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.
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.
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.
Port Elizabeth and Algoa Bay was recently branded as the Bottlenose Dolphin Capital of the World because of the fact that the area is home to probably the biggest population of Bottlenose Dolphins in the world. Join Lloyd Edwards and the team of Raggy Charters on a virtual cruise of Algoa Bay out to St Croix Island and along the beachfront to view the dolphins on this video and perhaps you may just decided to do it in real life next time around.
Raggy Charters made Port Elizabeth proud during 2014 by being announced the national winner in the Marine Adventure Category of the Lilizela Tourism Awards. I found this video posted on YouTube two years or so ago by a visitor who went on one of their cruises to St Croix Island just to give you a bit of a taste on what to expect if you go out with Lloyd and his team.
At the recent 2nd annual South African Tourism Lilizela Awards Raggy Charters of Port Elizabeth won the Marine Experience category in the customer experience section. It is a huge accomplishment not just for Lloyd Edwards and his team but also a feather in the cap of Port Elizabeth and Algoa Bay. It proves that this area can compete with the best the rest of South Africa has to offer as far as marine experiences I came across this video by Ellie Bottomley on YouTube that she made of their cruise out to St Croix Island and the sightings along the way.
St Croix Island in Algoa Bay is home to the biggest African Penguin colony in the world. Unfortunately the number of penguins on the island has drastically reduced over the last couple of years and the reason for this basically comes down to pollution and over fishing. SAMREC (SA Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre) at Cape Recife takes in marine animals and birds that is injured or effected by pollution and does a great job nursing and caring for them as well as rehabilitating them back into the wild where possible. I haven’t been to SAMREC for a while so I haven’t seen their new rock pool facility, but I will pop in there soon and get some pics for the blogs.
This is the spectacular view from our daughter’s bedroom door in Richmond Hill, on one of those lovely crisp days when it has rained, and cleared and everything is crystal clear. In the foreground you can see the fish farm near the harbour, beyond that a ship approaches port, and beyond that St Croix Island floats on a shimmering horizon.
We are actively involved in neighbourhood patrols, spending several hours in the middle of the night each week, trying to take back our neighbourhood from drug dealers, pimps and thieves. On days when we wonder why we put up with the crime around us, we look at views like this and are reminded that it is worth it, and we are encouraged to continue our efforts.
These lonely looking houses on the leeward side of the island were built for guano collectors. This was apparently not a very succesful venture, as the collection of guano was made difficult by the terrain. The smell of the place would have put any normal person off, before they started.
St Croix Island rises out of the sea like a large rock and looks like a very inhospitable place, but it boasts the largest colony of African penguins in Southern Africa.
Wherever you look on the island there are groups of penguins. They are increasingly coming under pressure, as the fishing trawlers have depleted the area of fish. Recent sudies have shown that they travel up to 155 kms to find food. That is a long swim by any standard.