AdventureAfricaSouth Africa

6/24: Bait Balls

Our Own Bait Ball

The dive mission of the day was to find ourselves the dream bait ball. There had been one offshore early this morning but it was long before we’d launched.
I sat for a bit in the crow’s nest – the “lookout chair” – where the goal is to scan the horizon for bird activity. Swooping and diving birds is always an excellent sign of a bait ball of sardines. There were dense collections of birds flying about, but rarely were they concentrated enough to signify a bait ball. When a bait ball appears, the birds (usually Gannets) dive into the water with unbelievable speed and agility, and the ocean shows moments of utter chaos as birds dive, dolphins swim, and sharks swarm.
Gannets diving into a baitball
We add to the chaos by jumping in and snorkeling about, trying to stick as close together as possible so a shark doesn’t mistake us for an overly-large fishy lunch. Once we found a smaller bait ball beneath us – perhaps 5×5 – that swam in all directions before finally disappearing after twenty minutes. çois says the baitballs can be so big that we can sometimes dive with them for hours. That’s a dream for a group of divers who have yet to see any significant diving. Each time we spot a potential bait ball, we throw on our snorkel gear and hop into the water. After ten minutes of snorkeling our little bait balls will swim away and we climb back into SEAL 2 where we look for the next sighting. Today was a lot of in-and-out of the water – but all was worthwhile.
On one of our entries we landed almost directly on top of a Bryde’s Whale which surprised all of us, but probably the whale most. It was chaotic hilarity, since we all simultaneously exclaimed through our snorkels, the whale freaked and quickly sped away, and çois was up on the surface panicking about it taking out his boat. “Look out for the boat, Big Girl!”

“That’s Why They Call It The Wild Coast”

When activity on the north side quieted down, we boated forty-five minutes south because there was talk of action there. This trip is certainly not for the faint-hearted. As çois flies our little zodiac through the rough ocean at full speed, we catch waves and smack roughly on the other side of the water. And if you’re not holding on through the foot straps or the hand grips then you’ll certainly fly out of the boat. But this is exactly what we all came for – the exhilaration, the speed, the adrenaline, and the constant feeling of beauty.
On our speedy flight south we passed two massive humpback whales which çois slowed to see. We stayed to watch for a few minutes and “ewwed “ each time they broke the surface, but soon we were antsy to go. “This is what it’s like, Chaps!” çois joked, “You’ve got stuff here, you’ve got stuff down south, and you have to figure out what you want.”
“South!” We said. Because who cares about two silly humpbacks when you have millions of fish waiting for you? Three days of this and we’re already jaded.
Three Humbpack Whales

Horseback Riding

We were the last boat to land today around 2:30. At 3:30 I went horseback riding on the beach with the Pan Aqua group. We traveled North along the coastline crossing three sandy beaches and two rocky hillsides that offered plummeting views of waves crashing against rocks. I’ve never been on horseback before and I did pretty well for a first-timer. I felt comfortable enough that, by the end, I’d urged my horse into a little canter (or was it a trot?) along the beach in the setting sun. The foremost thought in my head was, “I’m in Africa. Riding on a horse. On the beach.” It was like something out of a romance novel.

Jokes of Poor Taste

Dinner was a long, noisy affair with Evelyn (now “Evvy”), çois, and Andy – the staff paramedic. Andy specializes in jokes that reach far beyond the realm of tasteful company and into a world of blue, sophomoric, curl-your-toes humor. Evvy and I could barely speak we were laughing so hard. He told us his “joke of the week”, which involves a facial expression and something he does with his hands and can’t possibly be described through simple grammar, but it’s enough to say that my stomach hurt from laughter. I have no retention for jokes and am enthralled by people who can reel them off the top of their heads, weaving them into conversation with natural ease.
Our Night of Jokes moved into the bar for an extended Sundowner, though the sun had long since gone down.