I am not writing this week’s post from the bush in Botswana but from the Eastern Cape coast in South Africa, where I am on vacation with family and friends.
Every year, between June and July, the annual sardine migration takes place in these parts. Millions of small fish gather together in shoals and make their way north, sometimes coming quite close inshore. The arrival of the sardines seems to stir up activity in local populations of bottlenosed dolphins, which are some of my favourite animals.
Last year I was in this same place at the same time. My efforts to photograph the dolphins reminded me of just how important it is to be both patient and persistent. This is all the more true when you are trying to anticipate the movement of wild creatures.
I had been getting up early each morning to photograph the sunrise on a rocky headland some minutes walk from home. One morning I noticed a pod of dolphins surfing the waves on the headland just after sunrise. Next day I was there, my biggest lens mounted on a tripod, straining my eyes for a glimpse of more dolphins. Nothing happened. I tried again the following morning and this time I was lucky to watch a group pass by, racing down the waves in the early morning light. They were moving with purpose though, and this meant that I only got one chance to catch them riding the wave. I managed a couple of pictures. The next day I got lucky again, and a pod went by. I snapped a few more pictures. Mentally patting myself on the back for having figured out the dolphins’ activity period, I promptly overslept the next morning, arriving at my spot totally out of breath from running and carrying my gear. I glanced up and saw with dismay what appeared to be the last dolphin in the group passing by.
I sat down on a rock and berated myself for my slow start, which was all wasted for now, *or* so it seemed. I was sitting regaining my breath, and trying to encourage myself to begin walking home. I was busy creating mental images of breakfast, when I glanced up and saw the unmistakable shape of more dolphins, moving my way. That turned out to be just the beginning. I jumped up and got behind my camera, and started shooting.
I finally walked home some two hours, and nine dolphin pods, later. It was one of the best mornings I’ve ever had, despite my slow start. This season things have been a little quiet. I would like to write more, but I have to turn in and get some sleep, tomorrow morning might be the one.