May lived up to its reputation as being one of the best diving months of the year at Rocktail. Although we had the odd cold front moving through, there were only three days in the month where we could not launch due to big swells. The rest of the month provided absolutely stunning conditions with light winds and calm seas. The water temperature sat at a stable 24° Celsius throughout the month and visibility ranged between 15 – 25 metres.
Some people seem to have all the luck – and Rafal Maciejewski is certainly one of them! He arrived at Rocktail Camp a couple of days earlier than the rest of his tour group from Poland. He was excited to dive as soon as possible and was the only diver on his first day out. We headed to Elusive, the sea was flat and the visibility was crystal clear. As we swam over one of the ledges we saw a huge guitarfish and we sat on the sand and watched as it swam off into the blue. We turned to continue the dive and saw a big bull shark, also known as a Zambezi shark, a couple of metres behind us. It swam slowly closer and circled around us before swimming off out to sea. It was a wonderful moment and we could easily have ended the dive right there – but that was just the beginning of the excitement.
We cut across the reef to the central section and swam against the current in amongst a huge school of blue-banded snapper, humpback snapper, slinger and river snapper. Just ahead of us was a grey reef shark, also hanging in the current. As we continued through the wall of fish we looked up and there was a scalloped hammerhead shark swimming right above us! We also saw a black spot shark in the distance. These are small sharks which are really shy and not often seen, so also a great sighting. The dive ended with us drifting over the edge of the reef watching two huge honeycomb stingrays, one lying on the sand and the other circling, trying to find a comfortable spot to settle.
The following day the rest of the group arrived and everyone went out diving. We had an amazing dive at Gogo’s; we saw another huge guitarfish as we descended, followed by three bottlenose dolphins which swam right past us. We also saw a grey reef shark towards the end of the dive. We saw the bottlenose dolphins again as we were driving back to the beach. The following day was just as exciting when the divers got to snorkel with a manta ray after their dives!
The Polish dive group was not the only group of divers to enjoy the special sighting of a manta ray. Sam was diving with some of our other guests at Gogo’s and as they were completing their safety stop a huge manta ray swam up to them and proceeded to circle around them, the divers looking at the manta and the manta looking at the divers! A good reminder that a dive is never finished until you are back on the boat. Many divers don’t look around whilst completing their safety stop and can sometimes miss great sightings. In the past we have had marlin, sailfish, whale sharks and dolphins swimming up to us during our safety stops.
Scuba divers aren’t the only guests that get to see wonderful creatures; Ocean Experience trips also provide great sightings. We were off Mabibi just behind the backline when Darryl noticed a dark shadow which turned out to be a 3- or 4-metre-long tiger shark! This shark was cruising just behind the waves and strangely enough when Darryl asked if anyone wanted to snorkel with it, there were no takers. Sam got in the water and did a running report on the shark. She noted that it had four remoras and one large cobia, or as we commonly call it, the prodigal son. These powerful gamefish are often found hanging out with big sharks, whale sharks, manta rays and even big honeycomb or round ribbontail rays. Tiger sharks are known to hunt in the shallow water hoping to surprise an unfortunate turtle or ray.
During another Ocean Experience we had a fortunate sighting of three humpback dolphins; this particular species of dolphin is very shy and generally unapproachable. We watched them from the boat and then continued to travel along the coastline. We then came across a group of approximately 30 bottlenose dolphins. This pod of dolphins had corralled a shoal of bait fish and we watched as they hunted this ball of fish. As the dolphins chased them, they swam closer and closer to the waves and eventually ended up right where the waves were breaking. The little fish that were left were lucky enough to escape from the dolphins as a huge wave broke on the bait ball and they used the white water to swim away. It was a really wonderful spectacle for all the guests on the boat to witness.
An early and very exciting sighting was the first humpback whales of the season, seen on the 27th. We were enjoying breakfast on the beach when Clive saw one breaching out to sea, then another one. Everyone was so excited that they raced to the boat to head out for the second dive, hoping that perhaps there would be a chance to see the whales on their way to the dive site. Unfortunately we did not see them again but we were lucky to encounter a massive pod of spinner dolphins.
We are looking forward to more humpback whale sightings in the months to come.
Congratulations go to:
For completing the PADI Bubblemaker experience
For completing the PADI Discover SCUBA diving introduction in the swimming pool
For completing the PADI Discover SCUBA Diving experience
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Samantha, Mandla and Sipho
The Rocktail Dive Team