My eyes strained from hours of watching the waves push to and fro. Shadows and rocks became huge creatures in my imagination, so keen was I to see a real live whale and not really sure what I was looking for. Then – no mistaking this time, a huge spurt of spray appeared, closely followed by a large grey hump and flick of a tail as a Southern Right Whale appeared into view. Moving closer to the edge of the water, I could see from my high vantage point on the rocks the clear grey shadow under water of an enormous female with a calf close to her side.
Further out in the bay, all manner of whale behaviour was seen from breaching (the classic ‘jump’ sideways out of the water followed by a huge splash) to the strange habit of tail lifting which involved the whale apparently standing on it’s head for long periods of time as it flows with the current, tail sticking out of the water!
I was in Hermanus, sometimes referred to as the Whale town, on the southern coast of the Western Cape in South Africa (they actually have a ‘whale cryer’ – the equivalent of an English town cryer – who rings a bell and calls when the whales are to be seen!). But there are several excellent locations along the coast for watching these whales and other cetaceans. There are at least 37 species of this order in the Southern African oceans. Warm currents and protected bays give them perfect breeding grounds. Between June and November, the Garden Route is a fantastic place for watching these animals and an easy holiday to self drive.
Plettenberg Bay is a prime spot for boat tours and year round whale species to be seen there include Bryde’s and Minkes. Several dolphin species are also common. As well as Hermanus for land-based watching, there are other areas around the cape and along the southern coast. Also, Humpback whales can be seen in June – July off the Cape Vidal & St Lucia coast to the east of South Africa as they head up to Mozambique (a fabulous place to see them is Nuarro Lodge) and again in October and November as they return south for the summer. West coast South Africa is home to the region’s only endemic cetacean, the Heaviside’s Dolphin – this can be seen up the Namibian coast as well.
Whales can be seen all over the world, some fantastic sightings can be found off the coasts of North America from Mexico especially around Baja California, all the way up to the coast of Alaska, around Australia and the Pacific and north of Scandanavia too. Ask me about dedicated whale watching expeditions and cruises as well as land based viewing.