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Published: October 27th 2011
The ocean around the Cape is famous for two creatures in particular – great white sharks and whales. Nearly every tour operator in this area offers “cage dives” with great whites and although I would love to see these amazing fish I decided that cage diving was not for me. Firstly I’m not entirely sure how environmentally sound this kind of tourist entertainment is and secondly because the advertising is reminiscent of “Jaws” and therefore a little too sensationalist for my liking - it appears to reduce these beautiful animals to the object of some adrenalin pumping leisure pursuit akin to a bungee jump. And with sea temperatures around 15C a “proper” dive was pretty much out of the question. So I decided I was going to have to live without seeing great whites and instead concentrate on whales; southern right whales to be precise. (By the way: the reason why this species is called “right” whale is because they are relatively slow, promise a high oil and bone yield and float at the surface when dead – so they are the “right” ones to hunt...)
One of the most famous places to see southern right whales is Hermanus, about
110km east of Cape Town. I arrived there one sunny September day without any expectations. If I was going to see whales I was going to be happy. If not – so be it. I had lunch on the terrace of a restaurant overlooking the bay – and nearly choked on my fish and chips when not 20m off shore a whale decided to breach; one, two, three... about ten times. I just left my food standing and ran to the edge of the cliff to take pictures. As usual I had the wrong lens on with the wrong filter and the wrong everything else. Eventually I just gave up and instead simply watched this spectacle of nature. And it was exhilarating!!!
I spent the rest of the day walking along the cliffs, sitting by the sea and listening to the thundering waves while watching the whales frolic. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. And I couldn’t get enough of it. I booked a boat trip for the following day to encounter whales even closer up. The next morning was very windy and white caps far out at sea threatened a rocky boat
ride. And it was! I was surrounded by very pale faces with an unnaturally greenish hue... and a lot of people clutching sickness bags. But although I am prone to sea sickness I was way too excited to think of it. I stood on the upper deck next to the skipper (who provided excellent shelter from the incoming surf...) and felt like a kid at Christmas watching whales breach and in curiosity come up so close to the boat that we could have touched them. I really cannot describe the excitement, the joy, the humility and wonder at the sight of these majestic animals. I only wished I could have been in the water with them, watching them in their own element. Maybe one day...
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