“Plenty of fish, endangered humpback dolphins, hundreds of bottlenose dolphins, gully sharks, turtles, giant waves and without a doubt the BIGGEST great white shark I have ever seen…”
These are the awesome sightings that marine conservation photographer Jean Tresfon captured on his flight along the Overberg coast.
Wednesday 19 January was dubbed Big Wednesday by the surfing community as the biggest swell in decades arrived along on shores. The rare occurrence provided the gap Tresfon had been waiting for to bring his gyrocopter home from the Breede River mouth.
Tresfon has a great squad. Ricky De Agrela very kindly took one for the team and drove Tresfon and Zak O’Leary up from Cape Town and dropped them at a little bush strip (and drove all the way home again).
What a buddy! And we’re ever so thankful because the results from the flight ‘home’ are epic!
“Taking off into a fresh southeaster, we circled a few times over the river mouth hoping to spot one of the legendary bull sharks but on the outgoing tide the water was just too dirty to make out any bottom details. We did however spot plenty of fish in the shallows on top of the sandbanks. Flying past Infanta we spotted a boat with some snorkelers in the clear water near St. Sebastian Point and then continued along the coast into the De Hoop Marine Protected Area,” says Tresfon.
At one spot, Tresfon noticed a large dark shape swimming towards the shore and arriving overhead found it was an “absolute beast” of a great white shark.
“Easily the biggest shark I have ever seen in a lifetime of diving and flying the coast! Most impressive, however, was the girth of the animal. So wide was the shark that I immediately guessed at a pregnant female, but my shark scientist friends said that it’s impossible to tell and it could just as easily be a very well fed male or female,” Tresfon adds.
The shark also had a large leervis/garrick swimming alongside its tail for a short while before the fish bailed out and swam away in a hurry. Also, only 50m or so away from the shark was a pod of humpback dolphins with a tiny calf. Their body language appeared relaxed and the two species paid no attention to each other.
“On the wild side the swells rolling in were some of the biggest I’ve seen along this coast. There were literally hundreds of bottlenose dolphins cruising in the backline which was substantially further out to sea than usual. Also a few smoothhound hammerhead sharks cruising around on the surface here and there. At Koppie Alleen the lines of swell were stacked to the horizon and at Skipskop the turtles were enjoying the protection of the reef and feeding in the calm shallow waters of the intertidal flats along with a couple of gully sharks.”
At Arniston the duo left the coast and routed in bumpy and thermic conditions via Bredasdorp and Caledon, climbing into the cold air above 6500ft over Theewaterskloof Dam to cross the always imposing jagged rocky fangs of the Franschhoek mountains before dropping down again in the valley and heading home to Morningstar Flying Club.
“What was supposed to be a simple ferry flight home turned into 3-hours of stunning scenic flying along turquoise blue seas, through the patchwork quilt of the farm fields and over majestic mountains. Thanks as always to the team in the tower at AFB Overberg for watching out for us!” Tresfon concludes.