Trip Highlights: Southern Fulmar, five species of albatrosses, including Wandering Albatross, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Great-winged Petrel, Pintado Petrel, Antarctic Petrel and Bryde's Whale.
We left the yacht club in Simon's Town and headed south along the very scenic western shoreline of False Bay. The trip was initially dominated by resident coastal species like Kelp Gull, Cape, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorants, Great Crested (Swift) Terns, Cape Gannets and the occasional small group of African Penguins. We made a brief stop at Partridge Point to add a fourth species of cormorant - Bank Cormorant - to the trip list.
Close to Cape Point, the first pelagic species were sighted as large streams of Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels headed out of the bay. A whale blow was also spotted but the whale itself was unfortunately not relocated. We took this opportunity to stop and release two recently rehabilitated Cape Gannets. While we were stopped, a pair of Shy/White-capped Albatrosses circled the boat before flying off.
After checking out with the local safety station, we set a course for the Cape Canyon. The large oceanic swells slowed our progress, but we were rewarded this excellent views of several dozen additional Shy/White-capped, as well as Black-browed Albatrosses and several hundred Cape/Pintado Petrels and Antarctic Prions, both abundant winter visitors. Additionally there were also a handful of Soft-plumaged Petrels, as well as both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels.
Twenty-five nautical miles offshore, we located several working hake trawlers. Once behind the closer boat, we took an opportunity to release another rehabilitated bird, this time a handsome Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross.
The trawler soon hauled in its net and quickly attracted thousands of seabirds. The vast mass of birds around the trawler initially included four species of albatrosses, including both Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses; White-chinned and Cape/Pintado Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, both Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Wilson's Storm Petrels, Brown Skuas, Cape Gannets and a few Kelp Gulls.
Within this frenzy, we located two much rarer and very sought-after species. The first was a Southern Fulmar, the second sighting in two trips. The second was of a gorgeous juvenile Wandering Albatross, bringing the tally of albatross species to five for the day.
Great-winged Petrels and Soft-plumaged Petrels were the two star species on the return journey. We also spotted several whale blows near Cape Point, but again, none of these whales spent any time on the surface.
Safely back in the bay, we enjoyed a much-need lunch. As we were eating, a pod of three Bryde's Whales fed very close to the boat. The shoals of fish they were targeting also attracted a few feeding groups of African Penguins.
After lunch, we headed back into port, spotting African Oystercatchers and Hartlaub's Gulls as well as several more Crowned Cormorants, in the harbour and rounding off another excellent trip.
Pelagic species seen and approximate numbers:
Wandering Albatross - 1
Shy/White-capped Albatross - 300-400
Black-browed Albatross - 250-350
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross - 5-6
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross - 2 (plus 1 released)
Northern Giant Petrel - 2
Southern Giant Petrel - 5
Southern Fulmar - 1
Giant Petrel spp - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 750-1000
White-chinned Petrel - 2000-3000
Cape (Pintado) Petrel - 750-1000
Soft-plumaged Petrel 0 8-10
Great-winged Petrel 0 3
Wilson's Storm Petrel - 20-30
Brown (Sub-Antarctic) Skua - 15-20
African Penguin - 50-60
Cape Gannet - 400-500
White-breasted Cormorant - 15-20
Cape Cormorant - abundant
Crowned Cormorant - 7-10
Bank Cormorant - 17 breeding pairs
Kelp Gull - common (coastal), 6-7 (pelagic)
Hartlaub's Gull 0 2
Great Crested Tern - 25-30
African (Black) Oystercatcher - 2
Cape Fur Seal - abundant
Bryde's Whale - 3
A message from Cape Town Pelagics:
A huge thank you to our experienced skippers who are
able to safely lead us to the best birding areas and
skillfully manoeuvre the boat into just the best position
while all on board are busy concentrating on the birds!
Coordinating a pelagic trip over a year in advance
with guests from all across South Africa and different
countries around the world requires an organised office
team. We thank them for their special eye for detail
- and for the sometimes last-minute rearrangements
and frustration if the weather delays the trip to
another day! Our biggest thank-you is to our Cape
Town Pelagics guides who take time out of their work,
often involving seabirds and conservation, and time
away from their families, to provide our guests with
a world-class birding experience. Cape Town Pelagics
donates all it profits to seabirds, and so all the
participants who join the trip make a contribution
towards bird research and conservation - a big thank
you from all of us.
Trip Report by Cape Town Pelagics
guide Vincent Ward.
To book, simply email
or phone us, or submit a
booking enquiry online.