National Geographic : 2002 Aug
adventurous crustacean had climbed up a sea fan and was clinging to it like a mountaineer pondering his next move. I plunged into a thicket of the creatures just for the marvel of seeing the pell-mell scurry and scatter of a thousand lobster limbs. Evidence of Benguelan abundance was all around. The walls of the reef were packed with encrusting life as tightly as supermarket shelves. Red bait-sea squirts the size of a rugby ball with sides as tough as old leather were jammed together with anemones and feather stars. Tree-shaped growths of a cold water species called noble coral, with bubble gum pink branches and white tips, looked like something that should be shrink-wrapped and sold as confectionery. As I swam along a wall, engrossed with finger sponges and candelabra fans and daisy anemones in all their paint box glory, Simpson tapped me on the arm, and I looked up to see a copper shark cruising by. With the softly dif fused sunlight shining on the splendid arch of its back, it seemed a princely ambassador for the opulent Benguela realm. MORE ENDEARING REPRESENTATIVE IS THE STOCKY, PINK-EYEBROWED AFRICAN PENGUIN. COOL, RICH waters make it possible for penguins-birds we normally associate with icebergs-to enjoy a breeding range that includes islands off the coast of the Namib Desert. One morning when the "Cape doctor" Cape Town's invigorating southeasterly wind -had yet to begin his rounds, I slid a kayak into the harbor at Simon's Town to go penguin watching. I paddled out into False Bay-past the stone walls of the old British naval dock, where fur seals rolled and splashed; past a submarine returning from an exercise; past an offshore nubbin of rock packed with roosting cormorants. A mile or so up the coast, at a beach called Boulders, I parked a hundred yards offshore among the floating mop tops of sea bamboo and watched penguins from one of South Afri ca's few mainland breeding colonies commute to their feeding grounds. Groups of 20 or 30 would swim tentatively toward an opening in the kelp, bobbing (Continued on page 24) On leave from Antarctic feeding grounds, a southern right whale sur faces near Gansbaai. Protected internationally since 1935, increasing numbers now calve in sheltered bays along the southwest coast.