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.

Say Hello to MIRA – the southern right whale

‘MIRA’ is a 16 year old female southern right whale with a large distinctive white marking on her dorsal.

In addition to keeping sighting logs of each whale & dolphin sighting during our boat tours, Southern Right Charters photographs, record and catalogues any whales seen with distinctive markings, as part of our Whale Sighting Programme in the hopes that we can determine re-sightings of specific whales in the future which could offer immediate knowledge on the whales age, movements and birthing cycle.

On the 31st July 2020, our crew spotted MIRA in Walker Bay, Hermanus. This is our first successful and official re-sighting as she was last spotted from our boat in September 2017. What is amazing is that in 2017 and now in 2020, both encounters have seen MIRA with a new calf. This indicates a healthy birthing/calving period of three years, with MIRA, doing great, having calved in both 2017 & 2020.

On further investigation by the Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit, they confirmed that MIRA is in their database, but not as an adult but as a calf!

MIRA was born in 2004 to female R98/113A, showing that she is turning 16 years old this year. In a social media post on the 4th August 2020, the Whale Unit mentioned that “Considering the average age of first calving is about 8 years old, Southern Right Charters likely captured her 2nd (2017) and 3rd (2020) calf.”

This good news story rippled across the local news in Hermanus, with many locals posting sightings of MIRA and her calf during the 2020 whale season, over a +/- 3 month period ranging from end July well into October MIRA and her calf ‘set up camp’ in Hermanus and was often seen from shore and boat.

 

 

Hermanus Whale Season 2019

Skippers’ Log: Hermanus Whale Season 2019

Since kicking off our whale season back in June, we have had one of the most spectacular and varied seasons on record. (Let’s not dwell on the abundance of long cold fronts and ‘no sea’ days)

Our Hermanus whale season begins in June, annually and this year the Humpback whales were ever present from the start, we probably had the most Humpback whale sightings during the months of June and July than any other year of operation.

The Southern right whales made a slower than usual arrival and we had our first sighting on the 14th June 2019. Since then we have been humbled daily, watching these gentle giants of the ocean. Although most articles of 2019 have spoken about low southern right whale numbers, what’s overlooked is the marine expo on offer right here on Hermanus’ doorstep – Brydes whales have been a staple for both the beginning and end parts of the season, going against the grain several times becoming curious and interacting with the vessel as guests onboard get an awesome experience and photographic opportunity.

The semi-resident Bottlenose dolphin pod has been witnessed regularly, a couple of sightings of humpback dolphins as well as some spectacular mega-pods of common dolphins in the bay, setting into motion a ‘boiling water’ effect around the boat.

In August, while watching one such mega-pods, we were then distracted by the arrival of a pod of Orca, setting crew and guests alike into a frenzy with excitement, no one onboard wanting the magnificent spectacle to end, guests of that trip became immediate “SRC” family, sharing with us one of the highlight sightings of the decade.

Great white sharks, Cape fur seals, birds and the African penguins were among other sightings of the 2019 season as well as Mola-mola sunfish. One sunfish, in particular we saw so regularly and could be easily distinguished by its noticeable scar tissue,  the crew even named him Donald!

It is amazing how much nostalgia each season brings, how many memories and people from across the globe we meet but this year has been particularly special as we celebrate our 20 Year Anniversary! That said all good things must come to an end, yesterday’s 9h00 departure marked the end of our 2019 peak whale watching season. As after much thought, a week of mixed viewings in the bay and some strong westerly winds forecasted over the coming days, it was decided it’s time to call it a wrap!

During yesterdays trip, guests onboard chatted with crew about the season and, after a 2-hour search were lucky when we encountered a large Brydes whale and 10 minutes later, most fitting to see the season out – one of the last Southern Right Whales in the area. Perfect way to end the season.

We look forward to sun filled summer season offering our Marine Safari tours and wish all a Happy Festive Season!

https://www.facebook.com/HermanusWhaleWatching/videos/2409412379368992/

 

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!

 

 

Its a #GO for Greater Oceans

Southern Right Charters is super excited to launch The Great Oceans Initiative (#GO) to make a daily difference by reducing the amount of litter that ends up polluting our oceans.

Every year will welcome a new theme and this year it is all about marine debris and curbing it.

Did you know that according to the CSIRO study, roughly 80% of marine debris originates from land? By making small changes in our daily lives, we land mammals can do something about those stats!

Satellite socio and environmental campaigns that speak to this goal are ongoing and will dovetail with this initiative. Some of these are: Our #GOTalk where the SRC crew visited Hermanus Waldorf School, Living Hope Child Support and Just Care children to educate them on how to re-use, reduce and recycle to ensure that Splashy the Seal and Dizzy the Dolphin have a cleaner environment. Of course our enthusiasm for whales spilled over into an introductory talk on the wonders of whales in Hermanus and we ended with a drawing competition to win a boat based whale watching family voucher.

#GOWalk was initiated last year and this clean-up campaign is ready to go AWOL! Be it by boat, pool-net or bundu-bashing, the SRC crew will be on it with regular clean-ups of all the hard-to-get-to corners of the New Harbour in Hermanus.

