What joy it is to be able to listen to some of the most amazing music ever produced by nature. Mighty humpback whales, the whales with the proportionally longest pectoral fins, have recently started to show up along the north-east coast of South Africa. It is the start to their seasonal migration towards warm equatorial waters. With them, local dive sites resound with magnificent and magical audio waves that give all scuba divers a shiver down the spine.
While all humpback whales communicate with one another via various social sounds, the males actually ‘sing’ for hours by repeating a certain complex song of different amplitude and frequency. It is assumed this song is used by them in courtship of females and establishing dominancy amidst the males.
You will however be very lucky to get the chance to actually see a humpback during your local dive on a coral reef on this coast. They tend to shy away from reefs: no wonder considering their immense size – 12-15 meters length and up to 35 tons in weight! However, you will most likely hear their melodic singing on many of your underwater adventures.
However trips on dive boats can result in magnificent sightings of humpback whales tail-slapping, pectoral fin-slapping or breaching in the most spectacular ways. Whales are strong enough to leap out of the water with their whole body in the air – just imagine the splash their 30 ton bodies create when falling! Some whales jump repeatedly and the exact purpose for this remarkable feat is still unknown but scientists believe it is most likely part of communication. ‘Flying whales’ provide a fantastic photo opportunity so find an ethical whale watching operator, take your telephoto lens and get ready to capture some thrilling images and, who knows, you may just get lucky enough to photograph the ultimate sighting of two whales breaching at the same time!
Humpback whale facts:
– Humpbacks migrate thousands of kilometres every year from the polar regions, where they feed on krill in summer, to the tropics to breed.
–A newborn whale calf can be six metres long and weigh two tons after a gestation period of 11 to 12 months.
–Whales almost completely forgo eating during the mating months, living off the fat stores they built up during feeding season.
–The only known predator of humpback whales are are killer whales, who hunt young or weak humpbacks in large pods.
Learn about humpback whales and listen to their song in my Creatures of the Sea series: