Whale Watching Legal Permit Holders

Sodurba’s Members are the two legal permit holders within KwaZulu-Natal.

The WCA Responsible Whale Watching Certification is awarded to whale and dolphin watching companies that operate to the highest standards of care for local wildlife, sustainability, and customer experience.

Based on the WCA Global Guidelines for Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watching, this certification is the only international label for whale watching companies developed by the industry, for the industry.

Humpback whales are a migratory species found in all the major oceans worldwide. These whales can be spotted In KZN waters during June/July, travelling northward to warmer tropical waters to breed and calve, as well as in October/November, travelling southward returning to their feeding grounds in Antarctica with their newborn calves.

Humpback whales are easy to identify as they have a few key distinguishing features, both as a species and as individuals (the colouration of the tail fluke is used to identify individuals). The identification of individuals generates a population catalogue. An adult Humpback whale can be up to 15m in length (females are larger than males) and can weigh up to 40 tonnes (that’s roughly equivalent to 20 adult White Rhino). The name of this whale species comes from the humping of the back as the animal arches before it dives.

What to look out for:

Dorsal fin – a wide based snubby fin on a hump on the back of the whale.

Tail fluke – each individual has its own unique pigmentation pattern on the underside of the tail. The tail has a serrated edge, also unique to individual whales (much like a human’s finger print).

Flippers – very long, roughly one third of its body length. Dark upper side and varying white under sides, with 4-6 bumps on the leading edge.

Blow – single bushy blow 3-8m tall.

Head – black lumps occur on the top of the head and lower jaw. These are high follicles called tubercles. The throat is often white in colour (but not always) with distinct grooves.

Humpback whale:

Belly – may be varying degrees of white.

Humpback whales can be seen travelling past the East Coast in groups of between 1 and 4 animals. They are quite inquisitive and sometimes approach boats. Much bigger groups can be observed at their breeding grounds and feeding grounds.

One might also spot a Humpback whale lying on its side or back with either one or both of its flippers or its tail in the air. Whales’ bodies are insulated by blubber (fat) which can cause them to overheat in warmer waters. The flippers and tail have a thinner layer of insulating blubber and exposure of these to air enables the whales to cool down.

The Humpback whale can remain submerged for up to 45 minutes (in extreme cases); however the average dive is usually 3 to 9 minutes. Their average swimming speed is 5-7 km/h.