Trip Status

A Whale’s gotta eat!

As rich in marine life as the waters of Walker Bay are, they unfortunately do not hold the required biomass of the southern right’s whale favourite food source to keep these gentle giants here year-round. November and the early weeks of December sees them departing our bay and heading south to their feeding grounds in the sub-Antarctic Ocean. This season, we had our last few remaining mom’s and their youngsters in our waters until the first week of December, before wishing them well until the following year when they will once again return.

At this point, our focus turns to the other amazing marine life we have in our waters; Bryde’s whales, Common and Bottlenose dolphins, Mola-mola sunfish, African penguins and Cape fur seals to name but a few. Each trip at this point is completely different, and you just never know what to expect, emphasizing the inherent unpredictability of the ocean and its wildlife.

This unpredictability, I believe, is what brings us moments, in each and every season, that are definite highlights, making us second guess what we know, and keep us going back for more. This past season was no different, being filled with such moments worthy of looking back on at this point in time:

The more the merrier

Southern right whales are polygamous, forming large mating groups during courtship. Large groups involving multiple males all vying for their chance to mate with one single female are a regular sight in Walker Bay in the height of the season; and is an absolutely amazing sight to see. There is no aggression shown by the males, and they rely solely on sperm competition to fight their fight on a microscopic level. Midway through the month of August, right at the end of an amazing sunset trip, having already seen multiple southern rights and two humpbacks, we stumbled upon one of the largest mating groups we have seen in memory. Over 11 individuals, all throwing their 14-16m long, 60 odd thousand kilogram bodies around with such control, in some sort of organised chaos, what an amazing sight! Even after heading back into the harbour, the group could be seen from the shore, carrying on until we eventually lost sight of them once the sun had set.

FIFTY SHADES vs. TUX

Every now and then, a particular whale has the ability to peak our interest, steal our hearts. Sometimes this is a result of particular character traits, sometimes through looks, sometimes just through sharing a moment, maybe the locking of eyes. This past season, a southern right I named Fifty Shades stole the hearts of many. Straight out of Natures Art Gallery, one of only 3-4% of southern rights that are born almost snow white, and darken slightly in colour with age, known as a brindle. Fifty Shades dazzled us with its colour scheme, amazing patterns, and inquisitive character, joining multiple mating groups and winning over everyone who laid eyes on him. Our skipper, had a similar interest in “Tux”, a whale with a beautiful white chin, also not at all common! The Fifty Shades vs Tux, guide vs skipper poll on social media was the only way to settle it, with the majority leaning in favour of Fifty Shades! We will be keeping our eyes peeled for both Fifty Shades and Tux in the years to come.

Hump Jumpy

Although southern rights are the focal point from June to December, Bryde’s whales are year-round residents, and humpbacks are also a relatively regular sighting, especially in June and July. This season we had a humpback interaction like no other. We spotted a lone, adolescent humpback right in the middle of the bay, and slowly made our way in its direction. This whale proceeded to do the same, heading toward us and giving us the most impressive performance! Lying on its back, using a textbook backstroke, the whale circled our catamaran, Miroshca. After numerous laps of backstroke and some pectoral flipper slapping, it started to breach, almost waiting for our reaction each time before breaching again, each one more impressive than the last. Breaching can often happen out of nowhere, and if one isn’t quick enough, they can be easily missed. One of our crew counted 52 breaches in total, enough to ensure no one could possibly miss it! Each time we tried to slowly move out of the area, it would encircle us again- a once in a lifetime experience!

Inquisitive Bryde’s

Bryde’s whales are generally thought of as being quite an elusive specie, generally not giving as spectacular a performance that southern rights are capable of. There were multiple instances this season however that a Bryde’s was not so elusive, circling our boat for what felt like forever, having a close look at each and every guest onboard, from every angle possible. These whales are so sleek and slender, and when one acts slightly out of character, the interaction can be even more special. We were also luckily enough to see these whales lunge feeding on the surface numerous times. Carden, our drone pilot and videographer managed to capture these moments from the air, allowing us the best possible view of them inhaling an entire bait ball in one mouthful, from right under the feet of the feeding terns. Quite likely some of the best footage ever captured of such a moment!

Where do the southern rights go when they leave Walker Bay?

