The magnificent Southern Right Whales spend the summer months feeding around Antarctica and then migrate thousands of kilometres to the sheltered bays of South Africa to mate and calve. They can be seen along the peaceful Walker Bay coast between June/July till December. Being a protected species, the Walker Bay has been declared a whale sanctuary during whale season. Accredited whale watching boats may approach up to 50m (but the whales themselves are curious and come up to boats to inspect the passengers)! Permit holders adhere to strict rules.
For those who do not wish to take a boat but prefer land-based whale watching – All along the coast from De Kelders to the small town of Pearly Beach there are many coves and look out points where one can relax and watch the whales and some other marine life from the shore.
How do you spot the Southern Right?
The body is large and black usually with white patches on the belly. About 4% of calves are born mostly white. No dorsal fin. There are patches of roughened skin called callosities on head, these are covered in whale lice. Individual whales have unique callosity patterns. Flippers are broad and paddle-shaped. The blow is V-shaped.
Southern Right Whale facts:
Length: at birth average 6m
Adult length: up to 17m, average 14m
Weight: at birth 900kg
Adult weight: 30-60 tonnes, average 40 tonnes
Length of pregnancy: 1 year
Length of nursing: 6-12 months
Food: Copepods and krill, filtered through baleen plates on upper jaw. Eat between 600 and 1600 kg per day.
Spyhopping: Raising the head out of the water to look around.
Lobtailing: Striking water with flukes.
Sailing: Raising flukes out of the water for several minutes.
Breach: Jumping out of the water and landing with a big splash. Probably a form of communication and a way of getting rid of loose skin and parasites.
Playing with kelp: Whales lift pieces of loose kelp on head or back.
Mating: Several males and one female in active mating group.
Within the area of Gansbaai the Natural Adventure destination you do not just get to see this majestic gentle giant of the ocean but much more. Just off the coast are Dyer Island home to the flightless African Penguin and other Marine Bird species. Close by separated by Shark Ally is Geyser Island which accommodates up to 50 000 cape fur seals. See the Apex predator – Great White Shark, if you are one of the lucky ones you can also spot a Sting Ray, graceful dolphins will also be on the get to see list. In other words, you will not just get to see the Marine Big 5 on this spectacular 2 – 3-hour boat tour, but an abundance of amazing different sea life.