“Whales have been the talk of the town this season with locals and holidaymakers treated to a bumper humpback whale migration in 2022.”
South Coast, South Africa (25 November 2022) – Between June and November every year, visitors to the KZN South Coast are treated to an ocean spectacle as the humpback whales migrate northwards to have their calves, before returning close to shore to protect their young ones.
This year, the increase in the whale population has resulted in even more activity, with whale sightings an almost daily occurrence along this stunning coastline.
“Whales have been the talk of the town this season with locals and holidaymakers treated to a bumper humpback whale migration in 2022,” said Phelisa Mangcu, CEO of South Coast Tourism and Investment Enterprise (SCTIE). “It has been an incredible couple of months for viewing whales on the KZN South Coast, with visitors catching sight of these massive, playful animals in action, from the shore, in the sea and from the skies.”
Wayne Harrison, a marine mammal tour guide based on the KZN South Coast, said the whale numbers are increasing 10% year-on-year.
“The early spring months, with those dominant winds, make the whales more boisterous which is why we’ve seen so much breaching recently. We’re likely to see more and more whale activity on the KZN South Coast in the coming years.”
While humpback whales are the most sighted during this migratory season, there has also been an increase in the number of southern right whales spotted from the various lookout points along the KZN South Coast’s 120-kilometre shoreline. Sightings of a dozen – or more – Humpback moms and calves are seen daily, with big groups coming close to shore to keep the calves safe from predators. These mammals have been spotted almost on the backline in some instances.
Fast facts about humpback whales
- Humpback whales have a small dorsal fin set on top of a noticeable hump on the back.
- Humpback whales are dark on top with a white underbelly.
- Humpback whale adults grow to about 15 metres in length and weigh between 35 to 45 tonnes.
- Humpback whales have pectoral fins that are long and narrow, reaching up to 5 metres in length each.
- Humpback Whales are a species of Baleen whale with an average life span of around 40 to 100 years.
- The gestation period for humpback whales is around 11-and-a-half months, and the mother will continue to nurse her calf for six to 10 months.
- Only one calf is born per mother every 1 to 3 years.
- Each whale’s pectoral fin has its own unique identifying markings.
- The underside of the tail has white markings and a unique edging that enables scientists to identify them.
- Humpback whales are the most boisterous of the larger whale species and are the most spectacular to view.
- Humpback whales have been in existence for as long as 30 million years!
Get to know the whale lingo:
- Sailing – This is when the tail is lifted into the air. The underside of the tail usually faces the direction of the wind. As the wind blows against the tail it cools down the blood supply to lower the body temperature.
- Lobtailing – This is when the whale sticks its tail out of the water, similar to sailing, before it thrashes its tail on the surface of the water. This is a form of communication, believed to be an alarm or show of annoyance. It’s also believed that lobtailing rids the whale of parasites and dead skin.
- Breaching – This is when the whale propels its body clear of the water and arches its back, splashing back into the water. This is a form of ridding itself of sea lice and performing some skin exfoliation. It’s also believed this is another form of communication. Breaching occurs more in strong winds and choppy seas.
Whale viewing on the KZN South Coast
Witnessing the whale migration is a bucket-list activity, and the KZN South Coast is offering front-row seats to this natural phenomenon! Visitors can enjoy this spectacle from one of the 58 golden beaches found here, or head to one of the region’s many whale decks including Umtentweni Conservancy Whale Deck, Ramsgate Whale Deck, Impithi Beach Kiosk, and Umdoni Golf Club Whale Deck.
There are many local tour operators ready to take visitors out on boats to enjoy the experience, scuba diving is a great way to be serenaded by the whale songs at Aliwal Shoal or Protea Banks – both Marine Protected Areas. The view is impressive from the skies with local microlight operators taking tourists on viewing trips. Alternatively, head to one of the many ocean-view restaurants or bars and relax while enjoying the show!
In addition to the great whale spectacle, the KZN South Coast is home to six Blue Flag Beaches – the highest number in the province – with another five holding pilot Blue Flag status. Visitors to the KZN South Coast’s beaches can also enjoy protected bathing in any of the 20 tidal pools found along the coast – also the highest number in KZN – with fantastic rock pools for curious young minds.