Wounded by a stingray
Hi, I was
wondering if you knew of a website that had some more information on
wounds from a sting ray? I had been "stung" a week ago and was looking
for more information on how long it takes to heal, what a "normal" sting
area would look like/how it should feel and if it were to get infected,
what that would be like.
I'm not aware of any websites with information that detailed. I've been
lucky so far but I have heard that the stings are very painful and can
potentially take months to heal. Because the barbs are brittle they tend
to leave small fragments in the wound. These may cause infection if the
wound is not irrigated by a medical professional. Definitely go to the
doc if you haven't done so already.
South African Shark Diving
I actually received this incredible
monologue last year but this is the first time that I have posted it on
Elasmodiver. I no longer have a contact for this contributor so if Neil
(the writer) stumbles over this post please email me again so that I can
credit you properly for all of this excellent information:
From Neil in South Africa:
I humbly offer a few suggestions on
where you can see sharks...
The Great Whites are pretty well known
to you, I'm sure - most activity at Dyer Island off Gansbaai (it is
about a 2 hour drive from Cape Town), and about 7 operators offering
their services. Andre Hartmann and Michael Rutzen are the two most well
known guys, both of whom do the free-diving out of the cage featured on
This is not offered (for obvious
reasons) to general tourists, but I do know of someone who has done it,
and could find out who took him out there to do this if you are
There is also a free-diving trip from
(I think) Simon's Town (nearer to Cape Town) to view makos and blue
sharks in False Bay. I don't know much about this, though - it sounds
In the Durban area we have several
sharks that are attractions.
The most "famous" is the grey-nurse /
sand tiger shark (which we call the spotted ragged-tooth shark, or, more
affectionately, just "raggie"). They come to the area every winter on
their way up to Mozambique, where they breed.
The first raggies of this season
arrived last week and I saw my first four of the year on Sunday.
They visit many dive-sites, but the
easiest to get to is Aliwal Shoal, which has a number of spots where
they can be found in quite pleasing numbers.
There are lots of dive charters,
mostly in the little coastal town of Umkomaas (about an hours drive
south of Durban), that will take you out there almost any time of the
week (weather permitting).
Between June and about September you
can be pretty much sure to see raggies in the course of a few dives -
especially if you go out early (sunrise), while they are still active
from their night's hunting.
There are 3 operators that I know of
who offer specialized tiger-shark dives (using chum and a floating
bait-bucket; with the divers scuba-diving along with the sharks & bait
at about 10m depth - no cage!).
These dives launch from either
Umkomaas or a little further south at Scottburgh.
I have done this dive once (and also
once came up from an ordinary dive on the bait line of one of the
operators - a bit of a surprise, but very thrilling!). It is something
I'm certain to do again, possibly in the next few months, as the shark
species changes during the winter.
On the organized dive we had 4 tigers
and somewhere between 30 to 40 blacktips (C. limbatus) - sometimes
getting to within touching distance of us (though we never felt even
slightly unsafe - the sharks are quite aware that we are not what they
are looking for).
On this dive we only had to wait about
15 minutes for the first tiger to arrive - this can vary, of course, but
in the "high season" the tigers seem to be ready and waiting....
On these dives they have also seen
great whites, duskies, bronze whalers (copper sharks), hammerheads
(scalloped) and several others. Bull sharks may also be possible, but
apparently are not often seen.
The time we came up unexpectedly on a
bait-line we encountered around 30 or more sharks, which included
blacktips, bulls and bronze whalers.
The operator we used for the organized
dive was Walter Bernadis of African Watersports
also offers sardine run trips.
If you are wanting to see tiger sharks
specifically, it may be best to check with the operator first as to what
time of year is best (and also what is happening at the time - the
climate is not at all "normal' at the moment and the sea-life is equally
As far as I know the tigers are
usually best seen in the summer months (November to late May, with April
& May being best) - awkward, as it clashes with the other events - the
raggies and the sardine run.
About 2 to 3 hours south of Durban
there is another shark dive-site called the Protea Banks (about 7km
offshore from Shelley Beach. There are also a few dive operators here.
The one I have dived with is now closed, I believe, so I don't know whom
The dive is not often in the best
conditions - the water is quite deep (40m plus), the vis. is often down
to 5m, and most of all there is usually a current from hell that whips
you along at a good rate.
I am told that on a good day you can
have one of the most awesome dives ever - with bull sharks (we call them
Zambezi sharks or just "Zambies") coming in close enough to bump you; as
well as a range of other sharks on offer. I have also been told that
this will happen about 1 in 10 dives.
I have thus got 7 more to go to have
the good one, and will probably keep trying... (to date I have only seen
the shadow of what I was assured was a hammerhead).
I have had far better luck with bull
sharks at a dive site off Ponta D'Ouro in Mozambique (just across the
South African border).
