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Southern Right Whales

Did You Know?

Every year southern right whales migrate from their icy feeding grounds off Antarctica to warmer climates, reaching South Africa in June. The coastal waters teem with the giant animals, mating, calving and rearing their young – and giving whale-watchers spectacular displays of raw power and elegant water acrobatics. The southern right gets its name from the simple fact it was once regarded it as the “right” whale to hunt – the animals are slow-moving, rich in oil and baleen, float when killed and provide an enormous yield. This “rightness” brought the animals to the brink of extinction in the early 20th century, as whalers killed an estimated 20 000 of the animals. Protected in South African waters since 1935, their numbers have slowly crept back to a world population of some 4 000, most of which visit the country’s coastline every year.

From Cape St Francis to the rugged Wild Coast are numerous vantage points to see humpbacks, Bryde’s, minke and killer whales and quite often southern rights, especially in Algoa Bay, while sperm and beaked whales approach close to shore off Port St Johns. Humpback whales are spotted almost daily during their northward migration from May to July and again on their return journey from November to January, occasionally being spotted as far north as Cape Vidal.

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