South Africa: Cape Town to the Antarctic Pack Ice
30 Oct to 18 Nov 2002
Ocean Wanderers is proud to present the second illustrated trip report written by seabird and marine mammal fanatic John Brodie-Good. This time we voyage south from Cape Town into the poorly known pack ice zone John is the founder and owner of WildWings (and its sister company WildOceans), specialist nature travel companies based in Bristol, England. Together WildWings and WildOceans offer an unrivaled range of seabird and marine mammal orientated holidays at excellent prices.
The expedition was concieved
and organized by Birding Africa
and Cape Town Pelagics.
Offical Cruise Track showing the route taken on this exploratory birding trip from Cape Town to the Prince Edward Islands and packice zone. Map copyright of CapeTownPelagics.
Click here to read Peter Ryan's (expedition leader) account of the trip and view many wonderful photographs by Paul Funston and Claire Spottiswoode and others.
Hope you enjoy the account! Cheers, Angus Wilson
Need more information?
I recommend visiting the WildWings
web site (http://www.wildwings.co.uk/) or requesting their excellent catalogue
(WildWings, 577-579 Fishponds Road, Bristol, BS16 3AF, England; Phone: +44 (0)117-9658-333;
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). By booking a trip through them, you are guaranteed
excellent and friendly service as well as help with flights, side-trips etc.
Please mention that you learned about their operation through Ocean Wanderers.
You can read John's account of a cruise through the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia by clicking here.
Part 1 - Pre-cruise
As the 747 made itís final turn before landing, Cape Town lay in the African morning, bathed in sunshine with the famous Table Mountain behind, the long wait was nearly over. I met my travelling companions on arrival, Tony Marr, Angus Wilson, Dick Newell and Pete Fraser. We just about fitted in to our rented vehicle with all our gear and headed north towards Lambertís Bay, a drive of just over 4 hours. The shanty town just by the airport exit a reminder of the two very different worlds that still exist in this country today. We drove on good roads, largely through agricultural countryside, with the odd patch of Fynbos (South Africaís unique native floral kingdom). We arrived at the small fishing port of Lambertís Bay late afternoon and after asking directions drove south along a dirt road for about 10kms and pulled into our farm guest house for the night. After a welcome spread of tea and cakes we walked for a few hours before dinner, ending up on the beach with distant Southern Right Whales cavorting in the haze. A nice collection of birds were seen, including a few European Bee Eaters enjoying the warmth of their winter home. White-fronted Plover and African Black Oystercatcher were along the shoreline with lines of cormorants and gannets passing offshore. Our first African Penguin sadly looked like it was going to expire shortly, it lay motionless on the beach, with signs of oiling on itís underparts. After an enormous farmhouse dinner, a brief look at the stunning southern night sky it was early to bed to catch up on some sleep after many hours of travelling.
A dawn stroll towards the beach was rewarded with superb views of a Cape Grysbok, a delightful little antelope which was feeding amongst the coastal scrub. A pup Cape Fur Seal lay in the early morning sun, whilst a few adults could be seen in the breaking waves offshore. After an equally enormous breakfast, we drove into Lambertís Bay itself in search of our boatman. We were quickly heading north over calm seas in search of this regionís small endemic dolphin, Heavisideís. Our skipper warned us before departure they had been elusive recently, not something we wanted to hear with so little time available. A giant petrel swept by, reminding us of the great ocean voyage that lay ahead. Within a few minutes our first Heavisideís appeared, moving quickly through the water. It was clear they were not in the mood for interaction, presumably feeding, but we enjoyed good views as our boatman skillfully turned around them, giving them plenty of room. In fact the animals were only a few hundred yards off the sand dunes which ran north of the town.
First described in 1827 by Captain Haviside, this small and stocky dolphin is restricted to the cold waters of the Benguela Current that runs along the western coast of South Africa and Namibia. Heaviside's Dolphins [note misspelling], are found in small grounds close to shore. One of the most distinctive features is the triangular rather than falcate dorsal fin. The head is cone shaped, without a clearly defined snout. As can be seen in this photograph, the front half of the body is light grey, becoming dark bluish black below the dorsal fin and on the tail stock.
Before returning to the harbour we went over to take a close look at the Cape Gannet colony, located on the rocky outcrop behind the town. Plenty of birds, the breeding season about to begin. A specially constructed hide allows very close views of the heaving throng, an excellent vantage point for photography. Nice to see South African school children visiting too. A few African Penguins present and a pair of Kittlitzís Sandplovers running around some bare ground behind the colony. Many Swift Terns were settled by the harbour wall, nesting Cape Gulls, Hartlaubís Gulls and a few handsome Grey-headed Gulls. We started heading back down to Cape Town via a small estuary, both Greater and Lesser Flamingos could be seen along with a number of shorebirds but the heat haze meant most of these went unidentified apart from some Avocets and Black Winged Stilts. Instead of staying on the main road we cut west to the coastal road and drove through a larger area of Fynbos. The van screeched to a halt on a number of occasions as we enjoyed great views of Black Harriers. We arrived back in Cape Town to join the rush hour traffic out towards the peninsula, the location of our guest house for the night. Set high on a hillside facing west, an area of marshes below us and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
Somewhat apprehensive dolphin watchers are transfered by dingy to a small fishing boat. Photo by Angus Wilson.