Whale watching in Wilderness
South Africa is considered one of the best destinations in the world for watching marine mammals. In Wilderness, you’ll find secluded beaches, lakes and rivers in lush surrounds, making this intimate town the perfect place for a relaxing getaway. Add to this some unique whale-watching opportunities, and you have the perfect holiday.
When will you see whales in Wilderness?
The Southern Right whale visits Wilderness every year from June through to November. Humpbacks pass through the area in May and June as they make their way up the coast to their breeding grounds off Mozambique, Tanzania and Madagascar. And then again from November to January, as they make their return trip back to the icy waters of Antarctica.
You can expect to have spectacular sightings of whales from land or boats, as well as enormous pods of bottlenose and humpback dolphins all year-round. Bryde's whales can also be seen all year round, and occasionally you will spot an Orca.
What are the top whale viewing sites in Wilderness?
- Dolphin’s Point
- Map of Africa viewpoint
- Wilderness Beach
- Flat Rock Beach
Why do whales migrate?
The Southern Right and Humpback whales migrate annually from Antarctica to the warmer waters from Cape Town up to Mozambique, Tanzania and Madagascar. Southern Right and Humpback whales feed in summer in the polar waters and then migrate to tropical or subtropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, they fast and live off their fat reserves.
The Bryde’s whales do not migrate. They stay inshore throughout the year, where it is shallower and warmer. They breed all year round.
Peak calving season is during July and August. The waters off Wilderness teem with these giant animals mating, calving and rearing their young in safety. Whale-watchers can enjoy spectacular displays of their raw power and elegant water acrobatics.
More about the whales you will see in Wilderness
Southern Right whales
This whale is easily distinguished from others by the hard, horny skin outgrowths on the head, called callosities. The Southern Right whale has a broad back without a dorsal fin, and a long arching mouth that begins above the eye. Their name comes from the days of whale hunting, when they were seen as the ‘right’ whales to kill because they came in close to shore and tended to float when dead. These whales grow to a length of between 11 and 18 metres and weigh between 40 and 80 tonnes. Southern Right Whales are inquisitive and acrobatic and can often be seen doing ‘head stands’, lobtailing (slapping their flippers and tail against the water) and breaching.
You can identify the Humpback whale by their humps and long pectoral fins. They are known for their haunting and melodic songs and for breaching the water with amazing acrobatic abilities. Humpback adults range in length from 12 to 16 m and weigh between 25 and 30 tonnes. They can be quite inquisitive around boats. These whales often travel alone but may be part of pods of between three and 15 other Humpbacks.
What makes this whale identifiable are the three ridges that run longitudinally and parallel to one another along the top of the whale’s head. Their name is pronounced “Brood-ess”. Adult Bryde’s Wwales reach a length of between 11.5 and 14.5 m and weight between 12 and 20 tonnes. These whales are quite shy and only occasionally will approach a fishing vessel. Bryde’s whales can lift their entire body out of the water in an acrobatic display of power when they breach.
Southern Right Mother and Calf filmed in July 2020 off Wilderness - see www.zamazing.co.za
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