The first whales of the 2010 season have been spotted at De Hoop Nature Reserve. The reserve has some superb accommodation, including upmarket self-catering.
South Africa’s coastal waters receive migrating whales each year between June and November, when they migrate from icy Antarctic waters and enter our sheltered bays to give birth to their young and to enter courtship. While here, the whales delight scores of visitors with their graceful antics. How exciting it is to watch the breaching, blowing and lobtailing of these incredible giants, so huge yet apparently unable to swallow as much as a tennis ball!
South Africa’s Whale Route includes almost 2 000 kilometres of coast, extending from Doringbaai south of Cape Town, and along the coast as far as Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. Popular viewing areas in the Western Cape include the Cape Peninsula; the seaside holiday towns of Hermanus, Gansbaai and Arniston; De Hoop Nature Reserve near Bredasdorp; and Mossel Bay, Wilderness, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay along the Garden Route. Towns along the rugged West Coast also offer great viewing.
Big on whales, the vibrant holiday town of Hermanus hosts an annual Whale Festival, with a Whale Crier at hand to herald the day’s sightings. Festival days are packed with music, theatre and lots of play.
There’s a sad tale about how the southern right whale got its name, and the story goes that in the days of whale hunting, these were the ‘right’ animals to hunt, due to the sought-after whale oil they provided and because their bodies remained afloat after harpooning. Since hunting of the southern right was terminated, their numbers are estimated to have grown by 7% a year.
Adult female southern rights are larger than their men, reaching lengths of about 16.5 metres, in contrast with their male counterparts who grow to about 15 metres. These animals reach their characteristic immensity on a daily intake of 600 kilograms of their favourite plankton “sushi”.
Boat-based whale watching offers plenty of exhilaration. Book your trip with a licensed operator, who is allowed to take you close enough for awesome viewing, while reserving a 300m radius of unimpeded territory for the whales.
Plan your trip to the Western Cape to co-incide with the wonder of whale season. Consider the add-ons of a tour of the Cape Wine Route; some sightseeing along the Garden Route; and an Eastern Cape safari.