Whale season kicks off in Walker Bay

Posted by Imogen Searra on 8 July 2020

The southern right whales have begun making their way into the Western Cape’s waters. Every year southern rights, humpback whales and Bryde’s whales holiday in Hermanus from June until December. Their arrival gives land dwellers something to look forward to in the dreary winter months.

Hermanus has been crowned the Capital of the Cape Whale Coast. In 2019, this costal town was rightfully named the best whale watching spot in the world. Hermanus is also a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.

In 2020, whale season will be celebrated differently than in previous years. Whale-watching will have to be land-based for now under alert Level 3. This won’t stop us from living vicariously through our screens, though.

Southern Right Charters (SRC) based in Hermanus shared a video of a southern right whale and her calf that were recently spotted in Walker Bay. Skipper Ash Appleby from SWC spoke to Getaway about the inner workings of whale season.

‘Southern right whales migrate to and from Antarctic waters. They migrate annually coming closer to the coast to mate and give birth, and leave in South Africa’s summer months to feed down south,’ explained Appleby.

With regards to the number of whales that visit and the ‘peak’ of the season, there is no definitive answer. ‘The peak number of whales is always a debate! It defiantly varies year on year, with some high years, others lower. Current studies show worldwide, the southern right whale population is around 20,000. This number is however split pretty evenly between South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America. However, not all whales migrate every year.’

In the Western Cape, southern right whales have been recorded throughout the year, which have led many to assume there are resident southern right whales in these waters. According to Appleby, little is known on whether these animals are residents or not. The whales that are present throughout the year may indicate that they have found a constant food source and therefore have no need to migrate.

Along with the southern rights, humpbacks and Bryde’s whales that grace the Western Cape waters with their presence, orcas and dolphins are also frequent visitors. Southern right whales, however, are the most regular land-based sightings. Appleby said that recently supergroups of humpback whales have been spotted.

Interesting southern right whale facts:

  • An adult southern right whale is the size of 10 elephants
  • Southern right whales are baleen whales, meaning they have no teeth
  • Instead of teeth, these marine mammals have 450-500 baleen plates in their mouth
  • Baleen is a fibrous material that is used as a filter for food
  • When feeding, a southern right will pull in a large volume of water along with krill into its mouth
  • The water is then pushed through the baleen plates, trapping the krill which is then swallowed

Southern right charters are currently land locked, but that doesn’t stop the team from keeping their eyes seawards. On Tuesday [July 7] a stunning land-based whale watching encounter of a Southern right whale mother and calf was filmed from the cliffs of Hermanus. Take a look at the footage below:

Southern Right Charters is a leading boat-based whale watching operator which has been operating since 1999. The company is progressive, environmentally sensitive and operates under the ethos of ‘Observing NOT Disturbing’.

Read: Writer’s place: Hermanus for post-lockdown travel inspiration.

 

Image credit: Instagram/ @src_whalewatching






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