Iranian Marine Biologist Gives Eco-Tours of Cape Town’s Biodiverse Table Bay

biodiversity, eco-tour, cape town, ocean adventurer, biomass, upwelling, green tourism, marine protected area

Green Prophet recently joined the Ocean Adventurer team for an eco-tour of Cape Town’s rich biodiversity.

After living in Iran, Dubai, and Zimbabwe at different times of his life, the exuberant young Marine Biologist Amir Rezaei has landed one of Cape Town’s most coveted jobs leading educational boat tours of Table Bay. A marine protected area at the foot of the city’s dramatic Table Mountain, these nutrient-rich waters attract dolphins, seals, penguins, whales, and all kinds of other wildlife.

We climbed aboard the Ocean Adventurer over the weekend to learn more about the prolific upwelling system that supports such extraordinary biodiversity. It is a strikingly adapted high-performance sailing catamaran hull chosen by owner David de Villiers for its super efficient design, which uses 70% less fuel than its counterparts. We were joined by a handful of excited children and their guardians – a tough crowd for Rezaei, who battled happy screeches, swells, and wind to convey his obvious passion for this beautiful sanctuary.

biodiversity, eco-tour, cape town, ocean adventurer, biomass, upwelling, green tourism, marine protected area

Food  chain

Upwelling involves wind-driven motion of dense, cool water towards the ocean surface, which encourages the proliferation of phytoplankton and other nutrients. The greater the upwelling, the greater the wildlife, and Table Bay has 30-60% more than the global average. Rezaei described in very accessible terms how Table Bay’s unique upwelling system then supports a wider network of wildlife.

“Mussels sit on the rocks, filter out nutrients, and pump out water, and then the birds feed on the mussels,” he explained – expertly keeping his balance as the catamaran lolled back and forth. He added that the entire marine food chain depends on these nutrients and that 95% of living space exists on the top layer of the world’s oceans.

The mussels in Table Bay are an invasive species from the Mediterranean, but Rezaei explains that they are nonetheless very tasty and support both local people and the endangered Oyster Catcher.

biodiversity, eco-tour, cape town, ocean adventurer, biomass, upwelling, green tourism, marine protected area

Captive audience

This was the first time most of the children had ever been on a boat, so it was difficult to keep their attention, but just as soon as our intrepid guide spotted  a Jackass Penguin or Heaviside Dolphin, they became his most captive audience.

In just a few days, both adults and children will be able to see what various marine organisms look like under an on-board microscope. There will also be two TV screens placed on either side of the 40-man catamaran that will make it easier for everyone to see what is in the water.

“If you show people how amazing wildlife is” David said, “they will be more willing to protect it.”

biodiversity, marine protected area, cape town, eco tour, jackass penguin

Creating awareness

The organization known worldwide for fighting against Japanese Whalers, Sea Shepherd recently purchased the original Ocean Adventurer from David, who got the idea to start these brand new eco-tours while running charter tours throughout southern Africa.

“We used to talk about the marine ecosystem on our chartered trips” he said, “and just decided it would be a good idea to educate people here as well.”

This latest venture, which he operates in partnership with the well-established Two Oceans Aquarium, is not the only environmentally-friendly project that David is working on. He is also collaborating with one of the world’s leading boat designers to create high performance bamboo boats.

At the end of the trip, the new Skipper Ben Wilson glided into harbor as though he had been running this boat his whole life, and the passengers seemed happy when they hopped off .

“It was kind of a slow day today for wildlife,” David said, “but if one person walks away having learned something new, then we have done our job.”

final image via Ifijay, Flickr. All others by Tafline Laylin


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