Our #GOGetInvovled campaign is getting out there, finding like-minded ‘good stuff’ happening in our local community in which we can get involved. In this spirit we have appointed our ‘Butt Ambassador’ here at Southern Right Charters. She has been busily collecting ‘stompies’ around the harbour for the past couple of months to aid the Whale Coast Conservation ‘BinyourButt’ campaign. At the recent launch of the campaign in Hermanus, our ambassador took involvement to a whole new level and created awareness by becoming a giant cigarette! We eagerly await the installation of the SRC Sponsored ‘Butt Bin’ in the Hermanus New Harbour this July,

The Southern Right Charters’ Crew are excited to see where this Greater Oceans Initiative will ‘GO’ next!

GO Walk coastal Clean Up Bin your butt Campaign

GoTalk Greater Oceans Campaign #GoWalk Coastal Clean-up

The WHALE SEASON Documentary, a short film

Southern Right Charters is moving with the times.
Gone are our old DVDs and Hello to our new USB movies. As with all revamps comes improvements, after 6 months of editing, voice-overs and trawling through years of whale watching footage we have produced a documentary which takes the viewer through the epic journey of the southern right whales.

This 40 minute short film, titled the WHALE SEASON is a bonus feature to our current ‘Your Whale Trip Movie’ which is available to purchase after the tour. This short film is also available as a stand-alone souvenir at selected retailers in Hermanus.

 

whale season

 

SHORT FILM & WHALE TRIP MOVIE NOW ON SALE IN USB FORMAT

Whale Watching Sighting Update | August 2016

So much activity out on the water this past month, the Southern Right Whale numbers in the bay have increased exponentially and many of the trips have extended into marine safari’s with a variety of marine life seen. Read more on our whale watching sightings summary below:

WHALE WATCHING SIGHTING SUMMARY

  • Humpback whales were encountered on two of August’s trips.
  • Noteworthy interaction between southern right and humpback whales encountered on the 19th August.
  • Large groups of Southern Right whales mating observed 42 times this past month.
  • Our guests were in awe when they saw not one but 2 Mola Mola Sunfish during the same trip, one of these peculiar fish even came right up to the boat to have a closer look at us.
  • Bryde’s whales have been regularly seen during our tours.
  • Humpback dolphins were seen 3 times during August. Strangely, we have encountered this species more this year than any other year. Sighting photos that we submitted for identification confirm re-sighting of known individuals.
  • Common dolphins were encountered only once in August, there were roughly 130 dolphins in the pod.
  • Sightings of Cape Fur Seals and African penguins have nearly been a daily occurrence.

     

Hermanus Whale Season 2016

Exciting update for all nature lovers and whale enthusiasts!  Our whale season 2016 in Hermanus is underway.

With many sightings of Brydes and breaching Humpback whales, we enjoyed an early inception to the “whale epoch“.  In addition we have observed the occasional Southern Right whale, as they appear to  slowly meander their way into Walkerbay.  We have indulged in sightings of various species of dolphins as they frolicked happily alongside our catamaran and playfully hurdled the waves.

In our plight to create awareness, Southern Right Charters elected to contribute in our own small way to the incredible initiative of World Ocean Day, which was on the 8th June 2016. The theme was “healthy oceans, healthy planet” and is a celebration and worldwide collaboration for a better future of the ocean. It was an extraordinary day here at the Hermanus New Harbour, as we celebrated in true African style, with a marimba band, ‘life- sized whale photo booth’  and #Sustainable seafood snacks for our whale watching guests.  Everyone was in high spirits and the trip itself a huge success with good sightings and fantastic weather conditions on the day.

World Oceans Day Celebration

World Oceans Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, be it from the scenic cliff paths at Gearing’s Point or up close and personal, from our whale watching catamaran – HAPPY WHALE WATCHING 2016 to everybody!

Click to view our PHOTO GALLERY of our June Hermanus Whale Watching Sightings, photos taken by our Whale Specialist Guide, Ken and the Hermanus Whales Author, Dave.

June Sightings 2016 | Hermanus Whale Watching Season

Exciting update for all nature lovers and whale enthusiasts!  Our whale season 2016 in Hermanus is underway.

With many sightings of Brydes and breaching Humpback whales, we enjoyed an early inception to the “whale epochâ”. In addition we have observed the occasional Southern Right whale, as they appear to slowly meander their way into Walkerbay. We have indulged in sightings of various species of dolphins as they frolicked happily alongside our catamaran and playfully hurdled the waves.

In our plight to create awareness, Southern Right Charters elected to contribute in our own small way to the incredible initiative of World Ocean Day, which was on the 8th June 2016. The theme was “healthy oceans, healthy planet” and is a celebration and worldwide collaboration for a better future of the ocean. It was an extraordinary day here at the Hermanus New Harbour, as we celebrated in true African style, with a marimba band, “life- sized whale photo booth” and Sustainable seafood snacks for our whale watching guests. Everyone was in high spirits and the trip itself a huge success with good sightings and fantastic weather conditions on the day.

World Oceans Day Celebration  World Oceans Day

So, be it from the scenic cliff paths at Gearing’s Point or up close and personal, from our whale watching catamaran HAPPY WHALE WATCHING 2016 to everybody!

Click to view our PHOTO GALLERY of our June Hermanus Whale Watching Sightings, photos taken by our Whale Specialist Guide, Ken and the Hermanus Whales Author, Dave.

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TODAY

Tuesday
25 Jun 2024

ALL Trips cancelled due to sea/weather conditions

 

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* Trip status is updated daily around 16h00 SAST.

* Subject to unforseen circumstances.