“Wow, now that was a five-star sighting!” shouted our guide Kira, as no fewer than eight curious southern right whales moved ponderously around our bobbing boat, surfing the two-metre swell, diving and rolling, eventually some forming a mating group.
It was just half an hour since we had left the tiny harbour at Gansbaai in the expert hands of Dyer Island Cruises in search of whales, sharks, seals and African penguins.
Given its proximity to Cape Town, Gansbaai has become a Mecca for whale-watching and shark-cage diving trips in the last 10 years or so. A scenic two-hour drive east, it feels even closer in the knowledgeable company of our charming guide Andrew from Wilderness Touring .
Along the way we stopped by Slashfin, sister company Marine Dynamics Shark Tours’ cage-diving boat where a sleek and lovely two-metre great white shark was circling and breaching. Being able to observe these lethal yet vulnerable predators from such close quarters is a tremendous thrill for a landlubber!
Dyer Island Cruises and Marine Dynamics are run in partnership with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT); one of its projects is a recipient of funding from the Wilderness Trust: Monitoring Cetaceans in their Natural Environment.
According to its website, “The Dyer Island Conservation Trust delivers unique conservation and research programmes in the fragile and critically important marine eco-system at the southern-most tip of Africa. [They] strive to protect the largest surviving colonies of the endangered African penguin whose numbers are at an all-time low; the globally important breeding and calving grounds of the southern right whale; and the world’s densest populations of the vulnerable great white shark.”
In much the same way as our 4Cs sustainability and conservation philosophy underpins all Wilderness Safaris’ tourism efforts, so a whale-watching outing with Dyer Island Cruises becomes so much more than just a spectacular observation of whales and sharks.
And meanwhile, unable to turn a deaf ear to Claudine’s disarming pre-trip penguin talk, colleague Ilana Stein and I are now the proud title deed holders to two ‘African penguin houses’, special nests constructed by the Trust on Dyer Island to provide shelter for these endearing but endangered little birds. And for just ZAR400 you could own one too!
Click here for more information on their work. If you’re inspired, you can donate – either directly or via the Wilderness Trust – towards their environmental awareness, greening, clean-up projects and conservation research.