OUR MARINE ENVIRONMENT

Situated near Cape Agulhas, the southern-most tip of Africa, Kleinbaai in Gansbaai hosts an extraordinary marine environment!

The colony of about 60,000 Cape Fur Seals on Dyer Island at the centre of the bay attracts one of the densest and most accessible populations of Great White Sharks in the world. Shark sightings are a daily occurrence throughout the year with a peak in the Southern Hemisphere winter (May-September). Despite their numbers and the frequent sightings, much research still needs to be conducted on this Great White Shark population.

Through our sponsorship of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (www.dict.co.za), made possible by income from our eco-tourism programmes including cage diving, we are filling this knowledge gap. Valuable research is conducted from our cage diving boat – Slashfin. The Trust has a dedicated research boat, Lwazi (Xhosa for "seeking knowledge") from which our marine biologists study important aspects of shark behaviour.

Much of our work has been published in reputable journals and presented at international conferences.
The bay is also a vitally important calving and nursing area for the Southern Right Whale: Each year the Southern Right Whales migrate from their feeding grounds in the sub-Antarctic to breed here and to give birth. Whales are most often seen between July and December each year either in mating groups or accompanied by recently born calves.

Fortunately, boat-based access to these animals is strictly controlled with only a limited number of licences being given to responsible tour operators. Dyer Island Cruises provides some of the best boat-based whale watching in the world. At the same time data which we collect provides the foundation for future research.

In addition to Southern Right Whales we also see Humpback Whales and Brydes’ Whales while large pods of Bottlenose and Common Dolphins also visit the bay. Sometimes we are even lucky enough to see small groups of the near-threatened Humpback Dolphin.

Dyer Island is one of the important breeding colonies of African Penguins around the coast of the Cape. The habitat of this charming bird was largely destroyed in the 19th and early 20th centuries when guano was stripped from the islands. This removed the soft ground into which the penguins could burrow and nest, which means that these days their eggs and chicks are exposed to predators and the elements. Coupled with the historical harvesting of their egg as a delicacy, overfishing and marine pollution this has caused the population to fall by 90% in the last 100 years and it is now at an all-time low, and they are now classified as endangered.

With financial and logistical support from Marine Dynamics and Dyer Island Cruises, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust pioneered the award winning Faces of Need Programme of research and conservation. Using specially designed nests, the Trust has now provided > 1000 houses for breeding penguins on islands and shore based colonies around the Cape.

To fully understand the richness of this marine environment and our conservation efforts, visit www.dict.org.za