I continue with the theme of winter wildlife viewing off South Africa’s shores. So I have to mention one of the biggest seasons that we have in the Cape – the Whale Watching season. Whale watching has been so well promoted over the last few years in South Africa, that we actually have visitors coming purely for the Whales. With opportunities of viewing these magnificent creatures from the shorelines of South Africa, you couldn’t ask for more perfect conditions.
As with the migration of the sardines up the warm East Coast of South Africa so the Southern Right Whales make their way along the coastline annually from June through to November. They spend the summer months in the far Southern Ocean near Antarctica, then migrate north to South Africa where they enjoy the calmer waters for breeding. This annual migration has made a town like Hermanus one of the whale watching capitals of the world!
The primary reason for the popularity of Hermanus is how close to shore the whales actually get, enabling land-based Whale Watching. If you are lucky enough to be staying in a sea facing room on the cliff tops of Hermanus, you will be able to sit on your balcony and watch the spectacle unfold! It is quite magnificent!
The real magic is that these mammals are just so huge you can’t miss them. And they are breeding – I have been lucky enough to witness a female giving birth – from the shore line! I didn’t need to be in a boat. The Cape Overberg Coast has many protected bays which is what has made it so popular for breeding with these ocean giants.
I have found a few interesting things about the Southern Right Whale – they are uniquely distinguishable from other whales by the callosities on their heads which appear white in color. They have been protected in South African waters since 1935. They can live to 100 years, weigh up to 60 tonnes, and are an average length of 14 metres. A unique behavior of the Southern Right Whale is known as “sailing”. They use their elevated flukes to catch the wind – it appears to be a form of play!
These mammals are one of the greatest winter attractions along the Cape Coastline……not to be missed!