The Chokka Spawning Event
Squid (aka Chokka in South Africa), spawn in the inshore areas of the Eastern Cape throughout the year, with this activity peaking in November and December. November presents an incredible window of opportunity for adventure divers, as this is a closed season for commercial chokka fishing, and the massive beds of chokka eggs and spawning chokka remain undisturbed.
The chokka run occurs during the peak mating, spawning and egg laying season for South Africa’s chokka. At this time, divers can descend onto massive beads of choke eggs and observe the dynamic life and interactions that occur above the vast beds of choke eggs.
Predators on the Chokka Run
A large range of predators take advantage of the high squid biomass during the peak spawning period. The most common are short-tail stingrays, diamond rays, spotted ragged tooth sharks (sand tigers), smooth-hound sharks, Cape fur seals, cat sharks and fish.
From above, the orange egg clusters stand out against the white sand. Rays can be seen everywhere, swooping over the egg beds, scattering the squid. On the outskirts, the smooth hound sharks patrol. Up in the warmer water, juvenile dusky sharks are often seen. During a single dive it is not uncommon to see five different ray species.
The seals rely on the speed, agility and intelligence of a marine mammal. While rays or sharks swimming over the egg beds, cause minimal disturbance to the egg laying, a seal swooping down on the beds will instantly clear the area of squid for at least a minute. Once a seal captures a squid, it returns to the surface where it smashes the squid on the water surface to break it up.
Cannibalism is fairly common amongst squid. Sometimes a squid can be seen with another squid in its mouth. Sometimes two or more squid, tentacles locked, engage in a tug-of-war over a dead squid.
Diving the Chokka Run
The biggest challenge of the South African Chokka Run, is the underwater visibility that can remain poor, especially near the seabed, for number of days. The squid activity is also affected by underwater visibility, water temperature and the time of the day (sunlight penetration).
The optimum water temperature for spawning is between 16 and 18 degrees at the bottom. Whilst this is an incredible experience, divers need to understand the risks and challenges that can be expected on South Africa’s Chokka Run.