From whalesharks, sailfish and whites on Aliwal, mantas in Raja Ampat, schooling jacks in Baja, humpbacks on South Africa's sardine run and fur seals on Australia's south coast we have had our fair share of unforgettable ocean encounters.
Mike and I have been diving for quite a few years now and have seen marine life showing off all over the world. Mike is definitely our good luck charm and I am forever jealous of the hours he's spent on Aliwal.
We don't have footage from all our favourite encounters because sometimes we forget the camera or the footage is so shaky or we just enjoyed the encounter (to later kick ourselves for not getting it on camera). One time our camera even spent a week dangling from a rock in the Indian Ocean off Rocktail Bay (thanks to the guys at Mokarran for finding our trusty GoPro Hero 4 when it went missing during a dive).
We can't decide what has been the most special and insane moment so we've narrowed it down to 8 favourites from the past few years:
A whaleshark sighting with PADI Open Water students, 2020
On Aliwal Shoal in recent years, whaleshark sightings have become increasingly rare. Spotted on the surface by another dive operator, Mike jumped in and free dived with the biggest fish in the sea before deciding to kit up his students. They scuba dived for about half an hour with the whaleshark in the blue before heading over to the reef. The footage he got was so special and captured the experience for his students perfectly.
Inquisitive manta rays in Raja Ampat, 2018
Manta rays are one of my favourite marine creatures. Going back through the footage from my 2018 Indo trip has reminded me how interactive and inquisitive they are. I did a few dives in Raja Ampat, the ones where we sighted mantas were the most memorable. We saw more than seven on the one dive on a cleaning station off the island of Waigeo, it was definitely a WOW moment.
Indonesia is definitely at the top of my post Covid-19 travel list.
Sailfish feeding on Aliwal Shoal, 2021
When Mike came home from a day on Aliwal a few months ago with the story of eight sailfish feeding on garfish, I stared at him, jealous out of my mind and demanded to see the footage. I had seen one sailfish a few years prior up in Tofo from the surface and have been hoping for a special encounter ever since. But again lucky Mike.
"The sailfish were smashing garfish all over the surface, It was absolutely epic to watch."
A great white cruising along Aliwal with Discover Scuba Divers (DSD), 2020
Mike along with DSDs had this encounter in the shallows of Aliwal Shoal. The summer months are great months for Aliwal diving, tiger sharks usually make an appearance when the warm water arrives but this encounter was unexpected and a once in a life time experience.
To make it an even more mind blowing dive a pod of bottlenose dolphins and an entourage of tuna were also spotted. Check out Mikes video on Facebook, it got a tonne of views!
Schooling jacks in the Cabo Pulmo Marine Reserve, 2019
This Mexico trip was full of adventure but the diving in Baja California was insane. We drove the few hours to Cabo Pulmo from La Paz and jumped straight on the boat for the afternoon dives. We saw Bull sharks on the wreck and the highlight was taking the risk of diving with schooling jacks in the hopes they would hang around. We got lucky and had them schooling for the whole dive and even had a rooster fish and numerous tuna coming in for lunch. We were completely stoked. It was so incredible, we organised more diving for the next morning, even though we definitely couldn't afford it. The next day was just as good, we had encounters with several curious bulls and loads of beautiful reef fish.
Michael raves about the annual Sardine Run and has been down to the Transkei almost every year since he became an instructor back in 2015. Encounters include, humpback and Brydes whales, common dolphins, dusky sharks, seals, gannets and occassionally orca and mola mola. Plus the baitballs of sardines themselves, which is considered the Holy Grail of the run. It really is an event that every diver and ocean enthusiast should encounter at least once in their life.
Playing with Australian fur seals in Jervis Bay, 2019
This is such a fun dive. The water is cold but so worth it to encounter the cheeky fur seals. They are so playful and I can totally see why they get called 'the puppies of the ocean'. The guides brief you not to panic and that the seals WILL get up close and be intimidating. I smiled through the whole dive and had to clear my mask countless times. They are so quick and agile in the water and hilarious to watch them awkwardly manoeuvre on the rocks surrounding the dive site (galumphing I think is the correct term). Port Jackson sharks are also found in this area and are probably the cutest thing I have ever seen on a dive.
Freediving with bottlenose dolphins in Sodwana Bay, 2021
We have only gotten into free diving in the last few years, but between free diving and spearfishing we are both totally obsessed. Dolphin encounters would have to be one of our favourite and most interactive. The Sodwana area, for us, has some of the friendliest bottlenose dolphin pods. This particular day we got in the water both to and from our dive site (for scuba diving) in endless vis with pods of dolphins. It was really special.
Next on our list is diving with leatherback turtles! Oh and seeing orcas would be unreal...
We can't wait for more special encounters and to pick up our photography game.
What has been your most incredible marine encounter?
If this post has inspired you to get into diving and you would like to enquire about PADI courses or you want to hear a bit more about diving the famous Aliwal Shoal, get in touch via our contact page.