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Africa's 'right-on' whale capital

AFP
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photo: AFP
photo: AFP

Perched away from the world on the rocky southern tip of Africa, the town of Hermanus rose to global whale-watching renown almost by chance.

Two decades ago, pop zoologist Mark Carwardine visited Hermanus while researching a book on the world's best spots to watch whales. Carwardine was so impressed that he described the town as having the "best land-based whale watching in the world."

It is a sobriquet Hermanus residents have embraced enthusiastically ever since.

"There is much more curiosity now," said Ken Moore, who ditched his previous life in business to become a guide for Southern Right Charters as the boom began.

"There is good whale watching in (Mexico's) Baja California, Argentina and other places, but we have built great infrastructure here," said Moore.

Cetacean tourism is now the lifeblood of Hermanus, which finds itself on the renamed "Whale Coast."

The town holds not one, but two whale festivals each year. Wondering around the streets is perhaps the world's only "whale crier."

He uses a horn made of kelp to summon whale-hungry tourists to a jagged ocean cliff that serves as a viewing platform.

Although found across the Southern hemisphere, Southern Rights are among the rarest of whales.

Around 12,000 of the species exist. Southern Rights grow to around 15 meters long (55 feet) and can weigh as much as 50 tonnes.Every June hundreds make the trip from the edge of the Antarctic to stay off the coast of Hermanus until around November, mating and giving birth.

They are also extremely playful, breaching, spouting and lobtailing at will, much to the delight of visiting tourists.AFP


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