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November 06, 2009

Diving with Dolphins – A Cape Town Tourism photo essay

The spring southeaster is Cape Town’s harbinger of happiness, for it signifies that summer is finally here. From a diving perspective, it is fulfils another useful function: the wind is directly offshore and blows the dirty surface layer away. This is replaced by the ice-cold, crystal-clear water from the deep in a process known as “upwelling”. This nutrient-rich water is welcomed by the bait fish shoals, which are pursued by dolphins, snoek and game fish such as yellowtail.

Following several days of a pumping southeaster, the water on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard on Saturday, October 31 was about as good as it gets – 20m underwater visibility and a chilly 10°C.

A few enthusiastic divers and photographers jumped onto a boat and headed out into the blue from Hout Bay to see if we could get some good dolphin interactions, which are notoriously rare in Cape waters.

Following a flock of birds diving for bait fish, we saw some common dolphins on the hunt, but they were not interested in stopping. The dusky dolphins, however, were a different story. They spent almost half an hour playing with us, allowing for stunning interaction and plenty of photographs to be taken.

A trio of dusky dolphins makes a close pass to eyeball the strange creature with the camera.

The dusky dolphins love to play, often swimming in formation.

Diver Steve enjoys the rare privilege of swimming with the duskies.

While in the water a Bryde’s whale swam under me, but I was not quick enough to get a photo. This animal is incredibly shy and it was such a privilege just to have seen it. The excitement on board was infectious and we all agreed the day out had been worth it.

On the way home some more dolphins appeared and we jumped back into the water. Finning fast and following some of the dolphins, I saw a huge cloud of white water ahead and the next moment I was face to face with two 30-ton humpback whales. This was my first time in the water with a really big whale and I was blown away by how large these animals actually are up close. The law in South Africa prohibits watercraft from approaching whales closer than 300m, so after a couple of minutes we swam back to the boat – but not before taking a few photos, of course!

A dusky dolphin train approaches diver Steve and photographer Peter.

A dusky dolphin leads us to a pair of humpback whales.

A pair of humpback whales playfully enjoying the day.

Lastly, we stopped at Duiker Island for a quick dip with the Cape fur seals. On one boat ride, we were able to dive with three different marine mammals in one afternoon – not too shabby for another day out at sea in the Cape!

Images © Jean Tresfon 2009

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