AdventureAfricaSouth Africa

6-27: Whitecaps

A Sardine Run Day! The winds were horribly strong, but the staff was determined to get the boats out and we – the guests – didn’t care if we saw a single bait ball. We just wanted to be on the water.

çois, as always, navigated the boat into prime launch positioning and navigated the breakers with sublime skill before turning us north to find action. No luck. We turned southward. Still no luck. The weather forecast called for afternoon winds of 65 knots – gale force – so the day was certain to be cut short due to poor conditions. We found birds diving south of Mboyti and, though the visibility was too poor to see anything, this is where a majority of the SEAL boats congregated.

“Seen any action?”

We snorkeled for all of two minutes, quickly realizing that there’s nothing to see when you can’t see a damn thing in poor visibility. But we still had a number of compelling moments, like the 6-7 sharks feeding off a small bait ball near the surface; their fins and tails slapping the water as they fought over lunch.

Sharks Feeding (lower right hand corner)

Another compelling moment was when a baby hammerhead skimmed just beneath the waves by our boat. We called it “gannet food”.

Later a massive bird surfed the wind over SEAL 2, floating almost perfectly still three feet above our heads.

A French film crew is here, hovering above the action in a helicopter. Apparently they’re capturing footage for an IMAX film. That should be thrilling if it’s ever released, but I hear they’ve been filming for the past three years so I’m not expecting to see it anytime soon.

Finally, there was Davey in SEAL 1, who begged us to throw him an extra sandwich since their cooler came out one meal short. Lots of razzing involved because it’s Davey and we love to torture him.

SEAL 1 (with Davey)

Whitecaps and Self-Reflection

After a few hours on the water it was apparent that the action wasn’t getting better and the weather was getting much worse. All the SEAL boats turned north toward Mboyti for the long trip home. The wind had kicked the waves into large swells and whitecaps and – despite çois expertly navigating the rollers – the ride into the wind was bone-jarring, spine-crushing, teeth-rattling, and soaking wet. Waves crashed over the sides and drenched us, occasionally with enough force to push me out of my perch on the starboard side. After a particularly rough wave crash I turned to Ulrich and yelled over the wind with a smile, “If it weren’t for these foot straps, I wouldn’t be in this boat right now!” And I loved every minute of it. I lost count of the number of times our boat caught air, but each time we did I laughed out loud.

As we bounced past the hills of the Wild Coast I realized that I feel different. Alive. Vibrant. Happy. It occurred to me that I haven’t felt this alive in years. Three years, four months, and ten days, to be precise. I’ve been caught somewhere between existing and breathing – but this is what truly living is like. I’d completely forgotten, and the constant, unfettered joy that’s emerged is something I haven’t felt in years. There’s no weight or pressure. Just delight.

Yesterday Ant made an observation, looking at me through the rearview mirror of his Land Rover, “Even when you’re not smiling,” he said, “You’re still smiling.” I guess I am, but I can’t help it. I’m just so damned thrilled to be here. I don’t want to leave.

Magwa Falls

After a quick lunch, the group went to Magwa Falls for Sundowner. Magwa is a beautiful, multi-tiered water structure on the edge of a 300-foot gorge. I scampered about the ridge, capturing whatever pictures I could in the fading light. Nic showed me that – if I took off my shoes – I could walk safely across the rocks to the very edge of the falls and look down. It seemed like almost the edge of the earth and further romanticized Africa for me. I’m a goner, I think. This country has sucked me in.

My toes – close to the edge of the falls