Whales possess grace and elegance despite their enormous size. They have beauty and majesty although they couldn’t be included among animals with more standard or classic beauty. They come in strange shapes, they make eerie noises and they captivate us completely. Hermanus is a seaside town about an hour and half from Cape Town and is well know for its whale watching opportunities. Every year, between August and November, locals and tourists congregate to enjoy the spectacle of whales frolicking in the waves, a mere 20 metres away.
Southern Right Whales travel from their summer habitat in the sub-Antarctic, to the warm Indian Ocean bays in the Cape, to calf and mate. They can be seen as early as April and May, but the peak viewing season is from August to November.
Whale watching isn’t limited to Hermanus. The little town of Arniston, which is about three hours from Cape Town, also offers excellent whale watching opportunities. Here, visitors can enjoy the whales from the shore, or from approved boat and air-based tours. The Long-finned pilot whale, the pygmy sperm whale, the pigmy right whale, and the Minke whale can also be seen from Arniston.
False Bay is another area that boasts ample numbers of Whales. The bay covers a large area from Cape Town’s southerly suburbs, along the western side of the Cape Peninsula, to Simon’s Town, the Cape’s naval base. In addition to housing the Southern Right Whale, False Bay also plays host to Humpback Whales, Bryde’s Whales, and the occasional Orca.
Whales seem to know when they have an audience and like to perform for their admirers. Acts in their repertoire include blowing, which is the sound they make when they expel used air through their blowholes. This causes condensed water vapour to spout out in a fountain. As spectacular as this looks, it’s merely part of the whale’s breathing cycle.
Breaching is the action that all whale watchers congregate for. It involves the whale leaping out of the water as it arches in a back flip, and then falls back with a loud slap. Scientists believe that whales use breaching as a form of communication, as exercise or as a way of scratching off parasites. Lobtailing is the slapping of the tail and flukes on the water, which causes a great deal of noise. It also appears to be a form of communication. Spy hopping occurs when the whale lifts its head and body vertically out of the water, up to its flippers. This provides it with a good view of what is happening on the surrounding surface.
At 15 – 18 metres long and weighing between fifty and eighty tones, Southern Right Whales are far from being the lumbering creatures they once were. Technology has definitely been an improvement when it comes to their treatment, but their treatment isn’t as effective as it once was. As long as they have the opportunity to breed, these magnificent creatures will use their size to their advantage. The larger they get, the easier they are to observe.
From the Cape Peninsula, the Southern Right Whale can be observed from Dyer Island to the Cape Point Peninsula. Altogether, there are over 60 species of whales in the world, twelve of which live in Cape Town’s waters. It is Cape Town’s policy to skip the humpback whales during whale season.
Kaikoura, New Zealand is a world renown whale watching location, especially for the Sperm Whale and the Albatrosses species. Through August to the end of November the Southern Right Whale and the northern right whale can be observed in great numbers, with thirty five or more whales being observed at times. December is also a great time for whale watching, with the arrival of the Melon-Headed Whale and the fin whale. Other species that can be seen during whale season are the killer whales, the pygmy killer whales, the adrenalin driven Killer Whales, the humpbacks, the rainbows, the Silver Whales, the Pygmy killer whales, the Dusky whales, the BottlenoseWhales, the Grey Seals, the harbor seals, the Hampshire seals, the Inuits, the British Reserves, the mountain seals, the Florida manatees, the American oystercatchers, the African penguins, the waters off the coast of Africa are all species that are generally common to this continent.
In regards to the cruising season, it is recommended that whalewatching be done from November through April, the time of year when the most season is visible. A magnificent attraction at the Caspersen offshore reserve is the pilot whale, the male and female of the species that feed at the bay’s natural entrance.