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Cape Town Tours

Pelagic Bird Trips with Chris & Monique Fallows

Cape Peninsula, South Africa

Pintado petrel
Return to Cape Town & Cape Winelands Tours          © Chris Fallows

The offshore waters off Cape Point offer some of the best pelagic birding in the world. On the Fallows' dedicated pelagic shark trips, you will have the opportunity to see many of pelagic bird species occurring off the South African coast. However, this trip is structured specifically around pelagic birds and, as such, Chris and Monique dedicate their time to looking for the large trawlers that attract thousands of these birds and this trip is for the serious avian enthusiast.

There are several reasons for this abundance of pelagic bird species, the most important being the nutrient rich waters caused by the upwelling which flows through this area. The current responsible for this is the cold Benguela current.

The warm Agulhas current flows down the East coast of South Africa and it too brings a host of sub tropical species with it, particularly during the summer months.

But it is the cold Benguela Current which sweeps the highly nutrient-rich waters up from the south and the strong winds, predominately from the south-east, create an upwelling that pushes all the nutrients to the surface. This in turn, sustains the phytoplankton that forms the basis of the marine food chain. Pelagic fishes thrive in this area and discards from the trawlers provide a constant food source for the birds.

Throughout the year, one has a very good chance of seeing pelagic species like White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Cape Gannet, Sub Antarctic Skua, the diminutive Wilson's Storm Petrel and four species of albatross (Shy, Black-browed, Atlantic and Indian Yellow-nosed).

During winter, when numbers of birds are at their highest, other species that are normally present are Southern and Northern Giant Petrel, the spectacularly plumaged Pintado Petrel, Antarctic Prion and Antarctic Tern. Winter trips also provide the possibility of many sought after species including those ocean going giants, Wandering, Souther,n and Northern Royal Albatrosses as well as Grey-headed Albatross and Antarctic Fulmar.

During passage periods (April-May and September-October), other birds which visit these waters reasonably regularly, including Great Shearwater, Soft-plumaged Petrel and, with a little bit of luck, Black-bellied Storm Petrel.

The summer species are supplemented with the likes of Cory's and Manx Shearwater, Arctic, Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua, Great-winged Petrel, European Storm Petrel, Sabine's Gull, Arctic Tern and Grey Phalarope.

Note on Vessels: All of the Fallows' expeditions are run from their high powered 28-ft catamaran, equipped with two new 140-hp, low emission, 4-stroke engines, capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots if need be. They also have access to a larger 36-ft catamaran for larger groups if need be. These vessels are custom built for these activities, are safe, fast, and reliable, offering a well designed layout suitable for photography, filming, diving and general surface observation.

Requirements: Each year. Chris & Monique run at least two exploratory trips, each lasting 14-21 days, for a maximum of 6 guests, who need to apply for these limited spaces. Candidates are required to have diving experience, be comfortable on boats for long periods and be willing to involve themselves in the daily workings on a yacht, as well as helping in all aspects of shark work. Each trip is carefully planned and sites that offer the best potential, based on all available information and past experiences in similar areas are selected.

Chris & Monique Fallows Shy albatross Black-browed albatross seen on a pelagic birding cruise Black-browed albatross Indian Yellow-nosed albatross
All images © Chris Fallows

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