ALBERT VISITS FROM SPAIN
I arrived to Port Elizabeth on a windy summer morning of January. Karen (responsible for the marketing and bookings) was waiting for me at the airport, and shortly after I was introduced to Lloyd Edwards (the owner of the company) and Jake Keeton (the manager). Since the very first moment they all made me feel like part of the team, and that did not change during the three months I collaborated with Raggy Charters.
I initially heard from Raggy Charters because it was part of the WCA (World Cetacean Aliance). The fact of being a small company, running very personal tours with small groups, being committed with conservation and education and involved in many research projects around Algoa Bay caught my attention. That is why I got in touch with Lloyd Edwards. He was always very helpful and informative about what my stay would be like. But after these three months I can say that the reality overtook my expectations. I could not have had a better experience.
I was hosted in the Guest House in Seaview, and I quickly fell in love with that place. I could not believe I had an entire apartment for myself, with unforgettable views to the Indian Ocean. Falling asleep with the sound of the Indian Ocean and waking up with the birds is something I will never forget. Besides that, I could use a car to move around and explore the area.
Even when it was not high season, I was regularly going out to the sea to show to our guests the magnificent wildlife it is possible to see in Algoa Bay. Before arriving, I honestly wasn’t aware of how rich the ocean is here. I rapidly understood why Algoa Bay is the bottlenose dolphin capital of the world. I had never seen that amount of dolphins together! But besides Bottlenose dolphins, I managed to see Common dolphins, Humpback dolphins, Minke whales and Bryde’s whales… and it was low season!
But it was not only about cetaceans… after these three months I saw different species of sharks (Hammerheads, Mako sharks and even Great white sharks!) and also a wide variety of birds, such as Cape cormorants, White-breasted cormorants, Cape gannets, African black oystercatchers, Cape gulls, shearwaters, storm petrels… and the lovely African penguin. I felt blessed I had the opportunity of going to St Croix island to see this endangered species of penguins from up close.
My duties consisted basically on helping on anything necessary on board, assisting our guests, driving the boat when necessary and boat maintenance. I really enjoyed all my time helping the crew. I could also visit SANCCOB (South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), and learn about the different coastal birds of the area and the threats they are facing.
I even had the opportunity of going to Bird island for a day trip with the manager Jake and with researchers. It was very interesting and exciting helping the researchers while releasing injured Cape fur seals back into their colony. I could also help them when collecting data of that colony. It was also great to get to see the biggest gannettry in the world at Bird island.
But it was not only about working. I also had time to explore a little bit of what South Africa can offer. I did some short trips to Cape Town and also to Lesotho and ekwaZulu Natal province, as well as a week in Kruger National Park.
All the team made me feel like one of them. I had so much fun with Lloyd, Jake, Warren, Purity, Karen and Abongile. I will always remember them not only as working mates, but also as true friends. We spent lots of hours on the boat, but I also enjoyed the glasses of wine with Lloyd (lots of them), the beers with Jake (even more), the talks to my little sister Purity, the uncountable braais (BBQ) with all the team, the visits to Addo National Park and so many unforgettable moments I spent with Raggy Charters team. Thank you all for this amazing experience!!!
Rodrigo (Spain) & EWa (Poland)
In our frequent trips to St. Croix and Bird Island, we have seen many humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in their migration route to Antarctica, where they spend the austral summer feeding, which means lots of mother-calf couples leaping, breaching, lob-tailing and displaying all kind of imaginable tricks (a pleasure for any wildlife passionate). Apart fromthem, more cetaceans have been around us, such as mega-pods of common dolphins (Delphinus capensis), bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), Sei (Balaenoptera borealis -arare encounter next to the port), Bryde’s (Balaenoptera brydei) and Minke whales(Balaenoptera acutorostrata).
Thanks to these trips that Raggy Charters is performing as the only whale watching operator in Algoa Bay to fund their conservation projects, we were lucky not only to have very close encounters with cetaceans but also to see the world biggest colony of clumsy African Penguins (Spheniscus demersus) on St. Croix -you can have fun seeing these little ones trying toreach the island from the water; and next to Bird Island a colony of Cape Fur Seals (Arctocephalus pusillus)– cute and comical animals but cattle-smelly like when you get closer to them! Beside penguins, birdlife has also made a huge impression on us: Cape Gannets (Morus capensis), seagulls, terns, petrels, cormorants and a very polite heron which would say“good morning” to you every single day in the harbour.
Apart from that, we were involved in few research projects such as fish and sea bird surveys which can last forever (data compilation in science may be tiring but rewarding so you can spend many hours at sea and get tune!), beach surveys in which we got permission to drive into the protected beaches of Alexandria Dune Fields and Maitland in order to collect data from dead animals like seabirds or stranded cetaceans and save a dying turtle! Thanks to this collaboration between Raggy Charters, University and Port Elizabeth Museum, we have assisted to few necropsies of cape fur seals, sub-antartic seals (Arctophoca tropicalis) and elephant seal (Mirounga leonina -sounds amazing and we learnt a lot, but the smell was….irresistible xD).
But not everything was going to be about “working”. We have been discovering this incredible land, visiting game reserves, national parks (giraffes, zebras, elephants, rhinos, lions,cheetahs or ostriches among many others animals have crossed our path), being amused by the huge biodiversity in this corner of the planet and tasting a bit south African culture, with special reference to “Braais” (these people have made a whole culture around BBQ, which is agreat experience itself).
To sum up, it has been an incredible experience thanks to people like James, Jake, Kerry, Greg or Lloyd, and we have enjoyed a lot. Now, we have a lot of anecdotes to tell and a nice skin colour to make our friends jealous back in cold Europe. See you soon!
A glimpse of us.
Rodrigo is a Spanish environmentalist with a Master in Ecosystem Restoration, passionate about wildlife, photography and especially about environmental education. Now working as a naturalist in a whale watching company in Iceland, he is always looking forward to improve his knowledge and learn from nature.
Ewa is Animal Science engineer from Poland with passion for all kinds of animals and nature. Believing that everything is connected, from leafs on the trees, through feathers on birds wings to fish in the depth oceans, all the time trying to learn more about environment and spreading this knowledge, working as naturalist and guide on whale watching tours.