Ponta is about a 6 hour drive north of
Durban, and you need a 4x4 vehicle once you are across the border into
Moz. - it is only 20km more to reach Ponta, but there are no roads -
just sand tracks. If you are staying at a dive-charter / lodge in Ponta
they usually have a pick-up service that can fetch you from the border
if you so wish (while you can leave your car parked in a guarded parking
(a low rate charged by the locals to look after it for you - have never
heard of any problems).
The town of Ponta is very small and
was badly affected by the civil war of the 1980's-90's. It is getting
more and more developed each time I visit (about twice a year if I can -
I love the place!). While it is mostly desperately run-down, it also
has some quite trendy restaurants!
Anyway, as far as shark diving at
Ponta is concerned...
The dive site is about 11km boat-ride
north of the town, and is called The Pinnacles. The Pinnacle itself is
a smallish rocky reef rising from 40m up to about 30m, with deeper water
all around. The vis. is usually excellent - 30 to 40m or more, and
blue. There is usually only a mild current, too.
Most of the dive is a "big blue", as
the main point is to see sharks & other pelagics.
I have seldom been disappointed on a Pinnacles dive, and there is always
the pleasure of just floating in blue space if the sharks don't show for
I have seen schools of
scalloped hammerheads here (20 or more), as well as individuals coming
in fairly close, for a 1-on-1 encounter. Blacktips are also common in
Best of all, it is the place I have
had my best sightings of bull sharks - up to 3 at a time, but I know of
people who have been circled by 6 or more.
If you take along a spear gun (no
arrow - to avoid accidents) and twang it as if firing it off, it seems
to work well to "call" them, as the area is often used by spearos, and
the sound has become a signal to the local sharks that there is easy
food "on offer".
There are also a lot of other
excellent dive-sites off the Ponta coast. This is one of my favourite
During the summer months (with our
seas warm and the rivers feeding a nice plankton bloom) we also get
whale sharks visiting our coast - and we are sometimes lucky enough to
encounter them in the backline on our way to or from the Aliwal Shoal.
I heard of as many as 8 in one day on
a 5km stretch of coastline, between Umkomaas and Scottburgh.
The boat skippers happily stop for you
to snorkel with them. They usually swim away quite quickly when you
enter the water, but on one occasion I was lucky enough to spend 25
minutes with a 7-8m long female whale shark, who seemed to want our
company and kept swimming right into our group and bumping us very
gently, and then hanging in the water brushing against us. While they
aren't the 15m long giants like the ones at Ningaloo, it is a privilege
to have them at all.
The sardine run... This is a tricky
one to try to see. Those little fellows are very unpredictable at
best! Some years they arrive early, some years late and some, not at
They normally arrive in June or July
(so any time in an 8 week period or so).
Last year they simply didn't arrive
(as happened two years before last) - only a few scattered little shoals
here and there.
I have a feeling this year will be a
good one and early - our winter has started early and it has been
unusually cold, and they follow the cold currents. Just a hunch...
There are a number of operators who
offer sardine-run trips, especially as it has become so famous
world-wide these days. Walter Bernadis (whom I mentioned above) is the
only one I know personally. Every year he disappears down the coast for
a few weeks to launch his boats for the event.
Aside from the unpredictability of the
event, the shoals also don't visit predictable locations, and then they
usually only come close to shore in an especially remote area of the
country where one has to travel for long distances on bad dirt roads
just to get a few km's up the coast.
It all sounds very frustrating, but,
if you get to see it, surely worth the while.
As I understand it, the best chance of
seeing the sardine run (and I know of few people who have - even though
it happens practically on our doorstep) is to find an operator who runs
a trip and let them deal with the hassles (at a cost, of course).
The main event is actually not in
Durban, but several hours drive down the coast in the former "homeland"
(the bad, old days!) of the Transkei - very remote and with little
infra-structure (especially decent roads). You then stay at a set
accommodation on the coast and use spotter planes (microlights) and so
on to locate the sardine shoals that come close enough to shore.
When a shoal is sighted you may need
to drive a longish way to get close to the shoal to launch, or have a
long boat trip. From what I hear, a lot of the time is spent simply
Having said that, I cannot imagine a
more thrilling thing to see! I am sure you've seen the many TV
documentaries about this. Whales, dolphins, gamefish and masses of
sharks and huge flocks of sea-birds, with swirling, silver clouds of
sardines. Must be mind-blowing!!
Towards the end of the run, the shoals
begin moving out to sea (to die, apparently - seems very pointless, but
there must be a reason, I guess).
In Durban and on the South Coast we
only get the tail end of the event, and a few random pockets of fish
that come inshore at places (unfortunately without any way of telling
where or when, and usually when I am stuck at work and can't get there
As far as the rays are concerned,
Aliwal Shoal has quite a variety, including devil rays and manta rays,
eagle rays and bull rays, and, occasionally, I have been lucky to see a
butterfly ray just off the reef. In summer we also have a lot of giant
The best Southern African spot for
manta rays (and these are the huge ones that look like light aircraft
when they come in close over your head) is, in my (rather limited)
experience, at a place called Inhambane (pronounced "in-yum-barn") in
Mozambique. It is a mission to get there, but well worth the trip!
