The low, bellowing call of a lone Southern Right Whale echoes through the waters of Walker Bay. He is one of the first arrivals, one of many Southern Rights returning from a summer spent feeding in the Antarctics, and who are now headed to the warmer waters of South Africa to mate. The first to arrive are the bulls, bright and early so as not to miss out when the females follow. And follow they will. Some of them will still be nursing calves from previous years, but others will be ready to mate again and this is what the bulls are waiting for. Whale season officially kicks off in June, but already we are seeing the first of our bulls arriving, which promises some spectacular viewing ahead. We can also expect to see Bryde’s Whales year-round, as well as the rest of our own ocean “Big 5” – dolphin, seal, penguin, and marine birds. If you’d like to read more about our whales, you can turn to page 8 of the July 2017 issue of Splash Magazine, where we took a more in-depth look at these iconic mammals. Below, in anticipation of whale season, we will be talking about boat-based whale viewing, and what to do to ensure you make the best of this unique and wonderful way of viewing Walker Bay’s marine life.
Why Boat-Based whale viewing?
The Ivanhoe is a boat-based whale viewing charter which affords passengers the opportunity to get up and personal with our whales and other marine life in their natural habitat. Since boat-based whale watching doesn’t disturb whales, this gives us the ideal chance to observe their many natural behaviours – such as breaching, spyhopping, lobtailing, and sailing. Although charter boats are not allowed to approach whales within a certain distance, whales are curious animals and it is not uncommon for them to take an interest in human vessels and their occupants, and to approach the boat – sometimes putting on elaborate displays which will delight seasoned and new passengers alike. If you’re a photographer looking to nail that perfect whale or dolphin shot, this is not something to miss out on. Whether or not you take photographs, you will still come away having gained an unforgettable experience as well as plenty of interesting trivia on every species seen on the trip, since all guides are highly educated and eager to share their knowledge on our marine wildlife.
What to Bring
In order to get the most out of a whale viewing trip, there are a few things that you should remember to bring with you. These will enhance your experience as well as keep you comfortable. In order to make things easy for you this whale season, we have compiled a few helpful suggestions below that you can keep in mind when getting ready for a trip. The first item you should definitely pack is sunscreen – despite it being winter, the sun can be harsh on the water and getting sunburned can be a reality. Consider a pair of sunglasses and a hat too as part of your sun protection. Besides sun protection, something warm to wear is a must, particularly in the evenings, as it can get very cold on the boat. Our other recommendations are to make your trip even more enjoyable, and as such we recommend binoculars, a camera (photographers should pack long lenses). Although we do not go out on rough seas and our trips are only two hours long, those who are very prone to seasickness should remember to consult their GPs for a prescription medication so that they can confidently enjoy the trip. The last thing to remember is to arrive at the harbour 30 minutes before launch time in order for everything to run smoothly.
Boat based whale watching is one of the best ways to experience the joy of whale watching, and armed with the information in this guide, you are now prepared to enjoy whale season 2018 from aboard the decks of The Ivanhoe!