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South Africa wildlife II

This post is part of my occasional series of photoblog posts about the wildlife and nature I see while living in South Africa.

Whale photography isn’t easy. Even though whales are huge, they don’t typically come close to shore, and they don’t often reveal more than a small glimpse of their bodies above the water. The best time of year for whale-watching in South Africa is around September-October, when the Southern Right Whales come into False Bay (the large bay to the east of the Cape Peninsula) to calve in the safe, shallow waters. But, even then, and even with a decent zoom lens, your best photos will likely look like this:
southern right whale
Yay – it’s a mummy and baby whale! (Yeah, you’ll have to take my word for that…)

They sometimes leap out of the water, but, by the time you have the camera ready, they’ve gone again. Even if they come ridiculously close, like this, you’ll have an amazing experience, but your photos will just show a dark grey blob in the water:
southern right whale
Is it a whale? A submarine? Driftwood?

You can see my first season’s attempt at whale photos in my previous post, but last year (our second whale season) we got very lucky with some very close-up views of the baby whales.

I could claim that these photos show a parent and baby, but I have no idea if that’s the case. Still, this is a baby whale tail:
southern right whale
…and this is a definitely a spouting blowhole!
southern right whale

Then we went for lunch, and somehow snagged an upstairs open-air seaview table, so I had a great vantage point when one of the babies started playing, leaping out of the water over and over again! As the photos don’t give the full effect, I’ve also assembled a couple of my photo sequences into looped animations for you, so you can get a better idea of the exciting whale-watching experience:

southern right whale animation
Baby whale animation

southern right whale

southern right whale

It looks a bit like an orca (killer whale) with that black and white colouring, doesn’t it? (Which is topical, as I’m just putting the finishing touches on my orca crochet design – it’s really nice to have some real-life whale experience to inspire me!)

southern right whale animation

The orca resemblance ends with the colouring – the Southern Right Whale is more than twice the size of a killer whale, at an unimaginable 15m/50ft long! In fact, these babies I’ve shown you are already about the size of adult orcas when they are born…

A little Southern Right Whale trivia: this giant of the sea is a baleen whale; it has baleen plates instead of teeth, and feeds by filtering seawater through the plates, trapping thousands of tiny krill inside its mouth.

southern right whale

southern right whale

I don’t know if I’ll ever get better whale photos than these, but I’m looking forward to trying again this year when the next whale season comes around: even if my next photos are terrible, having the opportunity to see whales up close is something to look forward to every year. They’re so unbelievably huge, it’s hard to comprehend it, and seeing these graceful giants in their natural habitat is a real privilege.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this wildlife post! Please do leave me a comment if so – I do love to hear from you…


  1. Oh my word, June! Thank you so much for sharing these, they’re fabulous!

  2. Walden121 said

    Love this. I used to live in the Pacific Northwest and could go whale watching to see Orcas. In New York there isn’t anything close to that, so I enjoy seeing your pictures. It reminds me of times long ago.

    • Theresa said

      Not exactly ‘close’, but Bay of Fundy in the summer is a good spot to go whale watching.

  3. Alicia Brink said

    love seeing your pictures and reading your story about them. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

  4. Theresa said

    You are so fortunate to be able to see these magnificent creatures….and get some amazing photos.

  5. Martha said

    Wow – This is wonderful. I really look forward to your wildlife blogs. They make me feel almost like I got to go to South Africa!

  6. Nature Crocheter said

    Love it… I wish I could be there, but your photos were great! Thank you for them. I bet you had a WONDERFUL time! 🙂 😀 ? <--- tell me if that HTML code works...<3

  7. Simone said

    I envy you! Seeing whales up close is every biologist’s dream. Great pics, but I’m sure nothing tops the real experience!

  8. I think your pictures and animations are great! It must be so much fun to watch the whales!

  9. Margo W said

    Great photos, love the animation. Thanks for sharing.

  10. AMAZING! Thanks so much for sharing! It must be wonderful to see these with your own eyes! I’m a little jealous, 😉 , not only your “own” chameleon, but lots of unique wildlife and whales! 🙂 LOVE IT!

  11. Chrisie said

    Beautiful June! It gave me shivers. 🙂 One of the things I want to do on the BC coast is try to go whale watching.

  12. Lindy said

    Really interesting, and amazing photography!
    Love, Lindy xx

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