This season for the first time in many years, four southern rights were tagged by the Marine Mammal Institute here in Hermanus. We know that these whales go south to feed before returning to our waters to mate and calf, but exactly where, for exactly how long, and exactly what routes they take, as well as the impact on reproduction and body condition this may have, was of interest. Four whales, all of which were tagged in Walker Bay, departed us and headed south to higher latitudes, but all in completely different directions. One headed west-southwest in the direction of South America, one east-southeast in the direction Australia, and two in a more or less a southwest direction but on two very different courses. We are still monitoring their progress to see exactly where they may end up, but they look to have found the food! You can track the whales here if you would like to monitor their movements: https://www.mammalresearchinstitute.science/whale-unit

All things considered, with Covid providing its fair share of challenges, we had an action-packed season, and it was great to be able to share our waters and its marine life with so many keen guests. From the young budding marine biologist to the absolute whale lover, to the “bucket-lister”, we thank you all for your support, and we hope to see you again in the not too distant future. In just a few months, the gentle giants will be back in our waters, and we can’t wait!

¬Brandon Payne, Whale Specialist & EXPEDITION GUIDE

Whale Season is here!

The month of June brings out a palpable excitement amongst the Southern Right Charters crew. Every year around this time, the southern right whales that have been feasting further south in the Southern Ocean make their way north to our waters to mate and calve in the protected bays of the Southern Cape.

For many of us, the start of the whale season can produce some of our most memorable tours. The uncertainty and variability of sightings may have something to do with it. Treating each tour as an expedition in itself.

Our first whale watching tour of the season took place on the 2nd of June, and anticipation built in the days leading up to the tour. What would we see?

At 9am, Miroshca, our whale watching catamaran made her way out of the Hermanus New Harbour and into Walker Bay in search of our flippered friends. A disturbance on the water was spotted a few miles out, which was determined to be an exceptionally large pod of common dolphin, estimated to be in the range of 6000 animals. The pod headed in our direction and proceeded to encircle the boat while porpoising and playing, giving everyone an amazing experience, while feeling as if we were part of the pod.

Migratory Humpbacks, resident Brydes & the arrival of the Southern Right whales

The first half of the month offered idyllic sea conditions and a good amount of winter sun. We enjoyed sightings of passing Humpback whales that gave us an aerial show while enjoying a pit stop in our bay on their trip further north to their breeding grounds, elusive resident Bryde’s whales that left us longing for more, often only presenting a blow followed by a quick glimpse of a dorsal fin, and even a Mola mola sunfish that curiously circled our boat numerous times giving all a good view.

Our first Southern Right Whale for the 2021 Hermanus Whale season was encountered on the 13th of June 2021, with sporadic sightings of this species up until the Cape of Storms reared her head for the latter part of the month, resulting in 14 days of ‘no sea days’ and the calm waters of Walker Bay that brings the whales here to calve were not left in the calmest state. Luckily for the southern rights, they are used to much rougher conditions, spending a large portion of the year feeding in waters home to the roaring 40’s through to the screaming 60’s. The number of whales in the bay steadily increased, and many powdery blows and the odd fluke were seen from the shore during our land-based whale tours while we walked the Hermanus Cliff paths to some of our favoured lookout points.

The number of Southern Right Whales in the bay is on the rise

Once the weather gave some reprieve, we were back out on the water, the southern right whales, now here in full swing. Noteworthy for this early in the season was sighting mom and calf pairs, a highlight being a calf out in the bay trying to master the art of using its fluke. A largely cartilage filled fluke with little muscle turns into a large floppy mass, but after numerous attempts, some coordination was obtained and the calf managed what looked to be its first ever lobtail, much to the delight of its supporters on the boat.

So far, July has brought about numerous mating groups in the bay, with more and more whales arriving from their more southern latitudes. These mating groups are incredible to see, with up to seven animals in one group being the largest group to date. The mating groups consist of one female and up to six males, forming what can best be described as a pleasant form of “whale soup”, with whales rolling around each other in a beautiful mess of splashes and white water. There is no aggression shown during these moments, just large amounts of fondling as the males wait for their turn to mate with the female.

Rare encounter of Humpback dolphins

Another highlight of July was a great sighting of a small pod of Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins, right outside the harbour wall. These dolphins have a stocky build, with a distinct hump on their back underneath the dorsal fin. They are seldom seen compared to our more common species, the Bottlenose and Common Dolphins that are often encountered.

With whale numbers in the bay rapidly increasing, every tour provides us with a different and exciting experience.

Fabulous August 2018 | Whale Season Hermanus

The whale season in Hermanus is in FULL swing: with nearly daily sightings from the land and 100% success rate for sightings on all of our whale watching boat trips this past month, the coastline is beaming with activity.

