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There’s something majestic about whales. Often dubbed the ocean’s gentle giants, these creatures really are a something of a spectacle to see first hand. And now that it has finally been recognised that visiting the likes of SeaWorld isn’t exactly ethical, catching them cavorting in their natural habitat is what it’s all about. With a strict observe, don’t disturb policy on this coastline, the huge numbers of whales that frequent the waters off of Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay not only makes for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but a responsible one too.
Migrating here to mate and calve between June and December every year, the biggest attraction is undoubtedly the southern right whale. Take a tour during these months and you’re almost guaranteed to spot these mighty beasts – growing up to 18 m in length, they’re pretty hard to miss. But it’s not just the adults that will be out to play. Newborn calves travel alongside their mothers and are white or grey in colour rather than black making them easy to distinguish – who doesn’t love a baby animal? The whole experience screams bucket-list.
Boats are only allowed to approach whales up to a distance of 50 m, but if they choose to come closer to you, that is of course up to them. And as naturally curious creatures, this is often the case. Once you’ve gotten over your initial jitters about the whale at hand being almost as big as the boat that is keeping you afloat, the experience is nothing short of magical – especially if you’re lucky enough to witness one breach.
Whales are the main event here, and namely the southern right. But much like its lands, South Africa’s waters are teeming with wildlife, so you’re guaranteed some form of sighting whatever the weather.
Southern rights aside, you’ll also find bryde’s and humpback whales whiling away their days off the shoreline, and you wouldn’t expect anything less from this whale watching mecca surely. Blows, fins and tail flicks will give them away.
If you’re lucky and happen across a particularly willing to perform whale, you may see a breach. It’s still not known whether breaching actually serves a purpose, or whether whales just do it for a bit of fun – we like to think the latter – but either way if you’re lucky enough to catch it on camera, it makes for one hell of a shot.
And it’s not all about the whales. From the common to the bottlenose, dolphin pods are often sighted on these tours and known for their playful attitude, you’ll be sure to get a good show. Then there’s the cape fur seal, the African penguin, cape gannets, shy albatross’, subantarctic skua’s and cape cormorant. Need we go on? This is a safari of the sea. Birds, mammals, fish – you name it and it’s likely that South Africa has it.
If you want to catch the whales then you’ll have to make sure that your trip coincides with their migration – whale season in Plettenberg Bay is between June and December.
Your sea legs. And: seasickness tablets (if you’re that way inclined), sun cream and some layers as it can get chilly out on the ocean.
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