Southern Right Whales in Hermanus
Southern Right Whales have been making Hermanus’ Walker Bay their home for centuries. The Southern Right Whale chooses warmer climes to give
birth to their calves and to mate.
The Southern Right Whale ‘scouts’ normally enter Walker Bay in
May & June to ensure that the situation is safe and all is as it was when they left in January. These scouts rarely come close to the shore, however, in 2012 at least 7 Southern Right Whales were spotted from the cliff paths (a walk way designed for visitors to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the ocean’s edge and get a bird’s eye view of the Southern Right Whales)
Southern Right Whales habits
The Southern Right whale has a number of curious ‘activities’ which keep us humans entertained. One of which is that they Breach – jump into the air using the shear power of their bodies and tails. This is a magnificent and humbling experience when viewed from shore as the whales are extremely close.
Hermanus’ shoreline is above sea level with high cliffs. Cliff paths were built to enhance the safety and enjoyment of our visitors so that you can walk along these paths and clearly view the Southern Right Whales from above.
The images above depicts the proximity of the Southern Right Whales to the shoreline in Hermanus’ Walker Bay. The Whales enjoy a six month sojourn in the vibey town of Hermanus where the Walker Bay has been declared a sanctuary for the 6 months that the Southern Right Whales are present. This has, surely meant an increase in the numbers of Whales in the Bay on an annual basis. In 2011 season, we saw approx 80 Southern Rights lolling about in our waters.
The Whale watching season of 2011/2012 saw approximately 4 Albino calves born in Walker Bay, Hermanus. Few were fortunate enough to capture images of them as the mothers are extremely protective of their calves, rarely bringing them close to the shores of Hermanus. However, we have a few magnificent images taken by a local during the Whale Watching season. The markings on the Southern Right Whale Calves are incredible and quite distinctive, ensuring they’re easy to identify. The question is: do Albino calves survive, considering their inability to camouflage themselves naturally?
The Southern Right Whale has few predators. Humans being one. The other is the Orca or Killer Whale. It has rarely been seen, however, there is footage of a Killer whale attacking a Southern Right Whale calf. The calves are beaten to death, then their tongues eaten and the remainder of the southern right whale is left for the scavengers of the ocean to devour.
Little known facts about Southern Right Whales
Southern Right Whales are susceptible to sunburn. Their skins cannot tolerate the harsh sun which is why they choose very cold climates where the sun is weak. When the Southern Right Whales journey to Hermanus, it is during our Winter months when the sun is much cooler and weaker. During hot days when Whale watching is preferable, the Southern Right Whales are rarely seen. The Southern Right Whales get lesions from the sunburn which turn into a form of skin cancer. The Albino Southern Rights are even more susceptible to cancerous lesions.