Adopt an Endangered African Penguin (for your valentine)

February 10, 2015

To commemorate Valentine’s Day this year, I thought it would be appropriate to post about the endangered African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus), or as I like to call them: lovebirds! These flightless birds, are as you may know, monogamous; with a startling 80-90% of couples remaining together for their entire lives! Can you imagine? That percentage is far higher than us homo sapiens!
South African Penguins - Boulder's Beach, South Africa
South African Penguins “Lovebirds”

A FEW FACTS ABOUT AFRICAN PENGUINS

The breeding season is mostly between the months of March and May, however, it seems you can find a few couples in some stage of the breeding cycle throughout the year. Apparently this is quite different from most other bird species.

These lovebirds begin mating around the age of four and usually results in the creation of two eggs, one for each parent (the perfect size family). During the incubation period, which usually lasts about 40 days, the pair takes equal turns caring for the eggs.

Their habitat ranges from Port Elizabeth, South Africa up the western coast of the country and into Namibia. However, due to habitat destruction, declining food sources, domestic pets/animals, and global warming their numbers are quickly dwindling. At the moment there are just a mere 18,683 breeding pairs left in the wild in South Africa, just a fraction of what it used to be.

Located very close to Simons Town, South Africa this particular colony of African penguins is situated on Boulders Beach and as a result they have been given the name: Boulders Penguin Colony

Boulder's Beach, South AfricaHOW YOU CAN HELP

While I was in South Africa, I came across an amazing organisation, SANCCOB, working very hard to protect African penguins and other seabirds in the region. At the moment, and in honour of Valentine’s Day, they are offering a very special way to help an endangered species while at the same time providing one of the most unique gifts to your special someone.

For 500 Rand (South African Currency) or $42.27 USD, you can adopt two African penguins for the price you would normally pay for just one.

Better yet, you will get to name the penguins (perhaps, after your partner and yourself ;o) and you’ll receive a photograph of the penguins that have been meticulously cared for before they release them back into the wild South African landscape.

Here are two links for more information. The first is their home page and the second will take you directly to the adoption page:

1) http://www.sanccob.co.za/?view=featured

2) Valentine’s 2 for 1 Special – Adopt an African Penguin:

http://www.sanccob.co.za/you-can-help/adopt-a-penguin/adopt-a-penguin-detail

DID YOU KNOW?

Americans spend roughly 20 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day each year?! Why not spend on something charitable this year?Stony Point, Betty's Bay - South Africa

Juvenile Male Penguins at Betty’s Bay, South Africa

To learn more about how to visit the African penguins for your next trip to South Africa, check out:

http://www.sanparks.org/parks/table_mountain/tourism/attractions.php

And of course, HAPPY VALENTINES DAY TO ALL THE LOVEBIRDS OUT THERE!

J-

Seal Island, South Africa: Cape Fur Seals

February 1, 2015

If you ever have the opportunity to visit South Africa, I’d strongly encourage you to make your way to Seal Island in False Bay. Less than an hour from Cape Town and only eight nautical miles out to sea you will find yourself immersed in a raw and foreign environment where survival of the fittest can be witnessed daily. The waters around this island are patrolled by dozens, if not hundreds of Great White Sharks, making life extremely precarious for the boisterous group of seabirds and seals which call the island home.

Seal Island, South Africa

Seal Island – Home to 60,000 Cape Fur Seals

Seal Island, South Africa

Playing in the shallow pools close to the island is quite safe as the sharks prefer deeper depths

Seal  Island, South Africa

However, once the seals leave the safety of the shallow pools to find food they become vulnerable

Cape Fur Seal

A Cape Fur Seal swimming for its life from a Great White Shark – not sure he made it home

Seal Island, South Africa

Finding myself in the midst of a clamorous Cape Fur Seal Colony off of South Africa’s southern coast was really icing on the cake after a spectacular great white cage diving experience. I love wildlife (in case that isn’t obvious) and can never seem to get enough of it. To come face to face with a colony of seals 60,000 strong shortly after looking into the eyes of one of the oceans greatest predators was an wholly satisfying experience that I cannot recommend enough. If cage diving with great whites isn’t your cup of tea, no worries! The topside action is worth the trip on its own. You can learn more about cage diving in South Africa and the best times visit here.

