Cruising islands around the Bay

Sarah Dirsuwei and her family love to explore the world and share their experiences in their blog Chasing the Rainbow. Today they head out to sea with Stampede Cruises.

Have you ever noticed a swish looking catamaran cruising along PE’s promenade? We certainly have, and have been itching to be the ones on board, watching the city from the water. So we booked ourselves tickets on Stampede Cruises and headed down to the harbour on a perfectly still and sunny December morning.

Stampede Cruises offer three tour options – a morning cruise to the islands of St Croix, Brenton and Jahleel, or afternoon cruises along the waterfront with the option of a tour of the oyster farm.

We are huge fans of Addo National Park and have never done a sea safari in the marine section of the park, so we opted for the cruise to the islands.

Stampede’s catamaran takes up to 12 passengers and has shady benches to sit on inside the cabin, or a large webbing hammock at the front of the boat between the hulls. We headed straight out front and enjoyed the view of Port Elizabeth’s harbour as we were ferried out to the open sea. It took about an hour and a half to reach the first island and we were fascinated by the thousands of gannets along the way – bobbing with their bellies so full of fish that we had to try and dodge them as they were too lazy to move out the way.

Others flew up high and then dived like fighter jets head first into the ocean in search of their next meal, making quite a splash as they wowed us with their speed and agility.

Although whale season is finished, we were lucky enough to spot an enormous humpback mother with her calf, which surfaced really close to our boat. Stampede owner and skipper Rod Lochhead told us all sort of interesting facts about the marine life in the Eastern Cape.

He explained how St Croix Island hosts the largest breeding colony of African Penguins in the world, and how the collective noun for these cute little black and white birds is a raft of penguins (easy to see why – we spotted quite a few rafts floating together in a tight group along the way).

Although the islands look pale, rocky and stark from far away, as we approached, we were fascinated to see thousands of birds perched above green layers of algae, and below that bright red brown rocks full of sea life.

The crashing waves on these distinctly coloured layers was absolutely beautiful. As we motored around Brenton island, we spotted hammerhead sharks, sitting just below the surface and darting out of the way of our boat to our delight as we stood on the bow.

Whales and sharks – so this was Addo’s big seven we have heard so much about!

Stampede’s island ocean safari rounded off our experiences with Addo National Park. We loved it just as much as we love going on a land-based safari, and we experienced for ourselves some of the natural wonders of our rich marine world that draws visitors from all around the globe. Island tours are four hours long and cost R750 per person. Beachfront tours are two hours and cost R250 per person. Oyster tours include the beachfront tour as well as a visit to the oyster farm and fresh oysters on board for R300 per person. Bookings are essential: www.stampedecruises.co.za e-mail: info@stampedecruises.co.za or call 081-766-6749.

See more of the Dirsuwei family’s Chasing the Rainbow trips at: www.chasingtherainbow.net.

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