With the long mouth opening and corresponding extremely low water levels in June, an exciting find was made in the mud flats adjacent to Night Heron Island (the small island due west of the Park Island bird hide).

Reserve manager Kyran Wright came upon a species not previously recorded in the vlei – a Cape conger eel (Conger wilsoni) while sloshing in the deep mud. Being almost entirely nocturnal the species is not well known anywhere, although it is found in estuaries and along rocky shores from the Cape to as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. In Afrikaans it is a Kaapse seepelling. 

Seagull with captured eel on a beach.

The eels feed mostly on small fish, invertebrates and crustaceans. Like most eels it can give a more than decent bite; they can reach up to 1-m in length.

Zandvlei Trust chairperson David Bristow recently saw one while cycling alongside The Narrows. The gull pulled an eel out the shallow water and was then mobbed by others in mid-air. Had he not known of Kyran’s recent sighting he would have presumed it was a snake.