Sunday, January 16, 2022

Great African Sea Forest From ‘My Octopus Teacher’ Named 1 of the 7 Wonders of the World

Bloomberg has published its list of the New Seven Wonders of the World and of special mention are the Cape kelp forests, otherwise known as the Great African Sea Forest. The undersea ecosystem, depicted beautifully in the Oscar-winning documentary My Octopus Teacher, is the perfect destination for nature and wildlife lovers seeking an escape from chaotic city life.

Now that the Great African Sea Forest has made it onto the list, many people may be motivated to travel to the area. The kelp forests are situated just 10 miles from Cape Town, South Africa, and are home to a diverse and amazing ecosystem.

The film My Octopus Teacher showcased this amazing area, and after it bagged the Academy Award for best documentary, more and more people started to take note. The spectacular documentary shown on Netflix depicts filmmaker Craig Foster bonding with a common octopus and discovering the nuances of marine wildlife over the span of a year. While the story of the bonding between a human and an underwater creature struck the right chord with the audience, viewers were also spellbound by the beauty and diversity of the underwater forest.

White steenbras swimming in the Great African Sea Forest.
Viewers were spellbound by the beauty and diversity of the underwater forest. (Image: via Dreamstime.com © Slowmotiongli)

Facts about the Great African Sea Forest

If you are curious about the Great African Sea Forest and want to explore the region for yourself, it is time you learn some facts. Kelp is a type of brown seaweed that can grow to be very large. It grows on the ocean floor and can reach a length of nearly 150 feet at times. This seaweed grows well in shallow, clear water at cold temperatures. As kelp grows, the plants form into something more and more like a forest habitat. These underwater forests serve as home to plenty of fish, invertebrates, and marine creatures. These smaller species use the kelp in order to hide from predators like sharks. Craig Foster calls it the “golden forest.”

According to Cape Nature: “Unlike many other kelp forests in the world currently, South African kelp forests are doing extremely well due to the south-easterly winds we experience on the west coast which causes an upwelling of cool nutrient-rich waters that kelp forests thrive off.” The kelp forests near the Cape Town coast are vast, being easily more than twice as wide as the Grand Canyon, and they extend for over 600 miles northward to Namibia. The habitat serves as a food source for the underwater wildlife and it is home to South African fish species like pyjama catsharks and broadnose sevengill sharks.

Broadnose sevengill also known as cowshark, swimming amongst the kelp in the Great African Sea Forest.
The Great African Sea Forest is home to species like the broadnose sevengill shark. (Image: via Dreamstime.com © Michael Valos)

If you have been thinking about how you can explore this uncharted underwater territory, just relax. Hanli Prinsloo, a noted diver, leads multiday group trips and the experience can be mind-blowing. It is a visual feast for the eyes where you will experience an amazing kaleidoscope of light and hues.

The Bloomberg listing may prove to be good for the Great African Sea Forest and other underwater kelp forests too. Environmental researchers have warned that many such kelp forests may be heading toward extinction owing to water pollution and other factors. One example is the giant kelp forests that were seen along the Tasmanian coastline in Australia in the past. Nowadays, they are becoming harder and harder to spot.

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Raven Montmorency
Raven Montmorency is a pen name used for a writer based in India. She has been writing with her main focus on Lifestyle and human rights issues around the world.
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