Marine Life, South Africa

Zebras and giraffes may not roam the streets of Cape Town, but the city’s residents still share their corner of the continent, both on land and in the water, with some wild and wonderful creatures.

Great white sharks live in almost all coastal and offshore waters which have water temperature between 12 and 24 °C (54 and 75 °F). One of the densest known populations is found around Dyer Island, located near to the fishing port of Gansbaai (about two hours east of Cape Town). Most of South Africa’s shark research (and cage diving) is done here.

Perhaps the most endearing of Cape Town’s fauna is the African penguin, which live in mainland colonies in nearby Simon’s Town and farther afield near Hermanus. Widely known as the “jackass” penguin for its donkey-like bray, the African penguin is as graceful in the water as it is comically ungainly out of it, and incredibly tame. The African penguin is now critically endangered – see here for more details.

South Africa is also one of the best destinations worldwide for watching marine mammals. The southern right whale breeds exclusively in the sheltered bays of the Western Cape, with these majestic animals spending up to six months a year here (June-December).

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