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Charters / Pelagic Bird Watching

A trip offshore into the pelagic trawling zone is a life experience

The only documented sighting of an adult grey albatross in South African waters over the past 60 years was photographed by David Christie skippering Obsession.

Being the first ski boat in Cape Town to offer pelagic birding tours for Birding Africa and Cape Town Pelagics about 10 years ago now – Two Oceans are by far the most experienced operator. With years of local knowledge we have the ability to provide you with the best possible pelagic birding experience.

Experience to find the trawlers and quality boats that are well maintained are both vital to ensure a safe, successful and comfortable trip out.  With Two Oceans both your safety and comfort are important to us.

That’s why our boats, both Magnums are built by Two Oceans Marine, the top boat builder in South Africa and exceed American and European Safety standards (be warned there are no boat building standards in South Africa for vessels under 9m).

Both our Magnums are powered by twin 250 hp Yamaha 4 stroke outboards providing clean air, which is environmentally friendly unlike the fumes off diesel engines. Our outboards are regularly serviced and kept in peak running condition. Due to their size (twin 250hp), a single engine is also powerful enough to get us back in safely in the very unlikely event of engine trouble on one engine.

The amazing abundance of pelagic seabirds off Cape Town is due to coastal upwelling which fuels primary production. During our summer months south easterly winds blow northwards up and along the west coast. This results in surface water along the coast being pushed offshore by the wind resulting in a gradient or water deficit along the coastline. Nutrient rich Atlantic ocean water upwells from depths of 300m to balance the deficit providing the engine driving the cold Benguela current. The nutrient rich water provides the food source and fuels primary productivity that in turn supports large numbers of bait fish providing food for the pelagic birds.

Both our boats, OBSESSION and JAGUAR cruise comfortably at 20 to 25 knots and provide a quick ride out to the pelagic trawling zone. We are also strategically placed running from Hout Bay in that we can run straight out offshore and don’t have to detour 33 kilometres (one way) south to get around Cape Point before being able to head out like any boats based in False Bay which wastes time (easily 90 minutes in unneccesary travel time) in the day.

Both our boats are fully equipped with Furuno Navnet 2 electronics and include a 36 mile radar giving us the edge in locating trawlers. In fact over the 10 years of running offshore we have only not found a trawler or longliner on about 6 occassions – that’s pretty good odds out of 600 trips. Finding trawlers or longliners are key to getting the best birding, however even if we don’t find one we can still guarantee a great day out as we carry chum to attract the birds if required.

Two Oceans are members of Cape Town Tourism and the Cape Charter Boat Association. Obsession and Jaguar undergo an annual survey by the South African Maritime Safety Authority and carry full safety equipment onboard at all times. Radio contact is maintained with coastal radio stations and both our boats are equipped with radio telephone as an additional safety measure allowing for a comfortable and safe trip. Booking a Pelagic Trip with us is an experience you will never forget! More info link button to boats section under about us.

Boats Page

Birding Info

Pelagic birds congregate around trawlers and long liners as this is where they can find easy pickings in the form of scraps from the commercial fishing trawlers and long liners. Here they can be seen in their thousands. Many of the birds fly past almost within touching distance of the boat, affording unsurpassed photographic and birding opportunities.

A trip offshore into the pelagic trawling zone is a life experience. Nowhere else in the world is it possible to see so many pelagic species in such vast numbers. During the winter months it is not uncommon to see up to 50 000 (very difficult to estimate such vast numbers) or more birds on a trip and possibly up to 7 different species of Albatross including icon species such as the wandering and royal albatross.


Likely Sightings

Winter Trips - May to September
  • Common albatross – shy, black-browed, indian yellownose, atlantic yellownose
  • Rare albatross – wandering, northern royal, southern royal, grey–headed
  • Petrels – white chinned, pintado, soft plumaged, spectacled (rare)
  • Shearwaters – sooty, great
  • Other – northern and southern giant petrels, Antarctic fulmar (occasional), Wilsons Storm petrels, Antarctic prion, broad-billed prion (very rare), cape gannet, arctic and sub antarctic skuas.
Summer Trips - October to April
  • Common albatross – shy.
  • Rare albatross – wandering, northern royal, southern royal, grey–headed, black browed, indian yellownose, atlantic yellownose
  • Petrels – white chinned, soft plumaged, spectacled (occasional), great winged
  • Shearwaters – sooty, cory’s, manx (rare), flesh-footed (rare)
  • Storm petrels – Wilsons, European, leach’s, black bellied
  • Skuas – arctic, subantarctic and pomarine
  • Other –sabines gull, grey phalarope (rare)

Scheduled Trips for 2013

Our trips depart from Hout Bay map link and include an experienced guide, refreshments and a light lunch. There is a possibility of getting sea spray on the boat so please remember to bring warm, waterproof clothing as well as sunscreen and a hat. Please have a look at our rates and use our currency convertor under the rates & reservations page to change rates into your own currency. Please note we book a two day weather window and the trip runs on the first suitable weather day. We look forward to having you onboard!


    • Private Boat
    • RContact Booking Office
    • Species: Pelagic Birds
    • Duration:Full Day
    • People:1- 8 (max 10)
    • Joining Charter
    • RContact Booking Office
    • Species: Pelagic Birds
    • Duration:Full Day
    • People:Per Person
A portion of the proceeds from our pelagic trips are donated to seabird conservation and research, by booking with us you are assisting seabird conservation

Where Two Oceans Meet