Penguins on St Croix Island

A little while ago I had the fantastic opportunity to go on a cruise on Algoa Bay with Raggy Charters and it felt like we hit the jackpot that day. Whales, dolphins, bait balls, penguins, and the cherry on top, a killer whale.

The cruise was the first opportunity for me to see St Croix Island up close. St Croix Island is home to the largest breeding colony of African penguins in the world. At one stage there were 60 000 individuals on the island, but the population in our bay has dropped down to about 22,000 due to various reasons. The island houses roughly half of the entire world’s population. The African Penguin  (Spheniscus demersus) is only found on the southern African coastline and is also called a  jackass penguin due to it’s loud, donkey-like bray. Their conservation status is listed as Endangered.

St Croix Island along with Bird Island across the Bay were both utilised for food and supplies since the first Portuguese explorers rounded the Cape in 1488.  Both islands were targeted for bird meat by ships passing the bay and it was soon discovered that African penguin eggs were actually a highly tasty treat and became a delicacy. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries egg collecting was so extensive that penguin numbers dropped to a shocking one thousand individuals in 1937. Guano (penguin dung) was also collected from both islands to be used as fertiliser and gun powder until 1955 on St Croix and until as late as 1989 on Bird Island. This was extremely disruptive to the birds but more importantly, it robbed them of important nesting material.  

Today the African Penguin is a protected species

Source – Algoa Bay Hope Spot – NMBT website 

Madiba on the Donkin

Although the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro is named after South Africa’s first post Apartheid president and a world icon, the city does not have a proper Madiba statue for visitors and tourists to visit. Because of this the Route 67 Madiba figure on the Donkin Reserve has become a must stop for especially international visitors

The road past Beachview

How about a little roadtrip around PE? Start on the beachfront and follow Marine Drive along the Wildside to Schoenmakerskop, around to Sardinia Bay and then onto the Seaview Road to Seaview, Beachview and Maitland (perhaps as far as the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve), before returning along Kragga Kamma Road to Port Elizabeth.

This is what the road past Beachview on the way to Maitland looks like. Views for ages.

Sunset at Sardinia Bay

The dune at Sardinia Bay is probably the best and most popular spot in Port Elizabeth to enjoy a beautiful sunset. We haven’t been for ages and I got tired of seeing other people post photos of it on Facebook, so on Tuesday afternoon I made a suggestion to go when I got home from work and was still putting down my bag when I heard the door close as everybody headed for the car.

Common Dolphins in Algoa Bay

Cruising Algoa Bay with Raggy Charters is like a luxury lucky packet. You kinda know what you could find, but when you do it like wow in overdrive. As a tourism marketer promoting the Eastern Cape I have spoken about Raggy Charters and promoted what Algoa Bay has to offer for years with so many invites to join them on a cruise. Something just always came up until I got to finally join them on a cruise a little while ago. Our first big wow of the cruise was a pod of Common Dolphins cashing a sardine bait ball. We followed the pod cameras clicking and at times it felt like the boat was going full tilt to keep up.

Common Dolphins (Delphinus Capensis) is the most widespread and abundant of all the dolphin species, and can be found in pods of up to 2 000. They are highly efficient at capturing small shoaling fish such as anchovies, pilchards and krill. Swimming at speeds of up to 60km/h they hunt down their prey and encircle them driving the shoal towards the surface and continuously tightening the circle around them.

And if you’re lucky, you get a shot like this…

Penguins and dolphins at St Croix

Port Elizabeth and Algoa Bay are promoted as the Bottlenose Dolphin capital of the world while St Croix Island has the biggest population of African Penguins in the world. I was lucky to get both species in one photo at St Croix on an outing with Raggy Charters a little while ago.

Bottlenose Capital of the World – It is estimated that a population of over 28 000 individual Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins make use of Algoa Bay and the surrounding ocean making it the biggest concentration of bottlenose dolphins in the world. The bottlenose dolphins occur in groups of between 10 and 400 individuals.

For more information – Bottlenose Dolphion Capital of the World

African Penguins – About 60% of the total global population of the endangered African Penguins live in Algoa Bay, 21 000 on St Croix, and 5 700 on Bird Island. Strange enough there isn’t a mainland population in the Eastern Cape and they only occur on the islands.

For more information – African Penguins

Van Stadens bird hide

Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve’s bird hide

The 600 ha Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve is located about 35km west of Port Elizabeth. The reserve stretches from the Van Stadens mountain to the coast and its main purpose is to protect the area’s unique indigenous Fynbos vegetation. It’s always worth popping into the reserve because there’s always some type of protea in bloom. But Van Stadens isn’t just about vegetation and views of the Van Stadens gorge, it also boasts a birding list with 149 bird species and one of the best spots for twitchers to hang out and keep an eye out for our feathered friends is the reserve’s bird hide. The hide is the proud handy work of the Friends of Van Stadens, a group of volunteers who have helped out with the running of the Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve since 2007.

Scuba diving party in Port Elizabeth

Parties are getting more and more sophisticated.  Back in our days it was kids coming over and eating cake and sweets while watching a video and playing.  These days parents are pulling out all the stops to make a child’s birthday party a memorable one and with two kids, a boy and a girl, we’ve been to everything. Movies, ice skating, trampoline park, pool parties, supertube, survival parties and more.  But Drama Princess had a first the other day.  A scuba diving party hosted at ProDive here in Port Elizabeth. 

The kids had a swim in the dive pool while waiting for everybody to arrive before the full safety briefing by one of ProDive’s qualified dive masters.

They were then given their diving gear…

… with the dive master kitting them each out individually to make sure everything is in order.

Then it was time to get in the water and the fun to start.

Miggie showing off her scuba look.

Some of the kids “got it” immediately…

… while Miggie’s mind told her she has to come up every time she wanted to breathe in.  The dive master brought her back to the shallow side and spent a few moments with her to put her mind at ease and to help her get used to breathing underwater. 
Then there was no stopping her.

I wondered beforehand if Miggie would enjoy a scuba party and if she would even go under water.  Any uncertainty was cleared up very quickly and the kids at the party absolutely loved it and would have spent all day in there if they could.  I did my diving qualification many years ago and haven’t dived for a while, but I remember the feeling and I can imagine while the kids loved it.  It’s really something different and if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary for your child’s next party, then you should really consider doing this.