The Whale Unit of the Mammal Research Institute took to the skies to conduct an aerial count of the Southern Right Whales along our coastline, the total count was 1347 whales between Hawston and Witsands. This jaw-dropping count is triple what it was this time last year!

 

 

Summer Whale Watching

If you google Hermanus what is sure to be top ranking is whales! The town is synonymous with whales & whale watching, be it from land or boat.

The town prides itself as a whale hotspot and every local knows the Southern Right Whale & will have a story to tell of the day they drove to work and whales were Breaching, or they sat at one of the many seafront restaurants and watched whales frolicking in the bay for hours, or even some more perhaps exaggerated stories.

A slightly misleading perception is that whales are only in our waters from June – December, everyone overlooks the huge and varied spectrum of marine life that is showcased year-round in this beautiful town.

As a general rule, early December sees the last few Southern Right Whales leave our shores for their annual migration South, heading to their feeding grounds in Sub Antarctic waters, but as our attention deviates from looking for the big tails, at times up to 6m wide, the ‘V shaped blows’ or large mating groups of Southern Right Whales, we start looking for the lesser known, slightly more elusive Brydes whales.

Summer Whale Watching

 

Although much more slender and lean than the right whales, and thus more in a light weight category of its larger cousins, Brydes whales still make for exhilarating viewing. These guys are found in coastal waters year-round, following shoaling fish up and down the coast. During the world-famous Sardine Run, these guys are having a feast! They are the largest predator of the Sardine run, wiping out entire shoals of fish in one go, and here’s the best bit…..They do exactly the same down here, in Hermanus too!

Regularly we are able to witness them breaking the surface, mouths wide open as they take their catch, or swimming around shoals of fish before lining up for an underwater attack. Each has their own personality, and although a little shy, curiosity will get the better of them in most instances as they come to watch us, as we watch them!

 

While out on the water in Walker Bay, there is a huge variety of marine life to be seen, from huge pods of dolphins, to lesser known dolphin species that are becoming a more frequent sight, sunfish, bird life, seals, penguins and even some sharks if we are lucky!

Our summer cruises have so far had 100% sightings success of whales, and one thing is for sure, the big blue Atlantic Ocean is full of life, offering some surprises in the Cape area in the past couple of weeks, we have come across mass pods of Humpback whales, Southern Right Whales spotted in February & False Killer whales, to name a few.

Its summer time, the cool ocean breeze awaits, so get the sunscreen bring the family and let’s go see what’s out in the bay today!

 

Brydes Whale Feeding

 

Summer Whale Watching Brydes Whale

Whale Watching Sighting Update | July 2016

Whale Season 2016 , Sighting update for July, Hermanus Whale Watching

During the month of July our whale watching tours had a 99% success rate for whale sightings.

SIGHTING SUMMARY

  • Brydes whales were frequently seen due to the large shoals of fish in Walker BayWhale watching sighting South Africa
  • Humpback whales were encountered on five of July’s trips
  • Southern Right whale’s were encountered on 99% of our trips, with numbers in excess of +20 whales on one trip
  • Southern Right whales mating was observed 19 times this past month
  • Humpback dolphins were seen twice during July. Our fist encounter was rare in term of the size of the pod, +50 dolphins were seen around the boat.
  • Common and Bottlenose dolphins were seen on 5 of our trips during July
  • Above average, pelagic bird activity in the bay this July.
  • A Great white shark was briefly spotted near the boat, and shortly after a whale in the distacarbon neutral tour operator southern right chartersnce started displaying very protective behaviour of her calf

SOUTHERN RIGHT CHARTERS IS CARBON NEUTRAL

Southern Right Charters have given back to the environment by offsetting our carbon footprint.
In an ongoing initiative certified and overseen by the Climate Neutral Group we now manage an effective emission reduction project, where we have reduced our CO2 output and engaged in sustainable way of giving back to the environment.
“We put back what we take out”

Winter Whale Watching | July Sightings 2016

So early into the month and already so much activity, winter whale watching in Hermanus is getting the thumbs up!

With the number of southern right whales on the rise, more than 20 whales were encountered during one trip earlier this week. Wonderful bucket list moments and varied marine life sightings of Southern right & Humpback whales, Cape fur seals and African penguins. Typical to South Africa’s winter, recent sightings of the Sub Antarctic Skua and Shy Albatross is a highlight for any bird-watcher.

Thanks Dave De Beer for capturing the moments.

