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Wanderer Tours and Travel

Be Curious, Explore, Go Places

Southern Right Whales

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Southern right whales are majestic marine mammals that frequent the waters around Cape Town, South Africa, particularly during the winter months from June to November. These massive creatures, known scientifically as Eubalaena
australis, are a sight to behold as they glide gracefully through the waves, often coming close to shore to breed and calve.

One of the main reasons why southern right whales are attracted to the waters around Cape Town is for breeding and calving. The sheltered bays and coastal areas provide a relatively safe environment for mothers to give birth and nurse
their calves away from predators and rough seas. The nutrient-rich waters also offer ample food sources for the whales, primarily consisting of tiny crustaceans known as krill, which thrive in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean.

The southern right whale gets its name from being the “right” whale to hunt during the whaling era. These whales were highly valued for their abundant oil and baleen, which was used in various industries. However, due to centuries of
relentless hunting, their populations were decimated to near extinction. Fortunately, conservation efforts in the 20th century led to the protection of southern right whales, and their numbers have been slowly recovering.

Today, southern right whales are a symbol of conservation success, with populations rebounding in many areas where they were once hunted. In Cape Town, efforts to protect these magnificent creatures include strict regulations on whale watching activities to minimize disturbance to the animals. Whale watching tours are popular among tourists, offering the chance to witness these gentle giants up close from a safe distance.

Southern right whales are easily recognizable by several key features. They have large, rotund bodies covered in thick blubber, which helps to insulate them in cold waters. Their heads are massive and often adorned with rough patches of white skin called callosities, which are unique to each individual and can be used for identification purposes. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of southern right whales is their long, arching mouths, which give them a somewhat smiling

During the breeding season, male southern right whales can be seen engaging in impressive displays of dominance, competing for the attention of females. These displays often involve breaching, where the whale propels itself out of the water and crashes back down with a tremendous splash, as well as slapping its flippers and tails on the surface.

Overall, southern right whales play a vital role in the marine ecosystem and are a cherished part of the natural heritage of Cape Town. Their presence serves as a reminder of the importance of conservation efforts in preserving our planet’s precious biodiversity for future generations to enjoy.


  1. Migration Patterns: Southern right whales are known for their extensive migration patterns. They travel from their feeding grounds in the Antarctic to warmer waters near the coasts of South Africa, Australia, South America, and New Zealand. Cape Town serves as a crucial stopover point along their migratory route.
  2. Breeding and Calving Grounds: The sheltered bays along the Cape Peninsula, particularly False Bay and Walker Bay near Hermanus, are important breeding and calving grounds for Southern right whales. These areas provide protection for mothers and their calves from predators and rough seas.
  3. Distinctive Features: Southern right whales are easily identifiable by their large, rotund bodies, lack of a dorsal fin, and callosities on their heads. These callosities, which are patches of roughened skin, are unique to each whale and often become encrusted with barnacles and other marine organisms over time.
  4. Behavioral Traits: These whales are known for their acrobatic displays, often breaching (leaping out of the water), slapping their flippers and tails on the surface, and spy-hopping (raising their heads vertically out of the water) – behaviors that researchers believe may serve various purposes, including communication, courtship, and removing parasites.
  5. Conservation Status: While Southern right whales were once heavily hunted during the whaling era, they are now a protected species. However, they still face threats such as entanglement in fishing gear, ship strikes, pollution, and habitat degradation. Efforts to monitor and conserve these majestic creatures are ongoing, including research initiatives, habitat protection measures, and public awareness campaigns.

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