Saxon Lodge Blog

Saxon Lodge brings you local News & Events occuring in an around the Gansbaai area.

Where are the Whales?

Date Posted: Wednesday, 01 Sep 2021

Last week, my partner, Caron and I joined Ivanhoe Sea safaris on a boat-based Whale watching expedition out of the Old Harbour in Gansbaai, on Walker Bay in the Western Cape.

Gansbaai is an authentic seaside village close to the Southern Tip of Africa and is situated on Walker Bay, a wonderful Winter destination for the iconic Southern Right Whales. Here they meet and mate and mothers spend time with their new calves, fattening them up and preparing them physically for the long trip back to the Southern Ocean.

While they are here, people in the know come to see and enjoy the spectacular antics and behaviour of these gentle giants. Being Mammals, they are intelligent and probably have as much fun watching our behaviour as we do theirs. It is not unusual to see the enormous eye looking directly at you as they surface to breathe or to “spy hop”. They can be seen from the shoreline on the cliffs of De Kelders and most of the coastline to Pearly Beach as well as from a boat or from the air on a special flight. Ivanhoe has the permit to view from Gansbaai Harbour in Walker Bay.

The trip starts with a very informal check in in the office in the Harbour and the completion of indemnity and, currently, health related forms. Then there is an educational pass around of some interesting Whale Baleens and skin examples as well as preserved examples of the parasites that symbiotically occupy space on the Whales.

After that its onto the boat and out to sea.

The day we went was flat and calm and the air temperature was warm for winter, a glorious day!

The boat is smooth and stable and the skipper and crew make sure everyone is comfortable and happy. On our trip out, we paused to spend some time with African Penguins hunting and were told about their habits, hunting and breeding, then it was Cape Fur Seals, fun and entertaining animals that love to be around boats hoping for a treat or some bait to fall off a fishing boat perhaps..

Then we saw a Whale breach, directly on the route we were taking, you have to see this up close to believe a 20m, 60 ton, sea mammal launching itself out of the water to crash back with an enormous splash. Normally this happens multiple times, so have your camera ready.

We saw a few Whales milling around and learned that this was a mating group, it was difficult to discern who was who and there were at least three Whales in this group. The skipper stopped the boat and, in no time, the Whales had moved pretty close to the boat, that;s when we saw the eye watching us. On that particular day, the water was very clear and we could see the callosities catching the sun’s rays under the water, very close to the boat...what a stunning experience. We spent some time with this group, then slowly moved off and located another such group close by.

All of this happened in “deep water” far offshore and in around 30m of water, so you really had to be on a boat to get the real sense of what was happening and the movement of the huge animals, nobody can experience this from the air or the shore. It seemed like only a few minutes when the 2 and a half hour trip was almost over and we had to depart the whales for the harbour. There were more Seals on the way back and an Artic Skua paid us a fleeting visit.

Everyone on the trip had had a fabulous time and it was with some sadness and longing for the experience to have continued that we left for home.

Thanks to the crew and staff of Ivanhoe Sea Safaris for enabling us to have this once in a life-time  experience. And see where the whales are.

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