The whale watching season is between July and December in South Africa, and locals and visitors are almost always rewarded with impressive sights when visiting the coast during this time. Areas that are famous for their many whales during this season include Hermanus, Mossel Bay, Kalk Bay and Port Elizabeth.
The most common whales seen off our coastline are the Humpback Whale and the Southern Right Whale. These animals splash playfully, often with their calves, and emerge from the water’s surface to have a peep at the humans enjoying their performance. Being a part of watching this giant’s majesty and personality is a very special experience, one that will provide a lifetime of memories.
So, when whale watching, you will likely want to do it in a way that is kind, responsible and non-intrusive. By making sure that you are a responsible whale-watcher, you will promote an activity that could, ultimately, lead to increased knowledge and understanding of this elusive animal.
When you are whale-watching, remember that you are actually a visitor in the natural habitat of the animal. You actually owe them respect and dignity. Here are a few guidelines on how to be a Responsible Whale Watcher:
- Choose a tour that includes a qualified naturalist that has the interests of the animals at heart. This person should have experience and be able to provide important information about the animals and the ocean.
- Approach the whale from the side to the rear of the animal, not head-on.
- Leave a particular group or individual after 10 to 15 minutes to allow them the freedom to move along unhindered and without fear.
- Speak quietly and move slowly so that you do not startle or scare the animals. They are inquisitive about you too and are likely focusing on you and your movements.
- Be prepared by including binoculars, a camera, waterproof clothing and non-slip shoes in your bag.
- Use plenty of sunscreen and wear Polaroid sunglasses to avoid damage cause by the sun.
- Get onto a boat that is not in good condition. It may well leak oil into the water or cause other damage.
- Approach the whale directly from the front or the back.
- Separate individual whales that are travelling in a group, as this will cause trauma.
- Try to touch the animals, throw anything at them, get in the water with them or get sand or water into their blow-holes.
- Cause a wake when you are travelling near to cetaceans. The boat needs to arrive and leave slowly and quietly.
- Surround the whales, making them feel trapped