As 2015 fades into a series of unforgettable memories and the New Year gathers momentum, we’re slowly returning to business as usual after a crazy, fun-filled festive season. It’s been a holiday to remember – full of sun-soaked days and starlit nights, incredible dive conditions and exciting new sightings. Above all, we’ve loved reconnecting with old friends and making brand new ones – and especially want to thank those that travelled from far afield to spend their Christmas here with us on the Shoal.
End of The Summer Holidays
Now though, the holiday crowds are beginning to disperse, and we finally have time to spare to gather our thoughts and look forward to the year ahead. Although many of our clients are heading back to work this week, the long days and warm water conditions that define the KZN summer will stay with us for several months to come. These late summer months are amongst our favourite on the Shoal, because they signal the continued presence of one of our best-loved seasonal visitors, the tiger shark.
Tiger Sharks Visit
So far, tiger season on the Shoal has been incredible, with baited shark dives yielding regular sightings of these incredible ocean predators. Measuring up to five metres in length and weighing in at around 500kg, tiger sharks are formidable predators. They are often given a bad name in the media, and yet, our experience of them has always been one of awe and beauty, rather than one of fear. Aliwal Shoal is one of only a handful of places in the world where it is possible to intentionally dive with tiger sharks cage-free, and it’s a privilege we can’t wait to fulfil over and over again in the months to come.
Protecting What’s Important
Like all shark species, tiger shark populations are threatened by a number of human issues – including overfishing, climate change, habitat destruction and shark finning. In South Africa, tiger sharks are particularly at risk from the shark nets that line the KZN coast, the express purpose of which is to catch and kill as many large sharks as possible. Because of this, tiger shark numbers appear to be dwindling – where once it was possible to see ten or more tigers on a single dive, we are now fortunate to see more than one or two at a time.
Shark ID Project
In an effort to raise awareness and help increase understanding of the Shoal’s tiger sharks, we set up an ID project in 2013 that aims to recognise individuals that return to our waters year after year. One of our greatest hopes for 2016 is to see some of those tigers already identified in previous years return safely to the Shoal; and to identify new tigers not yet seen in our area. This is something that our customers can help with – anyone with a camera has the potential to contribute to our personal conservation effort. Our 2016 tiger season got off to a great start on January 3rd, when divers spotted three tigers on a single baited dive.
Tigers aren’t the only sharks gracing us with their presence this summer. We’ve also been lucky enough to see and dive with several whale sharks – another seasonal visitor to this coast whose numbers seem to have fallen in recent years. The frequency of sightings this season is hugely encouraging, leading us to hope that these amazing creatures may once more become a regular sight during the South Coast summer. To swim alongside the world’s largest fish is a life-changing experience and a true bucket-list encounter for any shark-lover. Because whale sharks spend much of their time on the surface, it’s even possible for snorkelers to get in on the action.
2016 seems sure to bring plenty of excitements – from Sardine Run fever, to the return of the raggies later in the year. So far, the New Year has been made exceptional by its shark sightings, which is why we’re calling it our own personal Year of the Shark. If you’d like to experience Aliwal’s apex predators for yourself, get in touch via Facebook, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org