The drive from Durban (via Swaziland
and then Maputo - then another 6 to 10 hours on a very badly maintained
road) can take up to 18 hours, and is something of an endurance test.
Inhambane town is actually on a
lagoon, but within 20km of it is the coast, and at various spots along
here are dive launch-sites and dive sites, where one can be pretty sure
to see giant mantas most of the year, and, in season, whale sharks. As
far as I know the best time of year for whale sharks is Nov-March,
peaking in Feb. Mantas are also better at these times and also into May
(best in April). Places to stay are - Barra Lodge (at the mouth of the
lagoon) - expensive, I'm told; various cheaper places and dive charters
at Tofu Beach (I stayed here and thoroughly enjoyed it); Guinjata Bay -
excellent and reasonably priced lodge and dive charter, I have been told
by someone who stayed there.
Phew! What started as a quick reply
to your email has turned into a mini-travelogue - please forgive me
waffling!! Hope it does give you some info and inspiration to visit
this part of the world, though.
I had better stop now. Once again,
thanks for your great site - I have sent the web-address to my dive
buddies with high recommendations.
I forgot to mention the cat sharks! I have only
scuba dived once in Cape Town, and we encountered 3 or 4 different cat
sharks on that single dive (including pyjama shark & puff-adder shyshark) -
very pretty little creatures with colourful & elaborate markings; they
are also very easy to approach as they swim so poorly, and we were able
to get within touching distance quite easily (not so easy to photograph
as they are quite skittish and shy). Apparently they are quite common
in the kelp beds all along the coast, but you'd obviously need to do
several dives to get a good selection of them, or find a specific one.
Much of the diving in Cape Town is shore-entry, or close
to shore (boats are mostly just needed to get to sites that the shore
entry access point has no land access because of the terrain - the
mountains descend directly into the sea in some places). The water is
pretty cold compared to what we are used to in Durban (temps. are from
8'C to 20'C, averaging around 10'C to 15'C; while in Durban area we
usually have 20'C to 26'C and Mozambique can go as high as 28'C).
I'll have a look for more information on these rarer
sharks, where they may be found and so on - have a lot of books at home
to consult and will enjoy researching this. I am a bit snowed in with
various things right now, but will have some time this weekend and get
back to you next week, hopefully.
Off the top of my head, I also seem to recall that Cape
Town has St. Joseph sharks / elephant-fish (the one that is a type of
chimaera), but would need to check on details of where they are found
(depth may be a problem).
The cowshark (7-gill) would be one I'd love to see - I
remember someone saying they'd seen one, but will have to check among my
friends who it was as where they saw it. So much of this is just pure
I forgot to mention that I once saw a leopard shark
(well, actually the adult zebra shark!) at 40m on a dive at The
Pinnacles (Ponta D'Ouro) - I love that dive site!!
For now, best regards,
Neil! information at this level is priceless.
My son and I
observed a ray, he thought it was a manta, I couldn't say for sure,
leap out of the water three times in succession within about 5 seconds.
It was about 4 to five feet across wing tip to wing tip. It was about
50 yards from us and we were about a half mile off the atlantic coast
of south carolina, near georgetown. is this unusual? was it feeding
or trying to escape something trying to feed on it perhaps? was it
maybe a mating ritual of some kind?
a lot of speculation as to why rays jump. It is unlikely that such a big
ray was evading a predator. As mantas primarily eat plankton it is also
unlikely that it was trying to stun a school of fish. Most likely it was
attempting to rid itself of parasites but it is impossible to say for
sure. There is one report of a manta giving birth during a breach by the
mother. Maybe they breach simply because they can. Mantas are considered
to be exceptionally intelligent. They are somewhat warm blooded, appear
to enjoy interactions with divers (but they are selective in choosing
human playmates) and they can recognize individual humans based on eye
for the question!
How can I convince
people about the devastation of shark finning?
Posted by Thanaraj
Hello there! I' m a
big fan of sharks and your website. I'm a Malaysian Indian living on
Penang Island in Peninsular Malaysia. I've been crazy about sharks since
I was 10 years old. I'm 33 years old now. I do my own research on sharks
in a way that people here think I'm a little loose in my head. I do my
shark conservation in my country by talking to people on the devastation
of shark- finning. Sadly, shark fin consumption is widely accepted as a
way of tradition and delicacy, mainly for the chinese community. It's a
must- have dish in weddings and various functions. I've tried to
convince the people here that without sharks, the whole eco- balance of
our oceans will get screwed. but people here are so ignorant that they
laugh at what I'm trying to do. But I haven't and will not give up
trying to get people to eat fins. I visited Pulau Payar off Langkawi
Island to "meet" Blacktip sharks. We don't as many awesome species that
you have but I get my "HIGH" from watching and learning about sharks
from whatever sources I can get my hands on.