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Shark Personalities of the Month



It has been a wonderful two weeks at Seal Island with such settled weather recently. We have been fortunate to have a number of days at the island with stunningly clear blue water – which has given us visibility of up to 15m at times! I have really enjoyed being able to see the reef below us and watch the behaviours of the white sharks as they have interacted with one another around the boat.

Interestingly this month we have been seeing not just two sharks at a time by the boat but up to FOUR individuals swimming together. It is very rare to see such interactions here, as usually these sharks go to great lengths to avoid each other around the bait. During one trip last week I was thrilled to witness a number of occasions with three sharks swimming around the boat, almost snout to tail and calmly swimming along as a procession of beautiful sharks. On the occasion that we saw four sharks together we really couldn’t believe our luck and both the guests and crew alike knew it was something very special to see. Two of the sharks were so close to each other that their pectoral fins were overlapping at times as they swam along together. It was magical to witness and a moment I will never forget.

The clear water has also given me the opportunity to experience the unique behaviours and personalities of the different sharks we have come to know well so far this season. Each shark has such a distinct personality and exhibits very specific behaviours around the boat. This month we have continued to see Zamalek and he is still being adorable and melting everyone’s hearts with his continual right turns close to the cage. He is such a relaxed shark and still spends the majority of his time calmly circling the cage closely and occasionally veering off course to examine the baits. He is such a joy for our divers to see and is one of those sharks that remain with us for a long time when he visits. Having said how calm he is we have however also discovered his livelier side and his interest in our decoy seal. As kitnip is to a cat, the decoy seal is to Zamalek! He absolutely adores our fake seal and we have to be very careful putting the decoy in the water when he is with us. It really switches him on to pursuit mode and he chases it constantly until he manages to get hold of it. Even then he tries repeatedly to grasp it. I have not seen a shark that keen on our decoy for a long time indeed and it certainly demonstrates a different side to Zamalek’s personality.

Another shark that is also very unique in his behaviour this month is Pinkie, the 3.1m male shark. This shark is so named because of a pink rosette on his dorsal fin and he is one of our more dominant sharks. White shark dominance is based on hierarchy and it is normal for us to see that the smaller sharks give way immediately to the larger sharks around the boat. Pinkie however appears to be unaware of his small size and is very dominant around both the smaller and larger sharks. On a number of occasions I have seen him wait until the very last moment to give way to our larger female sharks in the 3.7-3.9m size range. On more than one occasion I have expected him to receive a warning bite from these females as he refuses to give way and is positioned right in front of their mouths. They are extremely tolerant however, and let Pinkie get away with behaving so brazenly. He is going to be quite formidable when he is larger if he remains so dominant and confident. In contrast to Pinkie’s lack of submissive behaviour we have seen a gorgeous 2.0m white shark at the island last week that had quite the surprise and was understandably very submissive. This shark was approaching the top bait one day, which consisted of a tuna head that was quite frankly larger than the shark’s entire head and he followed it closely with his snout. I assume he couldn’t see around the bait as on the other side was our large 3.7m female Magnoona, who is very dominant and was also approaching the bait. The little shark had the shock of his life as he rounded the bait and was faced with swimming unknowingly into Magnoona’s face. Magnoona was calm and tolerant as always and the small shark practically leapt out of the water and swam incredibly fast to remove himself from the situation. I was delighted to see he made a cautious return later.

Magnoona has also captured me with her behaviour this month as she can be very relaxed or very lively. She veers from one extreme to the other within and between trips and when she is lively she keeps us on our toes. She is quick to approach the bait and often from depth to gain more speed. She is also very agile and executes tight turns close to the boat as she pursues her bait of choice. She mostly focuses on the top bait and is a shark that both our divers and boat-based guests enjoy because of the time she spends up at the surface with us. When she is feeling calm she is quite the opposite and cruises extremely slowly around the boat at the surface. She literally brought a tear to my eye the other day with the behaviour I describe below and because of that moment I am just a little bit in love with this lady. When Magnoona was approaching the bottom bait recently she took hold of it gently and as she then moved forwards the top bait rope drifted into her mouth. From previous observations of sharks when they take hold of the bait I would have expected a fairly strong reaction to finding a rope in her mouth. However… in Magnoona’s surprise she spat the bottom bait out and remained calm. She ever so slowly and gently twisted her head from side to side to remove the top bait rope from her mouth. Unfortunately all she managed to do was flip the top bait over her head and so had the rope around her snout. Magnoona was utterly unfazed by this and just calmly hung there as she assessed her situation and slowly tilted her head to the side as Poenas removed the rope and she went on her way. We were mesmerized by her behaviour and just how gentle she was in her approach. These animals really are incredible and continue to surprise me daily with their intelligence and gentle nature.

