Southern Right whales (Eubalaena australis) spend the summer months feeding around Antarctica and then migrate thousands of kilometres to the sheltered bays of South Africa to mate and calve. They can be seen along the coast between June/July and December. The whales were giving the name ‘Right whale’ because they were considered to be the 'right' whale to hunt. They are slow moving, occur close to shore, yield large amounts of valuable blubber and baleen and float when dead. Until recently they were close to extinction, but are now protected and their numbers are increasing at 7% per year. The southern African population is estimated to be around 3000 individuals.
The body, which has no dorsal fin, is large and black usually with white patches on the belly. Callosities, which are outgrowths of tough skin, are often used in identifying individual whales, as they are unique to each animal, similar to fingerprints in humans. The largest of these excrescences (callosities) is located on the anterior-most portion of the head and is referred to as the "bonnet." Other excrescences are on the upper edge of the lower jaw, behind the blowhole, and above the eye. Flippers are broad and paddle-shaped. Another distinguishing physical feature of Southern Right whales is the blowhole. The exterior of the blow hole is well-partitioned, resulting in a V-shaped exhaust of condensation and water vapour.
Several operators leave from the harbour of Kleinbaai to the waters east of Danger Point, home of hundreds of Great White sharks, especially between March and August. Between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock lies “Shark Alley” where the mysterious and graceful Great White sharks have drawn visitors from across the globe. Gansbaai is one of the few places left in the world where one can still cage dive with these magnificent creatures. Cages are lowered on the side of the boat to allow the passengers to come eye to eye with these magnificent predators.
Adult length: up to 17m, average 14m
Adult weight: 30-60 tonnes, average 40 tonnes
Mating: Several males and one female in active mating group
Length of pregnancy: 1 year
Length of nursing: 6-12 months
Weight at birth: 900kg
Length at birth: average 6m growing by up to 3cms per day.
Lifespan: Believed to be 40-50 years
Food: Copepods and krill, filtered through baleen plates on upper jaw, eating between 600 and 1600 kg per day.