Know your Whales !

One of the most incredible wildlife experiences on the planet happens like clockwork on our Cape Point Route shores.  Our gorgeous destination becomes the temporary home of migratory whales who come to our shores to feed and to calve.   This seasonal migration takes place from June – November with September usually being the peak period.

Mother Whale and Tiny Calf. Photo: D. Hurwitz

Mother Whale and Tiny Calf. Photo: D. Hurwitz

South Africa has amongst the best land-based whale watching in the world, but it is also worth getting up close and personal on a boat based whale watching excursion.  Seeing these marine giants in their natural environment is one of the most spectacular wildlife displays on the planet.  You will be in awe at the elegance and raw power and energy as these huge creatures perform water acrobatics.  To put the whales size into perspective,  a Southern Right Whale is about the size of 8 elephants!


Whale Spotting:

Southern Right Whale Tail. Photo: D.Hurwitz

Southern Right Whale Tail. Photo: D.Hurwitz

Do you know your whales?  Can you tell the difference between a Southern Right Whale and a Humpback?  These are the 2 most common whale visitors to our shores but look out for the Bryde’s whale as well.


Southern Right whale  Eubalaena australis. 

Southern Right Whale Photo: D. Hurwitz

Southern Right Whale Photo: D. Hurwitz


These Whales are baleen whales. They can easily be identified by the massive callosities (wart-like looking bumps!) on their big broad heads and massive tail flukes. They are usually a uniformly dark colour. They have no fins on their backs. The easiest way to spot a SRW is by their V-shaped blow.

Southern Right Whale Photo: D. Hurwitz

Southern Right Whale Photo: D. Hurwitz

Interesting fact: Male Southern Right Whales have (arguably),  the largest testicles in the animal kingdom: each testicle weighing about 500kg. Several males mate with a female and fertilization is achieved by the largest sperm count!


Humpback whale  Megaptera novaeangliae.

Humpback Whale Photo: D. Hurwitz

Humpback Whale Photo: D. Hurwitz

These Whales are also baleen whales and are beautiful blue-black in colour. Their tails are especially striking with contrasting white undersides and dark on top.  They also have unusually long, often white, pectoral fins which contrast with the black upper body.   They have knobby heads,  and  a small dorsal fin about two thirds of the way down their body and a gradual sloping hump, which is more noticeable when they dive – hence their name.  Their blowhole can spray a big bushy balloon of spray about 3 metres into the air.

Humpback Whale Photo: D. Hurwitz

Humpback Whale Photo: D. Hurwitz


Interesting fact:
 Male Humpback whales produce complex songs, sometimes lasting 10 to 20 minutes long. These whale songs are often repeated for hours at a time, and are believed to be a mating call to attract females.


Bryde’s whale – Balaenoptera edeni.

Brydes Whale  Photo: D. Hurwitz

Brydes Whale Photo: D. Hurwitz


These whales , sometimes called Southern Minke Whales,  are also baleen whales.  They are medium to small size for whales and have a long sleek body which is dark grey in colour with a lighter underbelly.    They have a prominent erect, hooked dorsal fin as a distinguishing feature (about three quarters of the way down their backs). Their tail flukes rarely break the surface of the water and they are more easily identified but their broad head with many grooves.  They are less acrobatic and usually travel alone!

Many Brydes whales (unusual to have so many together) Photo D. Hurwitz

Many Brydes whales (unusual to have so many together) Photo D. Hurwitz

Interesting fact: Bryde’s Whales can reach depths of up to 300m while diving and can stay submerged up to a maximum of 20 minutes!


How & where to see whales 

  1. Take a drive to the Cape Point Route… sightings and viewings at the Top 10 Land Based Whale Watching Spots
  2. Whale Watching Boat Trip – leaving from Simon’s Town harbour. A classic adventure. {Hot tip: Captain D. Hurwitz took these whale images on the Whale Watching Boat Trips}
  3. Whale and Wine Tour:  (This seasonal tour to Hermanus departs on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from July to November only)
  4. From the Air!  The Shark Spotting Scenic flight is an opportunity to see whales from the air during whale season!

    Boat Based Whale Watching Photo: Simon's Town Boat Company

    Boat Based Whale Watching Photo: Simon’s Town Boat Company


Cape Point Route loves Whales (& penguins) 

Cape Point Route also offers day tourspackagesaccommodationactivities and car hire in Cape Town’s south peninsula in addition to teambuilding events in Cape Town. Call 021 789 0093 or visit www.capepointroute.co.za

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