A once in a lifetime encounter just around the corner from us in Simon’s Town.
Nature at it’s best.
Read all about this encounter from Simon’s Town Boat Company:
Since 2009 when we first documented killer whales hunting in False Bay, up until 2015, when it became (almost) an annual event to witness them preying on common dolphins.
Images of these highly energetic and skillful hunters filled the media on each visit and they enjoyed celebrity status for many years. That was until they were knocked off their perch by the infamous shark killers Port & Starboard.
But yesterday, after an 8-year hiatus they were back. Not the same pod that were regulars back then, but the male amongst them is an animal I’ve seen a few times before.
The report came in at around eight AM from Peter Morgan, one of our seasoned land based spotters in Simon’s Town (no cetacean escapes his powerful binoculars) and we sprang into action. Peter reported that a number of predatory events had taken place before we found the killer whales an hour later. At that time, they were milling around about 2 miles off Simon’s Town and the dolphins were reported close to Fish Hoek and heading towards Kalk Bay. The killer whales were certainly not bothered by us and happily swam up to the boat and enjoyed a spell of riding our wake. We then noticed the 300 strong pod of dolphins in the distance, heading straight towards us and the deadly killer whales.
Killer whales are silent when in hunting mode, so obviously hadn’t been detected by the dolphins.
When they did meet up however, I expected pandemonium as in all the previous events that I’ve witnessed, but this time it played out in slow motion, with a total absence of a typical common dolphin flight response. In fact, the dolphins hardly accelerated to beyond 8 knots (15 km/h), when they are in fact quite capable of reaching 30 knots (56 km/h) and therefore in order for the killer whales to catch them, they’d have to accelerate beyond that speed.
Having given some thought to this, I would hypothesize that the killer whales had been shadowing and feeding on this pod of dolphins for a long time, possibly a number of days and maybe even corralled them into False Bay. It was as if the dolphins had accepted the inevitable and were relying purely on their numbers for their individual survival.
But despite the apparent sluggishness of both predator & prey a most dramatic attack took place and the dolphin was sent flying (Alex got the money shot). The initial strike, as is usual with killer whales was by one of the females, but soon thereafter, she handed the partially immobilized dolphin to the male, who simply shepherded it around for about 10 minutes until another female arrived on the scene and dispatched it.
Thereafter, we enjoyed another hour interacting with the killer whales before they re-grouped and headed towards Cape Hangklip.
Here’s an assortment of pictures taken from the boat – Enjoy!
Source credit: Simon’s Town Boat Company