Program of the 10 Shark Species Expedition in South Africa

EXPEDITION / COURSE IN SHARK BIOLOGY

10 Shark Species Expedition in South Africa

Sharks of Southern Africa


Apex Shark Expeditions with Alessandro De Maddalena

shortfin mako shark, Isurus oxyrinchus, off Cape Point, South Africa, Atlantic Ocean

 

INTRODUCTION

The Expedition / Course in Shark Biology in South Africa is operated by Apex Shark Expeditions, owned by Chris and Monique Fallows. The expedition will be hosted by Chris and Monique Fallows with Professor Alessandro De Maddalena, three of the world’s foremost shark experts. This is a very special edition of this course since the participants will have the possibility of encountering 10 species of sharks (great white, blue, shortfin mako, ragged tooth, bronze whaler, smooth hammerhead, spotted gully, striped catshark, leopard catshark, puff adder shy shark) in their habitat and learn about biology, ethology and ecology of these predators. Everyone can dive with sharks, no scuba qualification is needed. There is space for a maximum of 6 participants, and we need a minimum of 5 for this expedition to depart. Participants must land at Cape Town Airport, South Africa, and leave from the same airport.

smooth hammerhead shark, Sphyrna zygaena, Cape Infanta, South Africa, Indian Ocean

THE TEAM

Apex Shark Expeditions is owned by Chris and Monique Fallows, who have worked in the area from 1996. In addition to being one of the leading authorities on great white shark behaviour, Chris is a professional wildlife photographer. Apex Shark Expeditions has worked with many research institutes and with the foremost media of BBC, Discovery Channel, CNN & National Geographic. They work in a manner as to interfere as least as possible with the natural behavior of animals (at no point are the sharks purposefully fed or handled, they do not use shark livers or any other attractants that have a negative impact on the environment and every effort is made to avoid the sharks coming into contact with their vessel).

Alessandro De Maddalena (Milan, 1970) is one of the world’s foremost shark experts. He’s a researcher, writer, illustrator, photographer and expedition leader. He earned a Master of Natural Science, M.Sc., from the University of Milan. His Thesis was on the presence of the great white shark in the Mediterranean Sea. He is an Adjunct Professor of Vertebrate Zoology for the post-graduate course in Marine Sciences at the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy. He’s a collaborator of Apex Shark Expeditions (South Africa), of Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions (South Australia), of Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter (Norway), and has hosted over 40 expeditions with them. During these expeditions he gives courses in biology of sharks (in South Africa and Australia) and orcas (in Norway). He’s also the curator of the Italian Great White Shark Data Bank, a founding member of the Mediterranean Shark Research Group, a Regional Investigator of the Global Shark Attack File, and an Ambassador of the Undersea Soft Encounter Alliance. He is the author of 20 books on sharks, 35 research reports in peer reviewed scientific journals and 80 articles in popular and professional magazines, published in 17 Nations. He has also given many lectures on shark biology at many universities, museums and diving associations around the world.

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COST OF THE PACKAGE

The cost includes:

– land transports (from Cape Town airport to Simon’s Town, from Simon’s Town to Cape Infanta, and from Cape Infanta to Cape Town airport),

– 7 nights accommodation (3 at The Grosvenor in Simon’s Town, and 4 at the Mudlark in Cape Infanta),

– course in biology, ethology and ecology of sharks taught by Professor Alessandro De Maddalena,

– 5 trips (weather permitting) to observe sharks and to dive (snorkelling), including 1 trip at Seal Island in False Bay and 1 trip off Gansbaai (to observe great white sharks), 1 trip off Cape Point (to observe blue and shortfin mako sharks), 2 trips off Cape Infanta (to observe ragged tooth shark, bronze whaler shark, smooth hammerhead shark, spotted gully shark, striped catshark, leopard catshark, puff adder shy shark),

– 1 trip (weather permitting) to dive (snorkelling) with Cape fur seals in Hout Bay,

– wetsuit and weight belt,

– possibility to observe other marine animals (southern right and Brydes whales,  long-beaked common dolphins, African penguins, etc.),

– breakfast, sandwiches and, during the staying in Cape Infanta, even the dinner.

