Trip Status

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.

 

 

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!

 

 

Hermanus Whale Watching Season is Here

Every year the ‘SRC Crew’ await and anticipate the upcoming whale watching season, each with our own predictions on what the season will hold and so far June has exceeded expectations. Continue reading “Hermanus Whale Watching Season is Here”

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.

     

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”

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

Hermanus Whale Season: When, why & what are southern right whales up to?

Hermanus on the south coast of South Africa is one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world. From June to December every year, southern right whales congregate here to deliver one of nature’s most remarkable spectacles. Hermanus’ shallow, sandy coves and warmer, calmer waters provide whales with the ideal environment to start and eventually complete their up to three-year-long reproductive cycles.

The majestic southern right whales have travelled a long way to get here – thousands of kilometers – on a journey that starts in June. Then by early Decemberll head in the opposite direction again, back down south to fill their mighty bellies until the following year, when they do it all again. But why do southern right whales undertake these grueling distance migrations? 

southern right whales

Southern right whales are seasonal feeders, and during the Southern Hemisphere summer months they spend their time feeding in the far Southern Ocean, a cold and seemingly inhospitable place that is nonetheless rich in microscopic marine animal life, known as zooplankton, such as krill – the main element of the southern right whale’s diet. This makes the Antarctic region ideal for fattening up before embarking on the incredible journey north, towards Hermanus and other places along South Africa’s south coast.

It’s not exactly known how far these marine mammals travel. Distances can vary according to where they feed in the summer, and that in turn can vary according to the distribution of their prey (the krill and other zooplankton we mentioned earlier). While the location of feeding grounds is uncertain and changeable, scientists have positively identified the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, the Falkland Islands and areas south of the 50-degree latitude.

That’s a long way to go, but considering that southern right whales grow to be up to 17m long and can weigh more than 50 tons, these colossal beasts are well equipped for the long- distance challenge.

Once in our relatively warm and calm waters, the whales then undertake the important task of mating and calving (giving birth). They don’t eat while they are here; instead surviving on the ample blubber (fat) they’ve built up during their time in the south.

Places like Walker Bay offer the perfect conditions for breeding in peace. For us land dwellers, it also offers the perfect location from where to view this spectacle of nature. Of course, you needn’t stay on land. With Southern Right Charters, you can get as close as 50m to the visiting whales, and because they are naturally curious, they are likely to swim up to our boat to say hello. Our on-board specialist whale guide will shed light on all the marine life encountered (which certainly doesn’t end with whales) and also explain the southern rights whales’ peculiar behavior: find out what breaching, spyhopping, lobtailling and fluking means, then see it happen first-hand.

Did you know?

More than 100 southern right whales spend their “winter holidays” in the Hermanus area every year.

 

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

Whopping Big Whales

There are over 40 species of whale in the world, 3 of which can be seen simultaneously in the waters along the coast of Hermanus in South Africa. For an awe-inspiring experience on a whale watching trip where you can see these magnificent ocean giants- the Southern right whale, the Humpback whale and the Bryde’s whale – the first step is to know what they look like and what how they behave: Continue reading “Whopping Big Whales”

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TODAY

Saturday
02 Mar 2024

Hermanus: End of the Southern Right Whale Season 2023

For more info on the current Humpback Season on the West Coast with Whale ExpeditionSA

Contact us

info@whaleexpedition.co.za

+27 82 353 0550

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* Trip status is updated daily around 16h00 SAST.

* Subject to unforseen circumstances.