Whale, whale what have we here?
It’s that time of year again – Cape Town gets amazing visitors from the Antarctic. How privileged are we? The Southern Peninsula becomes a safe haven for breeding whales!
Where do we find them?
All along South Africa’s shores and particularly around the Western Cape these gentle giants come to have their babies, to find partners and mate before heading down south once again. Hermanus is the ‘whale capital’ of South Africa, but whale sightings are common along Cape Town’s beaches.
The whales can come so close to the shore they’ll literally be a stone’s throw from us (and with my throwing skills that’s very close!) Watching them jumping out the water, slapping their tails and blowing jets of water are thrilling experiences.
Which whales are they?
Around Cape Town we usually see Southern Right whales, named for the worst reason – because they move slowly and float when they die the whalers considered them the ‘right’ whales to hunt. In addition Humpback whales and Brydes whales are also visitors. Happily they are now highly protected, so the number of gentle giants increases each year: it’s a real conservation success story.
These super intelligent mammals use sonar to communicate and the Iziko Museum in Cape Town has a fabulous whale well, that enables visitors to hear the eerie sounds of the whales. Stories abound about whales showing their appreciation when rescued after being entangled in nets. The most recent last year, when the NSRI (National Sea Rescue) spent hours cutting a whale free from ropes. When he was finally released he didn’t swim away, but stayed with his head on the gunnel of the boat looking at his rescuers for 20 minutes, as if to show his appreciation. A very emotional experience for them all!
If ever you have the opportunity to see these extraordinary creatures, be sure not to miss out! There are both land and boat based whale trips available from June to December when the whales are in town.