Pelagic birding is not just about trying to see a few new birds; it is a whole adventure which starts with climbing aboard a boat and heading into for us humans, an artificial environment way out to sea where land is no longer visible.
It is about being able to feel the fresh sea air and smelling the salt spray as swells push over the front of the bow.
It is about scanning the entire horizon from where you could be the only people on earth and then seeing an almost magical appearance of that first albatross as it glides effortlessly between the swells with barely a wing-beat. You immediately realize that you are in an extremely privileged position to be graced by the true avian masters of the deep oceans.
Best Time to Photograph
Trips run on scheduled times that normally depart early in the morning and return mid-afternoon.
Type of Photography
Best Time of Year
Due to often rapidly changing conditions it is always important to bring weatherproof clothing as well as a good hat and sunscreen. Sunglasses are also advisable to keep off the constant glare. Sea-sick tablets and plenty of water are suggested. Cameras and binoculars must be kept on straps and a plastic covering of sorts is useful for keeping salt spray off them. If photographing, a zoom lens is the most useful and should be set at a high speed so as to compensate for the rolling boat and seas and to capture the movement of the birds. Image-stabilizing lenses are especially worthwhile.
Good splash covers for camera gear is essential. Fast telephoto lenses that can be handheld bring the best results and it is important to keep the camera strap on at all times. Remember to pack sunscreen, extra water and a good windbreaker jacket.
For the average birder the pelagic environment is a full of exciting specials comprising Albatross, Petrels, Shearwaters, Stormpetrels, Gulls, Terns and Skuas. Most birders are able to add several “lifers” on a pelagic trip. In addition, dolphins, whales and sharks of various species are often observed.
The sea is an unpredictable environment and conditions can change rapidly from calm flat seas to rough conditions with large swells. Winter and summer species vary considerably and the ideal would be to undertake a summer and winter trip to be able to see the majority of regularly seen pelagic sea birds. September is generally one of the best months as this is where a mix of winter and summer species can be seen.
Bookings must be made well in advance and full information is provided once the booking has been made. The boat departs from the Simonstown harbor jetty, although trips from other locations are also offered.
Arne's passion for the environment, wildlife and conservation was instilled from an early age, leading to a career in nature conservation, first as a game ranger in the Natal Parks Board, a conservation officer with CapeNature and today in the City of Cape Town's Environmental Compliance Department. Photography is his creative medium of choice.
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