There were a lot of cyclone systems off Madagascar throughout the month of February, which had a knock-on effect here at Rocktail. The first week started out with moderately calm seas but after that there was a persistent 2-3 metre swell. The month started with north-easterly winds but they soon changed to south-westerly. This created rough seas and with the continued swell, most dives had to be conducted on reefs such as Gogo’s and Yellow Fin due to the swell pulling up sand onto the reefs. The most frustrating thing was that the water temperature was a very pleasant 26-27° Celsius, but with the swell, this made it impossible to go to any of our other, shallower dive sites.
Douw Steyn, a regular diver at Mokarran, was asking Darryl if the ragged-tooth sharks – or raggies, as we fondly refer to them – had appeared this summer. Darryl answered that we hadn’t seen any sort of larger numbers for the past two to three years. The raggies had mostly been arriving in numbers of ones and twos and then disappearing again. On that very day, Darryl took a group out for an Ocean Experience and they were snorkelling on Jack’s Playground when there was great excitement because the snorkellers said there was a very big shark underneath them! We eventually worked out that it was a raggie! So that afternoon, since the sea had calmed down nicely and it was high tide, Darryl decided to go for a snorkel on his own around Island Rock. He took Clive and Michelle’s GoPro, hoping to get footage of eagle rays feeding. While he was out there he thought that he may as well check on the cave that the raggies normally congregate in – and lo and behold, there were two raggies in the cave! Darryl got some great footage of these two sharks.
The next day Douw, who had asked about the raggies, was very keen to do a dive with them, so Clive dropped Darryl on the cave so he could snorkel down quickly to check if the two raggies were still there… but they were gone! Darryl thought to himself, here we go again! Still determined, Darryl and Clive decided to check on another part of the reef they knew the raggies congregate at sometimes – and Darryl found between 30 and 40 raggies slowly moving along the bottom of the reef. Darryl and Douw kitted up and headed down for their shark dive. It was just the two divers, and they said these raggies behaved like they had never seen divers before – approaching within a metre of them, giving them the ‘hairy eyeball’ and then cruising just over their heads before cracking their tails! They had a stunning one-hour dive with the sharks in conditions that were perfect: 27° C at the bottom, 25-metre visibility and no swell. They noted that the sharks were all big females and very pregnant. Douw is a very experienced diver and he rated this as his best dive with raggies ever. Darryl had taken the GoPro again and has some incredible footage of these fierce-looking, though actually docile sharks.
We continued to check on the raggies every time we went out over the next few days, and they were still in the same area. However, about a week later the cyclone effects started to hit us. After about two weeks of these conditions, we checked to see if they were still around but they had moved on. The swell had obviously become too big for them to stay. The raggies normally arrive in December and stay through March, when big seas move them on. But this year with the abnormal conditions we experienced, this meant they left our neck of the woods much earlier than expected.
Turtle season is not yet over and there have been lots of baby turtles hatching and doing their mad scramble to get to the sea as quickly as they can. Both loggerhead and leatherback babies were spotted with signs of their tracks still visible on the drive along the beach the following morning.
Other great sightings this month included a guitarfish, leopard shark, octopus, spawning red-fang triggerfish (which tried to bite Sam’s fins as she swam past!), two harlequin shrimp, leopard stingray, scribbled pipefish, devil rays, oscillated snake eel, ignobilis (giant kingfish), basket stars and regal angelfish.
Congratulations go to:
Victoria & Marie Grit
For completing their PADI Discover SCUBA diving pool sessions
Camille & Charlotte Grit
For completing their PADI Discover SCUBA diving experiences
For completing their PADI Open Water SCUBA diving courses
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Samantha, Mandla and Sipho
The Rocktail Dive Team