Up at 06.00, calm seas at last, and sunshine….an immature Wanderer type in the wake, a few Shys, immature Black-browed and a couple of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross’s. Arrival time in Cape Town is now 20.00 tonight. After breakfast, up on the monkey island. In such calm sea conditions, cetaceans at last, two Humpbacks in the distance a very small (Dwarf) Minke Whale and the single tall blow of a Fin Whale. Im pretty convinced this ship is ‘noisy’ as far as cetaceans are concerned, they seem to move away very quickly. A few Great Shearwaters along with many Great-winged Petrels and Dick Newell called the first of a number of wintering Leaches Storm-Petrels. Lunch wasserved on the back helideck and soon the shape of the tip of Africa could be seen, land at last. The Cape of Good Hope was the nearer point, Cape Agulhas in the distance, where the Atlantic & Indian Oceans meet,the very tip of Africa.
Several fishing boats could be seen coming up, fishing over an undersea canyon approx 25 miles off the coast, the main site for the day trip birding pelagics from Simonstown. Quite a few birds now including our first Cory’s Shearwaters of the trip, several individual and then a flock of about 25 Sabine’s Gulls. Shortly a flock of over 2000 were seen! A Sub-Antarctic Skua rose from the gentle swell and flew around the ship a couple of times. A pair of distant dolphins lept clear of the sea. Last chance for the photographers, this time shooting from the bows as some of the albatross’s, petrels and shearwaters came very close. We were now running down the west coast of the Cape Peninsula, journey’s end just hours away. Lines of Cape Gannets and cormorants flew past, hundreds of terns fishing, a few Arctic Skuas amongst them. A group of 30 or so Dusky Dolphins rushed by on the port side. We were goinging to have to wait to dock, the pilots were busy. the captain swung us in towards the coast a little, in the direction of some whale blows. Five or so adult and a very young calf Humpbacks feeding in a deep channel, flukes showing as they sounded. A tall blow announced the presence of a single Fin Whale in the area too. In the distance Southern Right Whales frocklicking in the waves offshore, one animal apparently breaching.
As we commenced our final run in, a small group of Common Dolphins of our starboard side. A Rock Pigeon landed on the back rail, unexpectedly adding itself to the trip list! We noted the ship Marco Polo in port, one of our vessels for our Antarctic tours. The pilot came on board as we entered the outer harbour and by 18.30 we were tied up where we started, Cape Town docks.
Peter Fraser, John Brodie-Good and Martin Hale have changed into their smart togs ready for a slap up meal on dry land.
After a very pleasant night in our guest house we spent a few hours down by the lighthouse and ‘tern pool’ by the Atlantic. A glorious sunny morning, the rollers coming into the beach full of the local surfers. The Humpbacks from yesterday were still offshore, and the Fin Whale. Various cormorants bobbed around in the kelp beds, terns fishing offshore or resting on the rocks, mainly Swift Terns and hundreds of wintering Common Terns from Europe, along with a few Sandwich. Alpine Swifts and Steepe Buzzard overhead, it was easy to see why so many of our birds fly the long journey south, to enjoy the summer climate of this part of the world.
Hundreds of Common, Swift and Sandwich Terns gather to rest and preen on the rocks at Kommetjie. Photo by Angus Wilson.
A dainty White-fronted Plover, bedecked with jewelry, scuttles across the rocks. Photo by Angus Wilson.
Lunch with Jim Enticott, of the ‘Photographic Guide to Seabirds’ fame. He spends much of his time working as an observer on fishing boats off the Falklands. He reckoned the situation was slowly improving in respect of long-liners but no one had even looked at squid boats, and there were hundreds of them. Much more work still needs be done to preserve the wonderful wildlife of the Southern Oceans, it’s all still very scary. It was now time for us to fly north again, back to the Northern winter.
A taxonomically correct (almost) House Crow waves us off at Cape Town Airport. Photo by Angus Wilson.
here for the Trip List (seabirds and mammals)