NB: Flights are NOT included. A 5 mm wetsuit and a weight belt are included, but participants must bring their own mask, snorkel, fins, booties, undersuit, etc.

For certified scuba divers there is the possibility to add 2 extra trips to scuba dive with broadnose sevengill sharks at Pyramid Rock, and with Cape fur seals at Partridge Point, in the False Bay. These dives are at an additional cost and are not included in the package cost.

 

ITINERARY

Day 1: transport from Cape Town airport to Simon’s Town,

Day 2: great white trip at Seal Island,

Day 3: blue and mako shark trip off Cape Point,

Day 4: seal trip in Hout Bay in the morning, and transport from Simon’s Town to Cape Infanta in the afternoon,

Day 5: first ragged tooth / hammerhead / bronze whaler / catshark trip off Cape Infanta,

Day 6: second ragged tooth / hammerhead / bronze whaler / catshark trip off Cape Infanta,

Day 7: Cape Infanta tour with observation of land animals,

Day 8: great white shark trip off Gansbaai in the morning, and transport from Cape Infanta to Cape Town airport in the afternoon.

NB: This itinerary is merely indicative and subject to change at the discretion of the operator.

 

MEETING WITH THE GROUP

Participants will communicate to Alessandro De Maddalena their arrival at Cape Town International Airport (please provide fly company, flight number, date and time). Pick up at the airport will be arranged for every participant. They will find a driver from Apex Shark Expeditions waiting for them at Cape Town airport (passed the documents’ check point and the baggage claim point, in the next hall, after the sliding glass door). The transfer is a 50 minute drive to Simon’s Town. Participants will meet Alessandro De Maddalena upon their arrival at The Grosvenor in Simon’s Town.

COURSE ON BIOLOGY, ETHOLOGY AND ECOLOGY OF SHARKS

The course will be taught by Professor Alessandro De Maddalena. The lectures will be held at your place of accommodation. Each lesson lasts approximately 1 hour for a total of approximately 7 hours of lectures. Every day the lectures are taught in english, french and italian. During the boat trips, Alessandro De Maddalena and the Apex crew will be available to answer to all participants’ questions as the shark trips are a fundamental part of the course. Course program includes: evolution, classification, identification, size, coloration, morphology, swimming, buoyancy, skin, skeletal system, muscular system, digestive system, respiratory system, circulatory system, nervous system, sensory perception, urogenital system, reproduction, habitat, distribution, movements, mutualism, parasites, predators, social behaviours, predatory strategies, diet, the great white shark, threat to humans, fisheries, utilization, captivity, shark diving, conservation, research.

