The region of Cape Town is is an excellent starting point to observe the southern right whales that winter very close to the coasts during the months of June to October. The small town of Hermanus, a seaside resort located 120 km from Cape Town, provides shelter to the marine sanctuary “Walker Bay”. It is most probably one of the best places in the world to observe the southern right whales.
This whale is the most common one found in Hermanus; it can measure up to 16 metres and is easily recognizable by its callus-covered head. It leaves the waters of Antarctica at the beginning of the southern winter. During this season, Antarctica plunges into the intense polar night and freezing cold. Numerous species desert this region, which become too inhospitable. The right whale will travel through more than 8’000 kilometres to give birth and reproduce in the waters of South Africa.
The sanctuary of Walker Bay prevents all navigation, but the outskirts of the reserves are nevertheless accessible and are rich in marine mammals. To observe them more closely, it is advised to get hold of a small rapid boat or to be enrolled in the numerous excursions organized by the local operators… but with the risk of being crammed together with tens of tourists on a ship specially designed for this! Another solution is the helicopter, not an ecological means: I grant you that, but a fabulous opportunity to observe the whales from above.
The whales are quite demonstrative during the mating season. It is quite common to observe, in the distance, superb flips executed by males soliciting the favours of a female. Among the entire spectacle that the animal kingdom can offer, it is without any doubt one of the most extraordinary. Imagine these whales breaching out of the water to fall back again on their sides in a deafening crash, stirring up an extraordinary volume of water in an immense shower of foam.
We look in all directions, playing the game of who will be the first to locate a floating body, a tail or a whale breaching. Suddenly, a dark mass emerges, just like a submarine, breathing out of its blowholes, its long body moving slowly on surface. Then, it dives again, delighting us with a magnificent tail flip in by way of goodbye…
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