Humpback Whales making an entrance in Algoa Bay

By Raggy Charters

With the migratory whale season typically starting in June, we have been pleasantly surprised by both juvenile and adult humpback whales showing up in Algoa Bay – since the middle of April! A few of these individuals appear to have decided to call Algoa Bay Home for a while. The young humpback whale shown breaching in these pictures (special note: congratulations to Raggy Charters’ skipper, marine guide and photographer, Jake Keeton for the incredible photos) has been sighted multiple times on our half-day cruises to St Croix Island over the last month. This particular sequence of pictures was taken on 1 May 2024 whilst we were returning from St Croix Island. After a very successful morning having found Bryde’s whales and a large pod of bottlenose dolphins, we spotted a huge splash offshore from Coega Harbour. We headed in the direction of the splash and, sure enough, our initial thoughts were confirmed. A breaching humpback!

The juvenile humpback proceeded to breach non-stop for the 20 minutes that we spent in the area. It seemed as though each breach had more energy and height than the last. Eventually we were witnessing the young whale launch itself completely out of the water! This is something that I have only ever seen a handful of times, let alone manage to capture in a picture. The calm conditions allowed us to fully appreciate the sound of the whale re-entering the water, leaving most of us on board in absolute awe.

We do not know exactly why, some years, we have whales arriving in our bay earlier than others, or why most of these early arrivals are sub-adults or juveniles. One theory we have is that they come into the Bay for safety. Many of the juvenile humpbacks that spend an unusually long period of time in Algoa Bay – outside of the normal Whale Migratory Season of June to December – have sported scars from a recent encounter with killer whales(orcas).

The last picture in this post shows the rake marks from a killer whale’s teeth on the tail fluke of this humpback. This individual must have managed to escape an attempted predation by orcas. Perhaps this animal does not yet feel comfortable to venture back out to deeper waters and for now is enjoying the safety of the shallow waters in Algoa Bay.

We are looking forward to seeing many more humpbacks as our Migratory Whale Season officially starts at the beginning of June. We will be celebrating the arrival of the whales with our annual Welcoming the Whales to Algoa Bay Festival on 2 June 2024 at The The Willows Holiday Resort & Conference Centre for a fun and educational experience. Hope to see you all there.