CAGE DIVING WITH GREAT WHITE SHARKS IN FALSE BAY

One morning great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) trip at Seal Island, in False Bay, is scheduled from Simon’s Town, weather permitting. The vessel, White Pointer II, is a 36-ft boat with a crew of 3-4 persons. The dives are in a steel cage which accommodates four guests at a time. Everyone can cage dive, no scuba qualification is needed. All diving is on snorkel. We prefer not to use scuba equipment which produces a lot of noise and bubbles. This often keeps the sharks from coming close. Cage divers will have a better chance of seeing the sharks if we can communicate the direction the sharks are coming from, especially when the water visibility is poor. During white shark cage dives, the cage is fixed to the boat. Participants must keep in mind that great white sharks are very dangerous animals, it is therefore necessary to follow carefully the instructions given by Apex’s staff. Do not stretch out your hands or feet from the cage nortouch the sharks and in general do not do anything that can threaten yours and the other guests safety. It is advised to bring a second skin to wear under the wetsuit for extra warmth and comfort. Sightings of sharks are not guaranteed. The expedition takes place during the low season for white shark predation on seal in the area. This means that white sharks are not abundant and it is not possible to see them catching Cape fur seals or breaching on the decoy. But we should still see them visiting the boat and the cage. If the weather does not permit to go out at sea in the morning we may try in the afternoon. Moreover if the weather does not allow a trip from Simon’s Town, there may be the possibility to go out to sea from Gansbaai (two hours road transfer from Simon’s Town); in this case there will be a surcharge to cover transfers. In the case where a trip has to be cancelled due to bad weather, a land-based activity will be organized and guests will not be refunded. (see section Excursions in case of cancelled shark trips). Simon’s Town pier is the meeting point for the white shark trips. The meeting and departure times may vary depending on shark activity (punctuality is necessary). The boat ride to Seal Island is 25-35 minutes. We will arrive at Seal Island around sunrise to observe the natural predatory behavior of great white sharks breaching to catch Cape Fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus). Thereafter a seal shaped decoy is used to elicit a breach to observe this behavior up close. The 60 000 Cape Fur seals of Seal Island are observed for the presence of white shark bitten individuals. The best spot to anchor up is then chosen based on weather conditions and the sharks are attracted to the vessel. Once a shark approaches the boat a small bait is put in the water to keep the sharks interested around the boat for identification and viewing purposes. If the weather conditions are favourable, the cage is lowered into the water for cage diving. A light lunch and snacks are offered on board (see section meals). It is usually possible to see other wildlife, especially many species of sea birds (skuas, terns, shearwaters, petrels, penguins, albatrosses) and sometimes long-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus capensis), short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), southern right whales (Eubalaena australis), and Brydes whales (Balaenoptera edeni). We arrive back at Simon’s Town pier around lunch time.

 

CAGE DIVING WITH BLUE AND MAKO SHARKS OFF CAPE POINT

One boat trip to observe shortfin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus) and blue sharks (Prionace glauca) is scheduled from Simon’s Town, weather permitting. This trip is done in the open ocean, in the Agulhas Current off Cape Point, therefore the boat journey time is a lot longer than the great white shark trips. During the dives with blue and mako sharks the cage is kept separate from the boat, to allow a better view to the divers (only snorkel is used). Please keep in mind that mako and blue sharks are dangerous animals, therefore those that decide to dive with the sharks do it at their own risk. In general, it is also necessary to follow carefully the instructions given by Apex’s staff, do not stretch out hand or feet from the cage, do not touch the sharks and in general do not make anything that can threaten yours and other persons’ safety. The meeting for the mako and blue shark trips with Apex Shark Expeditions is at Simon’s Town harbour at 6:20, and we leave at 6:30 (punctuality is necessary). We sail for 1.5-2.5 hours, firstly towards the spectacular Cape Point then to the open ocean, to the Agulhas Current, between 10 and 25 miles off Cape Point. When we find mako and blue sharks, we observe them from the boat and, if the weather conditions are favourable, the cage is lowered into the water for cage diving. Usually is possible to see even other animals, such as smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna zygaena), bronze whaler sharks (Carcharhinus brachyurus), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), ocean sunfish (Mola mola), long-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis),  Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edeni) and many species of sea birds (skuas, terns, shearwaters, petrels, penguins, albatrosses). A light lunch and snacks are offered on board (see sections “Meals”). We come back to Simon’s Town harbour at 15-16.

 

