Dyer Island Cruises - Kleinbaai (Gansbaai) - a (Wintery) Birding Activity


Welcome to a late posting of Where the birds at.

For this entry, I am going to discuss a bird trip that I participated in Mid-June last month

Pelagic Bird Trips (more specifically the Dyer Island Pelagic Birding Cruise).

Located in the world-famous Great White Shark hotspot and the well-known location where people have the chance to have close encounters with this endangered shark, the Dyer Island Cruises operates from the town of Kleinbaai, near Gansbaai.

The reason behind choosing this revolves mainly around the fact that I already highlighted Pelagic trips as a recommended winter birding activity (see my post Birding through the seasons - winter) along with the fact that this was my first pelagic trip experience (as I missed out on the one that operates in Simon's Town).

I have to say : what an experience ! It was well worth waking up early in the morning for this trip!

Now I know why a pelagic trip is on the common birder's bucket list and this is due to the many pelagic bird species that I got to add to my life list!

The trip started when all of the passengers met in the Great White House for a brief breakfast of rusks and coffee, with some familiar faces.

After that, we boarded the Whale Whisperer and departed from the Kleinbaai Harbour , where we were briefly chaperoned by an accompanying lone brown Subantarctic Skua (probably hoping for a scavenging opportunity - and seems to hold no fear of us).

As we travelled further into the sea (until the mountains on the horizon were out of sight) we started encountering other pelagic species, until we reached the 2 respective fishing vessels that were the target of the cruise, and I have never so many number of birds in one place not to mention the number of species.

Of the 15 Pelagic bird species I encountered included:
  1. Sooty Shearwater
  2. Pintado Petrel (A beautiful black and white bird)
  3. White-chinned Petrel
  4. Northern Giant-Petrel
  5. Southern Giant-Petrel
  6. Wilson's Storm-Petrel
  7. Shy Albatross
  8. Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
  9. Black-browed Albatross
  10. Wandering Albatross
  11. Shy Albatross
  12. Cape Gannet
  13. Antarctic Prion (My new favourite due to its beautiful blue plumage and black diagonal lines along its wings - a surprisingly small and swift bird)
  14. White Pelican (in flight)
  15. Antarctic tern (logo of Birdlife South Africa)
As a bonus, we encountered Cape Fur Seals on a few occasions - which included a head cropping up next to the boat along with the diving seals that joined the many of the encountered marine birds that were following the fishing boats and a brief sighting (until it dove deeper and never appeared) of a Bryde's Whale.

Interestingly enough - we also encountered a shark cage diving vessel seemingly hosting a documentary crew (the Great White being the focus most likely) along the a few rock islands (inhabited by Cape Fur seals and interestingly enough a few houses).

The Cormorants was encountered including the:
  • White-breasted and Cape
In the end, I found it quite the experience of (although due to the biting cold sea breezes - I might have suffered a few slightly frost bitten fingers) getting out into the open sea, and the wide expansiveness of the sea made me feel briefly disconnected (with the usual channels of communication absent - aka my mobile phone) from the rest of the world and made me realise the vulnerability of man against the earth's elements without our modern day technology.

To conclude, I highly recommend that the Dyer Island Cruises to anyone looking to go into pelagic bird species, especially bird photographers, along with those individuals who just want to be alone without any human interruptions and just want to relive the experience of being reconnected to the beauty that is our relatively untouched parts of our planet.

To finish off this entry - I leave you with this question :

What is your experience with pelagic bird trips? Any special birds you were excited to encounter?

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