Simon's Town, South Africa

Simon’s Town, South Africa – Departures to Seal Island leave from this beautiful seaside town

Have you ever seen so many seals in one place?
If so, I would love to hear about it!

An Odd Encounter

January 30, 2015

After an early morning cage diving adventure in Simon’s Town, South Africa the next logical thing to consider is a journey to the rugged Cape of Good Hope. Simon’s Town is a great jumping off point for seeing this beautiful terrain and I was quite excited about the day ahead.

However, after the amazing shark encounter I must admit tackling the day covered from head to toe in salt and fish chum was not ideal. Not such a pleasant thought, right? Unfortunately for me it was the reality of the day. It’s odd that this only occurred to me the morning of (and so I was as prepared as I could be with wet wipes, deodorant, body spray and of course a change of clothes) but I do suppose that if you are going to spend a day reeking of dead fish there is no better place to do that than the great outdoors.
Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope – The most south-western part of the African continent

Although I would have preferred a shower, the breath-taking scenery all along the coastal Cape was well-worth the hygienic compromise. The mountainous landscape was littered with a wide array of colourful flora. We were told there was a possibility of sighting anything from mountain zebra and wildebeest to ostrich and baboons. With eyes glued to the landscape in hopes of sighting any of the indigenous wildlife that call the Cape their home, I was not disappointed; both wildebeest and ostrich made an appearance.

Nearing our destination, we stumbled upon what I think qualifies as an truly extraordinary sight. Sure, we have all seen ostriches before, whether in a zoo or on television, but how often do you see images of an ostrich by the sea? Odd, right? Would love to hear your thoughts on this strange sight!
Ostrich - Cape of Good Hope

Southern Right Whales: South Africa

January 22, 2015

Walker Bay, South Africa

Walker Bay, South Africa

A severe storm was approaching the small, seaside town of Hermanus, South Africa as I hopped onto a boat in the picturesque harbor of Walker Bay. Knowing the best chance of seeing a Southern Right Whale up-close would be by boat I really did not have much choice in the matter (despite my apprehension). And besides with the weather quickly deteriorating, I was rather certain there wouldn’t be any more whale watching for the remainder of my trip. Considering this was the reason I made my way to Hermanus from Cape Town (2 hrs), I mustered the courage and braced myself for a rocky ride as we headed out into the bay.

Fortunately, the ocean was kind to us for a good chunk of the time and I was lucky to see two males trying to win the heart of this beautiful female (below). This was by far the closest I came to any of the whales as she intentionally collided with the boat directly in front of me. With a thin metal bar as the only barrier separating me from the sea, the impact startled me! Everyone on board scrambled for a moment while we were reassured by the crew that this is quite common behavior for the females. It seems as though they enjoy using the boat as a form of protection from their relentless admirers.Southern Right Whale

Southern Right Whale

These whales are very slow moving and friendly creatures. As a result, they became known to fisherman as the “right whale” to hunt. Even though whale hunting has been banned for the past two decades, illegal hunting still continues making the southern right whale population of 3,000 an endangered species. Hermanus is a unique location in that females prefer the warmth and shelter of the bay for their newborns. And between the months of May and December with a little patience you will have no problem spotting them from shore. Despite the land-based possibilities, I wanted to get a little closer. And if you find yourself in a similar situation definitely check out: Southern Right Charters for a proper outing.

Southern Right Whale

Unlike my previous whale watching trip in Sydney, Australia; there were many close encounters and photographic opportunities of the whales in Walker Bay. Prior to my arrival, I had heard consistently from several people to go with the widest lens I had available. Thanks to this sound advice, I had my16-35mm in place for this shot. This photograph was shot at the widest end, 16mm and would not have been possible with my longer lenses. Although, there were many shots missed (and frustrations) as a result of my lens’ limitations I am content with the decision.

Hermanus, South Africa

Storm clouds rolling in to Hermanus, South Africa

Outdoor Photog of the Year Competition

January 14, 2015

Having had seven images (below) chosen as finalists for the Outdoor Photographer of the year 2014 competition was a wonderful honor. Each of my images was submitted to the UnderExposed category which happened to be a new category added just this year, strictly for underwater images. The winning image was a stunning over-under shot of a humpback whale by Chris Parry. I hope to have the privilege of diving and photographing humpbacks in 2015.

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