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Whale season on the Cape Whale Coast

July 22, 2011

The coming of the whales to the Western Cape’s Cape Whale Coast, between the months of June and November, creates a huge stir throughout the Western Cape and with marine lovers the world over.

The whale season peaks in August with sightings being virtually guaranteed until the end of October / early November. Having said that, we’ve already had news of sightings in Hermanus this week.

Whales, including the Southern Right Whale and less frequently the Bryde’s whale and Humpback Whale, are commonly sighted along the Cape Overberg Coast, along the cliff paths of Hangklip, Kleinmond and Hermanus and Gansbaai – a stretch also known as the Cape Whale Coast. These gentle giants spend summer feeding around Antarctica, then migrate thousands of miles to the sheltered bays of the Western Cape to mate and calve.

The Cape Overberg coastline is the meeting place of the Indian and Atlantic oceans, creating conditions which draw as many as 37 species of whales and dolphins to South Africa’s coastline.

The Southern Right Whale can weigh up to 60 tonnes, averages 14 metres in length, lives to about 100 years and has the most highly-evolved mammalian brain on earth. These whales are huge – rounder and heavier than the Humpback Whale or Bryde’s Whale – and only smaller than the Blue Whale.

The Southern Right Whale population was virtually decimated during the whaling years. The South African government responded by actively protecting whales in its waters since 1935. The population is slowly restoring itself and there are now close to 4,000 of these wonderful creatures – a large proportion of which grace our shores every year.

They usually swim within 200 metres of the shore-line between June and November and sightings of mother and calf are especially common. You will find the world’s best land-based whale-watching site if you drive along the coast road via the fishing community of Hawston to Hermanus.

Hermanus is the only town in the world that has a whale crier who uses a kelp horn to draw visitors to view the whales who often come as close as 20-30 metres from the shore. Pasika Noboba is the current Whale Crier. He has tremendous knowledge of both whales and Hermanus and is well respected within all communities for his friendliness, and his passion for young and old alike. The Hermanus whale crier does his rounds every day from June to December between 10am and 4pm and can be contacted on his hotline: 079 301 4665.

This year the Hermanus Whale Festival celebrates its 20th year as the only enviro-arts festival in South Africa. The Festival runs from 30 September to 4 October.  The whales are always the star performers at the Festival and will be joined on land by musicians, crafters, sports celebrities and thousands of people. Food is big at the festival, with chefs flying in from all over the country, gourmet competitions, a bounty of local seafood and restaurants pulling out all the stops. Afterwards you can take part in the world’s only Welcome Whales Wave and then get down to live music, comedy, cabaret and African rhythms.

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