Caught on camera: Early start to humpback whale migration

Photographed on safari with Raggy Charters

Raggy Charters, in support of marine conservation, have been keeping meticulous records of the humpback whale migration along the Algoa Bay coastline of South Africa for the past 23 years (for as long as they’ve been in business). These records indicate that, during the first 18 years, humpbacks came past the Cape Recife point regularly at the beginning of June each year on their northerly migration to East Africa. On their southern migration, the last of them rounded Cape Recife by the second week in January.

However, during the past four years the northern migration has still passed the Algoa Bay Marine Protected Area of Addo Elephant National Park at the beginning of June, but the southern migration has occurred earlier with each passing year. In fact, in 2020, no humpback whales were sighted after the end of November. The question is: could this be a result of climate change and global warming or is this just a natural cycle?

Startlingly, in 2021, the Raggy Charters team have noticed some stragglers passing the bay in April – which is very unusual. In addition, the incredible super-pods have been spending the summer months of the west coast of South Africa, feeding on krill. Coinciding with three sightings of the predatory orca whale, the bay has played host to ten sub-adult humpback whales for up to a week. These juveniles clearly feel safer in the shallower waters of the bay, away from the mighty orca (killer whale), and have been seen “tail slapping” (as below) which is a way of deterring predators. Are the whales visiting us being regularly hunted by orcas? Are those teeth marks we see in the latter photos?