ROCKTAIL BEACH CAMP LATEST NEWS
As is usual at this time of year, February was a very good month in terms of weather. A few days with rain and light wind helped cool things down and were nothing to complain about – instead being rather refreshing especially on the hot days. The average maximum temperature was between 32° C and 35° C, while the minimum average was between 25° C and 27° C. …
Although we are near the end of the official ‘turtle season’ and past the peak for both nesting and hatchlings, we had a few exciting sightings during February. Two of these were of large leatherback turtles – a spectacular ocean behemoth. Adult loggerhead turtles, usually the more common of the two nesting species, were not seen at all this month.
Perhaps the most exciting sightings were of turtle hatchlings though. Towards the end of the month, leatherback hatchlings were seen emerging from their nests and making their way down to the ocean. A couple of days later, about 60 leatherback and 100 loggerhead hatchlings were found – really thrilling our guests. The following day, we found only one leatherback hatchling, although we did see tracks of other hatchlings.
The coastal forest and grassland harbours quite a few secretive mammal species, some of which are restricted to this kind of habitat type. Vervet monkey and thick-tailed bushbabies were seen on most days, as were the diminutive and handsome red duiker, while outings to Lake Sibaya and other freshwater sources usually produced hippo sightings. Tracks and signs of some more secretive species such as bushpig and genet were also seen this month.
A very large forest cobra which was around 1.5 metres long was seen around the kitchen area, but it lived up to its name and quickly slithered off into the undergrowth of the forest once we had seen it.
The dawn chorus at Rocktail is unbelievable! When you wake up in the morning all you hear are numerous birds calling. Livingstone turaco, yellow-rumped tinkerbird, sombre greenbul and yellow-bellied greenbul are the most common and dominant calls in the forest. Guided forest walks have also been very fruitful on the birding front, but patience is required as the forest species stick to the dense forest canopy and can be difficult to spot.
One of the exciting sightings this month was that of a rosy-throated longclaw (formerly known as pink-throated longclaw) in the grasslands near Lake Sibaya. All three South African longclaw species can be seen here! Saddle-billed stork, ruddy turnstone, curlew sandpiper and purple heron were among the more than 120 species also sighted this month.
13 Mar 2012
Weather and sea conditions for January and February were excellent overall, despite some after effects from two cyclones positioned off Madagascar. Luckily, on both these occasions, the swell did increase but sea conditions were still okay to dive in. The remainder of the time we had lovely warm water averaging 26-27 degrees Celsius and the visibility sat at an average of 18-20 metres for most of January and February, dropping only during the two cyclone periods to about 10 metres.
With turtle season still in full swing, guests had lots of opportunities to watch female loggerhead and leatherback turtles laying their eggs, as well as watching the little turtle hatchlings start their epic journey down the beach to the ocean. Towards the end of January we were lucky to see a leatherback turtle swimming on the surface near Pineapple Reef. This is a wonderful sighting as these turtles do not live on shallow coral reefs but are deep sea dwellers, so it is not often that we get lucky enough to cross paths with them.
Summer is always a good season for shark and ray sightings and we have been blessed with lots of grey-reef sharks, black-tip sharks, a couple of white-tip sharks and a small hammerhead shark swimming along the surface. Darryl had an up close and personal visit from a Zambezi shark whilst diving at Elusive. We only had one whaleshark sighting in January and unfortunately none during February. Rays have been abundant including blue-spotted, electric, honeycomb and a two-metre-long guitarfish. An uncommon sighting of a feather-tail ray at Elusive was also quite exciting.
What has been really disappointing this season is the lack of ragged tooth sharks! We usually get anywhere from 10-40 female ragged tooth sharks congregating behind Island Rock, specifically at this time of year. They usually live in the colder waters off the Eastern Cape and then migrate northwards up the coast towards Durban, where they mate with males in the Aliwal Shoal area before continuing northwards in search of warm water and a sheltered resting place during their gestation period. They usually stay in our area for approximately three months before heading back to the Eastern Cape to give birth to their shark pups. This year we saw only one female raggie at Island Rock at the beginning of January and still have not seen any more to date. We do not know why this is – water temperatures seem to be warm enough, perhaps due to the cyclones off Madagascar?
On a happier note, Gabriella Lubner, aged 10, completed her PADI Open Water course and was truly spoilt by the ocean. Her first dive at Aerial produced a hawksbill turtle, one of the biggest pick-handle barracudas I have seen in a very long time, a spotted eagle ray and a manta ray! During her second dive we sat and watched a leopard shark resting on the sand at the edge of the reef. The following day, we saw bottlenose dolphins; played with Boris the potato bass whilst being totally surrounded by slinger, watched a green turtle eating seaweed, saw honeycomb and geometric moray eels, live cowrie shells, nudibranchs and many fish.
Dale Smith also completed his PADI Open Water Course and had a wonderful dive at Pineapple Reef where he also got to play with Boris, but the highlight of the dive was when we followed a free-swimming honeycomb eel. We swam behind it, watching as it poked its head inside various holes in the reef. We thought at first that it was hunting but then realised that it was just looking for the right place to settle in and make its home for a while.
Rocktail Beach Camp Description
Rocktail Beach Camp is set back in and shaded by the sanctuary of the lush Maputaland Coastal Forest covering the ancient dunes that make up the edge of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal coast. With the Maputaland Marine Reserve just offshore and the beach a brisk 20-minute walk from the camp, there are world-class diving and snorkelling, remote, unspoilt beaches and other beach adventures to be had.
The camp consists of 17 rooms all of which with en-suite bathrooms, open-feel indoor shower and overhead fans. Seven of these are family units with a shared bathroom and two bedrooms for two adults and two children. A honeymoon unit has wonderful views over the ocean and dune forest.
Rocktail Beach Camp also has a central dining room, bar and lounge with large wrap-around veranda. A raised viewing deck just off the veranda has wide views that extend out to the ocean. The camp’s main area has a wine cellar, large pool, curio shop and children’s playroom, complete with board games and other fun activities for families.
From a scuba diving perspective, Rocktail Bay is unique. Not only is the diving conducted within a Reserve and World Heritage Site along unspoiled reefs, but divers have the luxury of knowing that they alone have access to these sites and are the only underwater visitors along this stretch of the coastline.
Information and Photos courtesy of Wilderness Safaris