Hi, my name is Jax Bath and I am a whale watching guide by trade for Ivanhoe Sea Safaris and an ocean enthusiast by chance. I grew up in the landlocked Johannesburg, and although our holiday’s down to the sea were always my favorite Christmas or Easter break, I never believed that I might end up working on the ocean.
Growing up, my aspiration was to work in the Kruger National Park as a field guide. In 2016, I ended up on a whale watching boat instead and now, I could not imagine a life that does not revolve around the ocean. I have worked as a whale watching guide for 4 years and spent 3 months in the Seychelles working with the endangered Hawksbill Turtle. I spend most of my afternoons walking the cliff paths of De Kelders in search of ocean life, and will seize every opportunity I can to get into the water.
Starting this week, I will be writing a weekly round up of oceanic news. Most of the articles will focus on the wonders of Walker Bay and what we see when we take a boat trip, kayak trip or a dive in the bay. During weeks where we cannot go to sea, I will also be writing about time spent with turtles, or catch up with other ocean lovers and sharing their interesting tales with you.
I really hope that you will enjoy the upcoming stories and walk away having learned a thing or two about the wonders of the deep. The ocean is vast and largely explored, with scientists still discovering new phenomena daily. Before every whale watching trip, most operators will say in one way or another, that we never know what we might find. This may come across as a bit disingenuous at times, but as crew members, we know that every day on the ocean is a chance to see something you have never seen before. This is the joy of working, watching and writing about the sea. Every week there is sure to be some unique experience worth sharing.
Last week, this unique experience was the presence of a Flying Fish in the bay. This was a first for our Skipper, Jason, who has worked on the Ivanhoe boats for 20 years now. The trip began with a sighting of a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins, which are a fairly common sight, although always a treat. We travelled alongside them before catching word of a young Southern Right Whale who had been a bit naughty. This cheeky child had found his way into the new Gansbaai harbour, much to the irritation of the mother whale.
We made our way back into the direction of the harbour to see if mother and child had been reunited. Luckily, little one had come to his senses and joined his mother once more and we met them en route to Stanford’s Cove. With the mother whale clearly on her last nerve, we kept our distance to give her some space.
Around this time, the Bottlenose Dolphins joined us again and though we were sensitive to mother whales recent ordeal, the dolphins were not nearly as accommodating. The pod promptly made their way towards the pair, ducking and diving around them. This only added to mother’s agitation, with her huffing and puffing in an effort to get the dolphins to go play elsewhere.
As this incredible scene unfolded, some of the dolphins broke away and came to play with us once more. As a few rounded the back of the boat, they must have spooked the Flying Fish. The little guy launched himself straight into flight mode, sailing close to a hundred meters in the air before plopping back into the water. Bottlenose Dolphins are known to make a meal of these little critters, so it’s no wonder he decided to make an exit. We were lucky enough to witness it all in action, with some low quality images to prove his presence. With all that was happening around us in that moment, the last thing in the world one would expect to see as a species which is so rarely recorded in this area. I have seen them close to Dyer Island only once before, it was a first in the area for all the crew on board, who between the lot of us had thousands of sea hours scouring the area for life.
The warm water seems to be a factor in their presence in the area, with the temperateness also bringing in other fascinating species. During the time we spotted the Flying fish around Dyer Island, we also encountered a juvenile Hammerhead Shark in Jouberts Dam. Last week’s incredible tour also boasted two of these cartilaginous creatures, who would occasionally break the surface with their dorsal fins. It is the occurrence of these weird and wonderful animals that keep those who love the ocean coming back for more. In the following weeks, I hope that you will share in these wonders with me and that these oceanic adventures may inspire you to get out and explore.
Until next week!