Bait Ball Watch
I teased çois and asked if SEAL 2 was painted with sardine repellant, since our morning and afternoon was spent bouncing around the Indian Ocean in search of the elusive bait ball.We find small, mobile ones that get us excited with bird activity but are often gone by the time we get ourselves into the water.No worries, but we are all hoping to find the massive bait balls featured in National Geographic specials and professional photographs.This is nature, though, and rarely predictable.Today was overcast and windy though significantly less windy than yesterday’s bone-jarring day.A storm system will move through today, messing what is already less than ideal conditions.
çois radioed up to Crash, asking if he could spot any signs of concentrated activity.
“There are some shoals out there.” Replied Crash.
“But do they have any blue rings?”çois asked
çois says the blue ring is a sign of bait ball activity; caused by the bubbles of diving gannets, jumping dolphins, and carousing sharks.“You’ll see,” he said.“You’ll see what the blue ring looks like.”
“I’m starting to think I really won’t.”
He threw his head back and laughed.“We’ll get you one.There’s still time.”
Only a day, but a lot can probably happen in those twenty-four hours
We jumped into a few different bird frenzies, one of which was a small bait ball of about fifty tiny sardines.We hovered above it, watching as the gannets dove down and the dolphins zipped through, scattering the sardines like the parting of the Red Sea.I love listening to the dolphins click at each other underwater – they’re so playful and mischievous.Above water, we’ve often found ourselves in the middle of a pod of dolphins 1000-2000 strong, which Crash says is an incredible thing to see from the air.The dolphins surf the crests of the waves and jump across the bow of the boat, sometimes three or four of them in unison.All to entertain themselves.
Birds to lead us to the bait ball
During one of our snorkels today I jumped into the water and found myself nose-to-nose with an impressive bull shark.I exclaimed through my snorkel and backed away, which is when I discovered that we’d dropped into a pod of them.As we floated they’d approach, curious, then leave to find tastier options.There were copper shark and bull shark of various shapes and sizes, as well as an interesting but unidentifiable shark with two diagonal stripes on the shank but we couldn’t locate it in the shark book.Shark identification is like bird watching, and we often converse with the other dinner guests about which species we can cross off our individual lists.Bird watching, with the added twist of potentially becoming their lunch.
Later this afternoon we pulled alongside Kevin’s boat while we all watched two large humpbacks roll through the water.From my perch on the crow’s nest I could hear music coming from Kevin’s boat.
“çois!” I exclaimed.
“How come SEAL 5 gets a radio?”
“You won’t even entertain us with stories, and they get a radio?That’s so wrong.”
Kevin called out, “This is the Rock ‘n Roll boat.SEAL 2 isn’t Rock N Roll.”
A short while later we heard music over the walkie-talkie.Kevin had put the radio up to the microphone and was playing music for us, so çois took the walkie-talkie and spun it around his head.
“Surround sound.”He quipped.
There have been times on this trip that my stomach aches from laughter.
The storm moved in and the water activity had minimalized, so we landed on the beach around 2:30 – chilled to the bone from riding around the cold wind.After a hot shower and lunch, I took my journal to the loungey area near the fireplace and promptly fell asleep beneath a thick wool blanket.The other night someone remarked – as we huddled around the fireplace – that our sundowners become more like “après skis” every day.The chill makes us forget we’re in Africa.
Before dinner was a slideshow where the photographers showed the pictures they’d taken over the last few weeks.It’s amazing to see how people view the world through a lens.They’ve had access to the same action I have, but they managed to capture the beauty, magic, and grace of the marine life in gorgeous stills.Hopefully I’ll get copies of these shots soon.
A man named John Castello came into the bar (Nic calls him “The Major of Port St John’s”) with his newly published book Mkambati and the Wild Coast.It’s a coffee table book of pictures and information about the local area and the Sardine Run.I’m not particularly fond of coffee table books because – hello – no coffee table.But these pictures capture the beauty of my week here.I bought it and had it autographed and will find it a place of honor somewhere in my tiny apartment.
My evening ended as they all have at Mboyti: in the bar.çois challenged me to a game of beer pong, which we modified for my glass of red wine and his rum and coke.Since neither of us is particularly adept at ping-pong, the only person who had to drink was me – and that was because I’d accidentally bounced the ball into my own wine glass.
The lights went out because of a fierce thunderstorm passing through the area, so the view from our seaside window was filled with long stretches of lightning and clouds.Evvy and I navigated our messy room with our torches, then climbed into bed and laughed about the antics of the evening until we were snorting with giggles.“Our neighbors are going to kill us.”She said, but that didn’t stop us from laughing and talking well into the night.
The next morning Kevin, our neighbor next door, joked over breakfast, “It’s not often I hear two beautiful women giggling in bed.I almost came over to ask if I could join the fun.”