It has been an experience of a lifetime observing another side to the sharks’ behaviour recently; their incredible predatory activity. The best is yet to come!

To find out more about the sharks of False Bay, visit

Kathryn has a Masters in Environmental Biology and is a PADI scuba diving instructor. Her passion lies with raising awareness of and conserving the sharks within our oceans and also writing about her experiences under and on the water. She is currently a wildlife guide and crew member for Apex Shark Expeditions in South Africa.

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

NEW: White Shark Interest Group Podcast Series – #003 – TOUCHING SHARKS



Third in an exciting podcast series from Ricardo Lacombe of the White Shark Interest Group.

Episode 3 of the White Shark Interest Group Podcast, Facebook’s largest White Shark specific group, covering science, conservation, news, photography, video and debate.

This episode features Melissa, Dirk, Javier and Ricardo discussing TOUCHING SHARKS and FREEDIVING WITH SHARKS. Is it OK to touch sharks? Does it do damage to the shark? What are the benefits of it for shark conservation efforts? How do modern day social media personalities like Ocean Ramsey differ from the pioneers who began the practice of touching and diving with Great Whites, like Andre Hartman, Michael Rutzen or Manny Puig? Always a hot topic!

Click the links below to listen to the podcast series on the following audio channels:

Join the group:



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Marine Life & Conservation

Review: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet



Regular contributors, CJ & Mike from Bimble in the Blue, review the Netlix documentary: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

David Attenborough’s latest and arguably most important documentary to date is now showing on Netflix.  It is, in his own words, his “witness statement” of a unique life exploring and documenting the wonders of the natural world.

Attenborough looks back and realizes that the previously gradual changes he witnessed (animal species becoming harder to find and fewer wild spaces) have now become vastly more widespread and noticeable. As the human population increased, so has the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, while the amount of wilderness has decreased.  His conclusion: human activity and man-made climate change have accelerated the pace of biodiversity loss.  This not only imperils the majority of natural habitats and creatures on Earth, but also the very future of humankind.

From images of lush green landscapes we journey with him over time to revisit these places, now wastelands. One of the most haunting is the contrast between early footage of orangutans swinging through the rainforest, to recent images of an orangutan clinging onto a lone tree devoid of all but one branch in the wreckage of a deforested site. Attenborough then makes a statement that has stuck with me since watching “A Life On This Planet”: that though we undoubtably have an obligation to care for the natural world, it’s not just about saving other species.  It is about saving ourselves.  His drive and determination to advocate and spread this message as much as possible at the age of 94 is both impressive and humbling, yet Attenborough manages to make this serious subject an unexpectedly positive learning experience.

In the final chapter of the movie Attenborough turns from the bleak reality of the destruction of Earth’s biodiversity, and offers a lifeline of hope and positivity. We can, he tells us, reverse the damage we have caused, we can save our species and the wonders of the natural world, and it can be done with just a few conceptually simple actions.  It’s enough to enthuse even the most jaded and pessimistic of conservationists!  Attenborough has an amazing ability to awaken our love of the natural world and now he shows us our future is in our hands. It’s time to act.  But we must start now and it must be a united effort.

You don’t have to be a scuba diver to be impressed with the eloquence of David Attenborough’s words, or his powerful yet simple message. We are self-confessed Attenborough super fans, but I don’t think anyone could contest that this is a stunning 1 hour and 20 minutes of hard hitting brilliance. The film closes with the comment, “Who else needs to see it?” The answer is all of us.  We highly recommend this documentary to everyone. Put simply if you watch no other documentary this year, watch this one.

For more from CJ and Mike please visit their website here.

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