DIVING WITH RAGGED TOOTH, BRONZE WHALER, SMOOTH HAMMERHEAD, SPOTTED GULLY SHARKS, AND CATSHARKS OFF CAPE INFANTA

Four boat trips to observe ragged tooth shark (Carcharias taurus), bronze whaler shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena), spotted gully shark (Triakis megalopterus), striped catshark (Poroderma africanum), leopard catshark (Poroderma pantherinum), puff adder shy shark (Haploblepharus edwardsii) from the Breede River are scheduled from the Breede River, weather permitting. These trips are done in the inshore waters of Cape Infanta, in the Indian Ocean, and the boat journey time is approximately 20 minutes. In the Cape Infanta area we freedive and snorkel, without the cage and without tanks; a safety diver is present in the water at all times and no more than two guests are in the water at any time ensuring a safe and very personal encounter. The dives with smooth hammerhead and bronze whaler sharks are done a few hundred metres from the shore, and the depth of the water is approx. 12-15 m. The dives with ragged tooth sharks, spotted gully sharks, and catsharks, are done a few dozens metres from the shore, and the depth of the water is 3-7 m. Please keep in mind that bronze whaler, smooth hammerhead and ragged tooth sharks are potentially dangerous animals,therefore those that decide to dive with the sharks do it at their own risk. In general, it is also necessary to follow carefully the instructions given by Apex’s staff, do not touch the sharks and in general do not make anything that can threaten yours and other persons’ safety. Time of the meeting for these shark trips off Cape Infanta and time of coming back to the Mudlark vary days by days depending by weather and presence of sharks.

AFRICAN PENGUINS COLONY AT BOULDERS BEACH

In Simon’s Town, there is an African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) colony. The colony is only 15 minutes walk from the Grosvenor. It is possible to approach close to the penguins to take photographs, but touching the penguins is forbidden. There is an entrance fee to the colony.

 

ADDITIONAL DIVES WITH BROADNOSE SEVENGILL SHARKS AND CAPE FUR SEALS

Scuba divers have the possibility to add two more dives with the broadnose sevengill sharks and Cape fur seals in False Bay. This is optional and is not included in the package cost. These dives can be done back to back and weather permitting. The dive with broadnose sevengill sharks or cow sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) is at Pyramid Rock, while the dive with Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) is at Partridge Point. Usually we leave from Miller’s Point by rubber duck. The depth of water is 10-12 m. Usually from 3 to 20 sevengill sharks ranging from 1 to 3 m in length are encountered in each dive. Other species of sharks that can be encountered include spotted gully shark (Triakis megalopterus), pyjama shark or striped catshark (Poroderma africanum), leopard catshark (Poroderma pantherinum), brown shyshark (Haploblepharus fuscus) and puffadder shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii). Please keep in mind that broadnose sevengill sharks and Cape fur seals are potentially dangerous animals, therefore those that decide to dive with them do it at their own risk. In general, it is also necessary to follow the instructions given by your dive master. Do not touch the sharks and the seals and in general do not do anything that can threaten yours and the other diver’s safety. Although great white sharks have been seen in the area the chances of encountering one of these whilst on this dive is remote.

 

EXCURSIONS IN CASE OF CANCELLED SHARK TRIPS

Where a great white shark trip has to be cancelled due to bad weather, there will be no refund, and a half day excursion will be arranged. Any of the below trips can be done in the afternoon as an optional extra. In this case, the cost of the tour depends on the number of participants who wish to join you. In order to guarantee total security, these trips will be done with a transport com-pany associated with Apex Shark Expeditions.

  1. a) CAPE POINT NATURE RESERVE

At the tip of the Cape Peninsula 60 km south-west of Cape Town, lies Cape Point, a nature reserve within the Table Mountain National Park; a declared Natural World Heritage Site. Encompassing 7750 hectares of rich and varied flora and fauna; abounding with buck, baboons and Cape Mountain Zebra as well as over 250 species of birds, Cape Point is a nature enthusiast paradise. Rugged rocks and sheer cliffs towering more than 200 metres above the sea and cutting deep into the ocean provide a spectacular background for the Parks’ rich bio-diversity. The natural vegetation of the area, fynbos, comprises the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms. The lightouse completed in 1860 still stands at 238 metres above sea-level on the highest section of the peak and it can be reached by feet or by funicular. There is an entrance fee to the Reserve.

  1. b) KIRSTENBOSCH NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDEN

The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is the most beautiful garden in Africa and is one of the great botanic gardens of the world. The Kirstenbosch is located against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Kirstenbosch was established in 1913 to promote, conserve and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa. There are over 7000 species in cultivation at Kirstenbosch, including many rare and threatened species, covering a 36 hectares area. There is an entrance fee to the Garden.

