The Bottle-nosed dolphin is the most common species in the Greater St Francis waters. They are identified by their narrow beak and abruptly sloping forehead. They measure an average of just less than 2.5 metres. This is a matriarchal society that hunts together, feeding on squid and fish. It is always a delight seeing them ride the waves, jumping out of the water.
The two most common whales to cavort off the coastline are the Humpback and Southern Right species. However, Orcas and Bryde’s Whales also make their rare appearance. The Southern Right will migrate to the Western Cape coast to give birth. These waters are warmer than at the South Pole and are relatively sheltered as they are arranged in bays, rather than being exposed in the vast expanse of the ocean. The mother and her calf will stay in these areas for a few months after the birth, allowing time for the baby to build up strength and blubber resources.
The Southern Right Whale is distinctive by its complete lack of a dorsal fin and the growths on its black skin, resembling barnacles. There are known as callosities. Their blowhole is also different as it is shaped like a “V” when viewed from the top. It has been discovered that certain Southern Right Whales return to the same spots along the South African coastline, including the Kouga coastline, every year. The whales were hunted extensively during the 19th Century and their population depleted significantly. However, their breeding habits and protection laws are working together to ensure that their numbers increase exponentially each year.
Humpbacks also migrate from the Antarctic waters, but they pass South Africa and travel to Madagascar and Mocambique to calve and mate. These whales may travel alone with their calves or in pods of up to about 10 animals at a time. The Humpback is distinguished by its small dorsal fin, which is perched two thirds of the way down its back, as well as its long white pectoral fins flanking its black body. These fins resemble wings, hence its scientific name Megaptera, meaning “large wing”. A Humpback whale can measure up to 18m, but averages lengths are of about 15m. Sighting these animals off the Eastern Cape coast is a fantastic experience, as they are known for their ability to push their entire body out of the water in impressive displays. They are also known for their extraordinary singing abilities. Interestingly, whales can compose their own ‘songs’ and teach these to their young, who pass them on in their specific whale population.
The coastal area is home to many more animals, the most fascinating of which are concealed beneath the blue of the waters. Tuna, Dorado, cob and salmon are common catches in these warm waters.