Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

This week Alan dives off land into the cool waters surrounding southern and eastern Africa. Rich in marine life and gorgeous coastline, he makes suggestions on getting the best out of a water-based safari.

I am only just discovering the wealth of wildlife under African waters, and wow, what diversity, what beauty and what a great safari it makes... And the Big 5? Of course there is a Big 5! The self proclaimed Marine Big 5 is whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins!

Serengeti of the Seas
There are all kind of safaris on offer, although sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper to find what you’re looking for. Off the Western Cape, South Africa, for example you could easily organise a safari to see cape fur seals, search for elusive great white sharks, spot lumbering southern right whales, see bottlenose dolphins slicing through the waves, and laugh at the clownish antics of the African penguin. This could well be the Serengeti of the Seas.

Combining Conservation and a Safari
If you’re interested in getting involved in African conservation work...of the marine variety...there are a selection of trips on which you can get directly involved with projects involving whale sharks, dolphins and sea turtles. And embark on a far more indepth safari than you would otherwise have the opportunity to do.

For example you can dive with dolphins in Kenya in association with the Watamu Marine Association - take part in  research expeditions, getting directly involved with Kenya's marine conservation projects.

Or in Mozambique, team up with the Marine Megafauna Foundation. Their research activities include tagging whale sharks and manta rays amongst reef systems off Casa Barry (a world class dive site). And you can help them! Mozambique’s island-studded waters, coral reefs and prolific marine life offer one of the best marine safari options in the region.

Or if you’re feeling adventurous you could go face to face with a great white shark off the waters of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. No prior diving experience required to go shark-cage diving...just a cool head.

Coral Code of the Seas
And when diving, snorkelling or swimming keep the Coral Code in mind:

  • Coral is alive and delicate so don’t touch it.
  • Take photos only
  • Take your rubbish with you
  • Choose a tour operator that is environmentally aware
  • Use eco-friendly sunscreens and cleaning products
  • Do not feed reef fish - as this may disturb their natural behaviour
  • Remember that boat anchors can severely damage coral reefs - boats should always anchor in sandy areas, well away from the reef. Make sure your operator follows this practice
  • Pass this stuff on - be a part of helping to conserve delicate marine areas

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