  1. c) CAPE TOWN

There are two possible shark-related places to visit in Cape Town: the South African Museum (Iziko Museums) and Two Oceans Aquarium. The South African Museum (Iziko Museums) ( www.iziko.org.za ) is located at 25 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town, and hosts a permanent exhibit on sharks, Shark World, with taxidermied specimens, life-size models and jaws. Photographs are allowed. The visit lasts approx one hour. There is an entrance fee to the Museum. The Two Oceans Aquarium ( www.aquarium.co.za ) is located at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, and hosts numerous fish species, including sandtiger shark (Carcharias taurus), spotted gully shark (Triakis megalopterus), Puffadder shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii) and Dark shyshark (Haploblepharus pictus). Photographs are allowed. The visit lasts approx one hour and half. There is an entrance fee to the Aquarium.

  1. d) TABLE MOUNTAIN

The Table Mountain is a 1086 m mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town. In approx. five minutes, the Table Mountain Cableway takes passengers to the plateau at the top of the mountain, offering views overlooking Cape Town, the ocean and the surrounding peaks. It’s important to bear in mind that the Cableway can be closed at any time due to high winds and clouds.

  1. e) DE HOOP NATIONAL PARK

De Hoop is a Nature Reserve near Cape Agulhas, that covers 36000 hectares and includes 3 nautical miles of marine protected area. It is a World Heritage Site due to endemic species from the Cape Floral Kingdom. There are 260 species of birds and 86 mammals including the rare bontebok and Cape mountain zebra, as well as eland, grey rhebuck, baboon, yellow mongoose, caracal and the occasional leopard. There is an entrance fee to the Park.

  1. f) BREEDE RIVER CRUISE

The Breede River flows into San Sebastian Bay at Witsand. The whole area is majestically beautiful. The mouth of the Breede River, is South Africa’s largest river estuary. The gently flowing water of Breede River and the absence of crocodiles, hippos and mosquitoes make this a popular weekend destination. The Breede River has a rich fauna, that includes bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas).

ACCOMMODATION

We’ll have 7 nights accommodation. We’ll stay 3 nights in Simon’s Town, a small town located south of Cape Town, approximately one hour by car from the airport, overlooking False Bay. Accommodation is self catering at The Grosvenor ( www.thegrosvenor.co.za ), a group of elegant apartments with view on False Bay. The Grosvenor is just 12 minutes walk from the harbour where Apex Shark Expeditions’ boat, White Pointer II, is moored, and is very close to Simon’s Town center. We’ll have bedding and towels. The rooms we may have for our group are twin sharing. It’s possible to have a single room, with a supplement and if requested in advance. The rooms have a bathroom en-suite. We’ll have a large kitchen for the entire group. Wi-Fi internet connection is available at The Grosvenor, for which it needs to pay by credit card (keep in mind that internet connection is slow). We’ll stay 4 nights in Cape Infanta, a beautiful green area located east of Cape Town, approximately four hours by car from Simon’ Town. Accommodation is at The Mudlark ( www.mudlark.co.za ), a beautiful lodge overlooking the Breede River, located 5 minutes by boat from the mouth of the river, in the Indian Ocean. The Mudlark is just in front of the pier where Apex Shark Expeditions’ boat, White Pointer I, is moored. We’ll have bedding and towels. The rooms we may have for our group are twin sharing. The rooms have a bathroom en-suite. Wi-Fi internet connection is available at The Mudlark, for which it needs to pay by cash. It is important to keep in mind that in South Africa there are power sockets of type M (BS 546 3-pin plugs, 15-A). Adapters can be easily found in stores and supermarkets in South Africa, but can be found even in other countries even if they are less common.