WHALE WATCHING | 7 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

whale watching hermanus

1. Is there a better time of day to see the whales, or when they are more active?

No two trips are alike and every day we have a trip that is the best but there is no way to know which one it will be before the time, it is all up to nature. We offer daily trips, weather permitting, which depart at 9h00; 12h00 and 15h00. No time of the day is better or worse for the whale sightings; it’s best to choose the trip time based on weather and what suits your travel plans best. If you are staying in Hermanus overnight then it is best to join on the 9h00 departure as then it leaves the rest of the day for other activities or traveling and the sea can often be calmer in the mornings.

2. Would we need to book a whale watching boat trip in advance or can we turn up on the day?

It is always better to book in advance as that secures your trip, payment is only required upon departure, as all of our trips are weather permitting. You can confirm your booking by completing our whale watching enquiry form or call us +27 823530550.

3. Are we guaranteed to see the whales?

We never like to use the word ‘guarantee’ as it is nature but with that said it is very rare that we do not encounter whales. Hermanus is lucky, as the bay is much loved by the Southern Right whales and in peak season there is easily 100+ whales in the area. If by some chance you do not see whales on your trip we do offer a 50% refund on your ticket price paid or the opportunity to join us on the next available trip for free.

4. What is the duration of the boat trip and whale watching tour?

We do not cap our trip time as it all depends on the traveling time to the whales. The trip itself can be 1hr 30m – 3 hours maximum. The trip time averages at about 2hours.

5. What happens if the trip is cancelled due to weather?

We only cancel on the day if the weather is poor, as the forecast can often be wrong. We would call you to let you know and then based on availability will re-book you for when suits you best. We always have a watchful eye on the forecast so feel free to call us a day or two prior to your trip for an update and possible re-shuffle of your booking. For direct bookings you only pay on arrival so that eases the hassle of refunds in case your trip is cancelled due to weather. Any tickets booked directly and paid for prior will be refunded in full if we cancel the tour.

Due to the whale season in Hermanus occurring during South Africa’s winter months, cancellation can often occur so we would always recommend booking your trip for your first available day so that if it is cancelled, then you have the next day as an option during your holiday.

6. What time must I arrive for my whale watching trip?

Arrival time is 30 minutes prior to departure time, as we have an on-land briefing prior the trip.

Confirmed bookings will be released and can be sold on if you have not arrived 15 minutes prior to departure, so please call to let us know if you are running late. (Cancellation terms apply)

7. Are there any age limits for children?

There is no age restriction but adult supervision is a must and it is regulation for all children under 12 years old to wear a life jacket at all times. If you child is an infant, chat to us prior to your trip about what is best to bring a long and life jacket sizing.

Also see: What to bring along for your whale watching trip

A Dolphin’s Tail…

Dolphin- a small, toothed whale

Usually whilst boat based whale watching, everyone’s eyes & cameras are set firmly in the direction of the whales, everyone amazed at these giants of the ocean. With this extraordinary viewing of whales up close why move your attention elsewhere? Not one reason we can think of!

EXCEPT: When in the distance you see an array of movement & splashes swiftly moving towards the boat. As the splashes come closer someone will shout out: “its dolphins, hundreds of them!”

As they move closer, you start to get a sense of their sociable personalities. This is magic! These minutes that the dolphins choose to be with us is breathtaking. Sightings of dolphins in Hermanus are frequent – particularly of the Bottlenose and Common variety. Earlier this month, we encountered Common dolphins in their hundreds, and our underwater camera was ready!

“When the dolphins are around us everbody is happy & smiling from ear to ear! They bringout the best in people, simply by their presence!”-Hannie Euser- Interpreter guide at Southern Right Charters

The world’s only ‘Whale Crier’ enjoys whale watching with Southern Right Charters

On Wednesday, 25th July, the world’s only ‘Whale Crier’ joined us on our morning whale watching trip.

The Whale Crier  arrived at the Whale Shack, our booking office, with a feather in his cap, a sandwich board proudly perched on his chest and a curly piece of dried kelp- his horn, which makes a sound that has become famously renowned for alerting visitors on the cliffs of Hermanus to whales in the bay.

With spectacular weather conditions our boat, Miroshca headed off along the coast in search of the ‘gentle giants’ of the ocean. The guests not only enjoyed having the Whale Crier on board but also enjoyed close encounters with Southern right whales and Humpback whales too!

Take a look at the mini video clip of the Whale Crier enjoying boat based whale watching, be sure to see him in awe as the southern right whale came millimeters from our boat!

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TODAY

Tuesday
23 Jul 2024

09h00 and 12h00 – Good to Go

15h00 – to be confirmed on updated forecast

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* Trip status is updated daily around 16h00 SAST.

* Subject to unforseen circumstances.