Seal Island False Bay – South Africa

Seal Island False Bay – South Africa


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Photos: Tony Isaacson

Seal Island in False Bay, South Africa is known for great white sharks that ambush Cape fur seals with power that rockets them out of the ocean. The breaches are spectacular. We met with Chris and Monique Fallows who are shark diving operators for Discovery Channel, National Geographic and BBC. Seal Island is the patch for Apex Shark Expeditions.

The video opens with me ahead of Chris Fallows and dive buddies getting onto Apex Shark Expeditions boat at Simon’s Town wharf. It cuts to a scene with divers being briefed aboard a Pisces Divers boat heading out from the same harbour to Partridge Point, near Cape Point Nature Reserve or Cape of Good Hope.

Don’t be confused, the boat with the shark cage was heading to Seal Island.

Anchoring off Seal Island, we saw thousands of Cape fur seals on the island. Fur seals in the water had the safety of numbers and protection from ambush provided by dense kelp forest that great white sharks avoid.

We waited hours for a great white shark to show up and returned to Simon’s Town for relief from the sinus affecting reality of being anchored down-wind from the pungent odours of Seal Island.

We jibed and bantered about swimming to Seal Island from the boat to interact with the Cape fur seals. Even on days when great white sharks are not seen, Seal Island is not the place to be snorkelling or scuba diving with seals.

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A commercial operator would lose their licence if snorkelling or diving outside of a cage at Seal Island was attempted. You would need to make your own arrangements from a private boat, or go with Pisces Divers to Partridge Point, 10 kilometres south west of Seal Island, just off the coast of Cape Peninsula.

Protected by the same kelp forests found around Seal Island, scuba divers can encounter Cape fur seals like the three sub adults that found us as objects of their curiosity. Several macro photographers were unaware that they were being approached from above and behind because there was so much to keep their focus on viewfinders. Partridge Point is a colourful and interesting dive without Cape fur seals in the mix.

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The wide view of our GoPro HERO cameras was better suited to interactions with seals. They were interested in the bite-sized cameras that had flashing LED’s on the end of a stick. Having more than one camera capturing the same behaviours gave us more options choices this video.

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The scuba diving industry is known for brand rivalries and mistrust between operators that share hometown locations and diving options. What was refreshing about Simon’s Town was the comradery observed between Apex Shark Expeditions and Pisces Divers.

My group of sardine runners who had gathered in Durban to drive 2,000 km to Simon’s Town for experiences in False Bay were unanimous with their praise of both operators. If you’re wondering if False Bay is too dangerous, cold or gloomy for diving, take our recommendation and consider both Apex Shark Expeditions and Pisces Divers for at least two days of your itinerary at Simon’s Town.

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As a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor, AWARE shark conservation specialist and adventurer, I have dived in some of the most amazing diving locations on the planet. I’ve logged over 3000 dives in more than 20 countries around the world and have explored the depths of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. I’ve documented the marine diversity in exotic locations like Komodo, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti and the Galapagos Islands. I have been scuba diving since 1970 and have a Certificate IV in training and assessment. I am a registered teacher of marine studies since 1977. In 2002, I won the "Best School in Australia" for Marine Education and the BHP Science Prize for Marine Science Teaching. I was the inaugural President and a founding member of the Marine Life Society of South Australia. In 2013, I inspired Navy Clearance Diver and bull shark bite survivor, Paul de Gelder and a 60 Minutesfilm crew to dive with bull sharks at the Ultimate Shark Encounter in Fiji. I was a consultant on the making of documentaries on Leafy Seadragons (for Channel 9), The Great Barrier Reef (with Richard Fitzpatrick for the BBC) and filmed underwater footage in Indonesia and off the Queensland and New South Wales coasts for Travel2Next. Last year, I came nose-to-nose with a 4.5m tiger shark. Isolated from my diving buddy, the adult female swam directly towards me. I made sure I was vertical in the water and prepared to scream loudly, shove the camera, mounting and lights at the shark. Fortunately, I wasn’t destined to be on the menu that day! In July 2014, I will lead an international group of diving adventurers for big shark action, the sardine run and great white sharks from Durban to Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a great advocate for sharks, sustainability and ecotourism, and I regularly volunteer for Reef Check and Grey Nurse Shark Watch in Australia. Read more about my adventures on my blog DiveCareDare.


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