EXCHANGE

There are automated teller machines available in Simon’s Town where it is possible to withdraw Rands, but there are no banks to exchange Euros or dollars into Rands. Keep in mind that ATM scams and credit card fraud are common in South Africa, so you should keep withdrawals from ATMs to a minimum and refuse offers of help at ATMs. It is suggested to activate the SMS transaction notification service for your card. You will be notified about your transactions in real time and this will enable you to identify any fraudulent transactions taking place on your card.

MEALS

Breakfast, sandwiches and, during the staying in Cape Infanta, even the dinner, are included. For lunch and dinner we can make use of the large kitchen at The Grosvenor (there is a small supermarket at 5 minutes walk from the house) or we can choose one of the cheap restaurants located in the harbour area or near Boulders Beach, a 12-15 minute walk from The Grosvenor (they serve anything from fish and meat to pasta and pizza, and also vegetarian dishes).

INSURANCE

Please note that travel insurance is not included. It is wholly the participants responsibility to obtain adequate travel insurance.

PASSPORT

For entering South Africa it is necessary to have a passport with validity of at least 30 days after the date planned for your return to your Country. US and most European Union citizens don’t require a visa (check at the local South African Consulate). Passport needs to have 2 blank pages (if you don’t have 2 blank pages you risk not boarding at all).

VACCINATIONS

No vaccination is compulsory to visit South Africa. Malaria prophylaxis is suggested only for those visiting Kruger area and the coastal area north of Durban, therefore not for the Western Cape area where we will stay.

BAGGAGE

Considering the repeated and extremely frequent delays in the delivery of the baggage, it is strongly suggested to carry only hand luggage. Moreover when you embark, stay near the front of the queue as if the flight is full, the crew may request you check your hand baggage into the baggage compartment. If, at Cape Town airport you find out that your baggage hasn’t arrived, you must go immediately to the undelivered baggage point (in the same hall of the baggage claim point, on the right) and give the following address for the delivery of your baggage (it will be delivered 36 or 60 hours after):

The Grosvenor, 37 Forest Hill Road, Simon’s Town, South Africa. Mobile: +27795573201

 

TEMPERATURE AND WEAR

During our staying in South Africa it will be Summer. From Simon’s Town is possible to see amazing sunrises. The average temperature in February in Simon’s Town ranges from 16 to 30°C, while in Cape Infanta ranges from 12 to 25°C. At sea it can be cold and windy. Weargear for the trips is not provided by the operator. Therefore it is suggested to bring a waterproof jacket to protect from the wind and cold, long pants, cap, glows, boots or other waterproof shoes, swim-suit, wet undersuit, suntan lotion. We also reccomend that you bring polarized sunglasses. It is suggested to wear in layers, so that if the temperature raises it is possible to uncover gradually. Water temperature is between 16 and 20°C in the False Bay, 18-21°C in the Agulhas Current, and between 19-23°C in Cape Infanta.

 

SEASICKNESS MEDICINE

It is important to prevent sea sickness. We recommend: Stugeron (cinnarizine) or Dramamine (dimenhydrinate). Stugeron works very well; a tablet taken the night before and a tablet in the morning an hour before you go to sea. It is strongly advised not to drink alcoholic beverages at night as alcohol can cause severe sea sickness.

 

PAYMENT TERMS

A non-refundable deposit of 50% to be paid upon booking. The balance of the monies to be paid by 120 days before the expedition start.

 

CANCELLATION POLICY

Here the information concerning refund and fee in the case that one of the participants decide to retire from the Expedition / Course in Shark Biology.

– Cancellation 120 days or more before the time of start date: 50% of the fee.

– Cancellation less than 120 days before start date: 100% of the fee.

– No show or late arrival: 100% of the fee.

 

Dates, costs and spots left for all the expeditions are available at this page:
http://www.alessandrodemaddalena.net/uk/expeditionscourses/

CONTACTS

E-mail: alessandrodemaddalena@gmail.com
Sito web: www.alessandrodemaddalena.net
Facebook: www.facebook.com/alessandro.demaddalena.1

 

 

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