Walker Bay, South Africa
A severe storm was approaching the small, seaside town of Hermanus, South Africa as I hopped onto a boat in the picturesque harbor of Walker Bay. Knowing the best chance of seeing a Southern Right Whale up-close would be by boat I really did not have much choice in the matter (despite my apprehension). And besides with the weather quickly deteriorating, I was rather certain there wouldn’t be any more whale watching for the remainder of my trip. Considering this was the reason I made my way to Hermanus from Cape Town (2 hrs), I mustered the courage and braced myself for a rocky ride as we headed out into the bay.
Fortunately, the ocean was kind to us for a good chunk of the time and I was lucky to see two males trying to win the heart of this beautiful female (below). This was by far the closest I came to any of the whales as she intentionally collided with the boat directly in front of me. With a thin metal bar as the only barrier separating me from the sea, the impact startled me! Everyone on board scrambled for a moment while we were reassured by the crew that this is quite common behavior for the females. It seems as though they enjoy using the boat as a form of protection from their relentless admirers.
Southern Right Whale
These whales are very slow moving and friendly creatures. As a result, they became known to fisherman as the “right whale” to hunt. Even though whale hunting has been banned for the past two decades, illegal hunting still continues making the southern right whale population of 3,000 an endangered species. Hermanus is a unique location in that females prefer the warmth and shelter of the bay for their newborns. And between the months of May and December with a little patience you will have no problem spotting them from shore. Despite the land-based possibilities, I wanted to get a little closer. And if you find yourself in a similar situation definitely check out: Southern Right Charters for a proper outing.
Unlike my previous whale watching trip in Sydney, Australia; there were many close encounters and photographic opportunities of the whales in Walker Bay. Prior to my arrival, I had heard consistently from several people to go with the widest lens I had available. Thanks to this sound advice, I had my16-35mm in place for this shot. This photograph was shot at the widest end, 16mm and would not have been possible with my longer lenses. Although, there were many shots missed (and frustrations) as a result of my lens’ limitations I am content with the decision.
Storm clouds rolling in to Hermanus, South Africa