pecking.

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Then we walked back to our room. We were very tired as it had been some busy days and early starts but we didn’t want to go to sleep as we didn’t want to waste the holiday! So we wandered around Simon’s Town a bit and then went and got some dinner.

Ben tried Springbok for dinner. This is a sort of small antelope and he thought it was very tasty. I think that was his favourite meal. I had cape salmon. I don’t really like fish so I decided while we were on holiday with very fresh fish I would try some. It was pretty nice.

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End of Day 5.

Back to Day 5: part 1
On to Day 6