On Monday 18th April 2016 Nelson Mandela Bay celebrated its new title as the Bottlenose Dolphin Capital of the World. The event was held at the Algoa Bay Yacht Club in the Port Elizabeth harbour and was attended by over 270 people. The event was supported by the Deputy Minister for Tourism, the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency and the local university (NMMU), and we had speeches from Lloyd Edwards (owner of Raggy Charters), Dr Lorien Pichegru (chairperson for the Algoa Bay Hope Spot), Mandlakazi Skefile (CEO of NMBT) and Professor Andrew Leitch (Deputy Vice Chancellor for NMMU). Raggy Charters has been running marine eco tours in Algoa Bay since 1997 and over the years, we have observed schools of between 50 and 800 bottlenose dolphin individuals on over 90% of our marine cruises. Since we have launched the bay as the capital of the world we have had 46 cruises in a row with bottlenose dolphin sightings, with the average pod size being 200. It is almost as if the bottlenose dolphins have heard our celebrations and decided to show us off even more!
Scientific research conducted in the 1990s by leading South African cetacean scientist, Dr Vic Cockcroft from the Centre for Dolphin Studies, revealed that approximately 20,000 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were making use of Algoa Bay. This figure is now expected to have risen to nearly 30,000 individuals after further data was collected by Ryan Reisinger and Leszek Karczmarski using photo ID’s, more recently. After discovering this population estimate we had to start asking other dolphin watching operators around the world what their sightings were like. Lloyd Edwards from Raggy Charters attended the World Whale Conference in the Azores Islands held during October 2015. The 200+ delegates at the conference consisted of whale and dolphin watching operators, cetacean scientists and non-government marine organisations from around the globe. They were all amazed to see the size of the bottlenose dolphin schools frequently spotted in the bay and we found that nowhere else in the world are such large schools seen.
Both locals and tourists are always thrilled to see bottlenose dolphins on our cruises and along the beachfront where they are often spotted by beach-goers! The interactions these creatures have with us humans is so personal and impressive at times it is not hard to understand how we feel such a powerful connection with them. With this new title, Nelson Mandela Bay will host an annual dolphin festival every year to celebrate our ocean friends. The Whale and Oyster festivals of Hermanus and Knysna respectively have gained local and international popularity and are of much economic benefit to the communities there. So we hope the Dolphin Festival will bring delight to local residents, as well as visitors, and attract further national and international attention to Port Elizabeth.
Thanks to WCA Partner Raggy Charters for this article