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:
The Southern Right Whale
Southern Right whales can be recognised by the characteristic v-shaped jet of water sprayed from its two blow holes, as well as its gigantic length of up to an incredible seventeen metres. Over 100 of these toothless creatures (who use their baleen plates to filter over 2 tons of krill and copepods from the sea water each day) visit the Hermanus coast annually where they breach, fluke, lobtail, spyhop, mate and give birth to their calves in the secluded bays of the coastline.
The Humpback Whale
Humpback whales can be seen migrating towards the breeding grounds found within the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean. They can be recognised by the distinctive white markings on the underside of their flukes, as well as their long flippers that match a third of their total body span.
Humpbacks practice a specialised group feeding technique called bubble-net feeding, making use of vocals and bubbles to herd fish to the surface of the ocean where they can be gulped down. These grand whales exhibit spyhopping and impressive breaches along the Hermanus coastline, throwing their weight (in excess of 40 tons) up into the air before crashing down showering observers with sea spray.
The Bryde’s Whale
The Bryde’s whale, although smaller than Humpbacks and Southern Rights, still can weigh up to more than 15 tons, and can be recognised by its small dorsal fin and the distinctive ridges along its head. They are regulars in South African waters, but are also rather elusive because they’re hunters who skim the water surface for krill and copepods and chase shoaling fish (such as Anchovies or Pilchards) in a seemingly erratic manner.
Being able to identify these different whales will help whale lovers to spend time enjoying their antics with a full understanding of their behaviour, making the most out of their boat trip encounter amongst these gentle goliaths.