“…no words can adequately describe the incredible experience of seeing such a large gathering of majestic marine mammals in their most vulnerable state, enjoying the protection of the sheltered shoreline and the De Hoop Marine Protected Area.” – Jean Tresfon, Marine Conservation Photographer
Whale Season is in full swing here in the Southern Hemisphere – undoubtedly a favourite time here at De Hoop Collection. From the pristine dunes of Koppie Alleen, guests enjoy incredible sightings as whales breach and spyhop in the protected waters of the De Hoop Marine Reserve. Along with the whale sightings, we always look forward to Marine Conservation Photographer, Jean Tresfon’s, reports as he travels along the coastline:
” The last week of August is peak whale season for the southern right whales visiting our shores to give birth and nurse their calves to size before heading back into the southern oceans. The earliest born calves are already getting big and will soon be ready to make the long journey south, with whale numbers starting to drop from September onwards. “ says Tresfon ahead of “the first official aerial survey of southern right whale numbers for 2023” which he undertook with Dr. Els Vermeulen, from the UP Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit.
“The first whale spotted [in Hermanus] was upside down, with a tiny calf on her chest, and just under the cliffs near the Old Harbour. The water was very turbid following the passing of a large frontal system and recent big swells, and this always makes spotting a challenge, but we managed to count 130 whales in Walker Bay (of which 55 were calves)… At Struisbaai, just off the shallow protected waters of Die Plaat, we started to see more and more southern right whales, with 346 whales (of which 172 were calves) counted between Struisbaai and Skipskop Point. As expected, we found the main concentration of whales at Koppie Alleen, and no words can adequately describe the incredible experience of seeing such a large gathering of majestic marine mammals in their most vulnerable state, enjoying the protection of the sheltered shoreline and the De Hoop Marine Protected Area. There were so many whales that counting was an exercise in itself, and just to complicate matters an enormous pod of bottlenose dolphins decided to choose just that moment to charge through the nursery grounds and play with several of the whale calves! The final number was 472 whales (of which 236 where calves) just in the bay at Koppie Alleen itself, and another 115 whales (57 calves) counted along the rest of the De Hoop coastline towards Cape Infanta.”
“I knew it!” says De Hoop Assistant Manager, Dalfrenzo Lang, on hearing the results. ” I have a feeling we will have large numbers until mid-October.”
The final counts from Tresfon and Vermeulen’s trip from Hermanus to Witsand are as follows:
556 mother and calf pairs and 24 unaccompanied adults giving a total of of 1,136 whales. “This is a substantial increase over the numbers counted during the last four years but still less than the record numbers seen in 2018.” says Tresfon.
For comparison, Tresfon provided the figures from 2017 until present:
2017 – 433
2018 – 1,454
2019 – 303
2020 – 153
2021 – 368
2022 – 536
2023 – 1,136
A big thank you to Jean Tresfon for allowing us to reference his flight and research. Parts of his original post have been edited and can be found in full here.