At Whale-Phin Guest House owners, Joy and Louis Cook, spotted the first southern right whale of the season – and became the first locals to tweet the sighting – on Wednesday, 5 June.
“It was good to see them on World Environment Day,” said Ms. Cook.
Charmaine Klapwijk, of Romonza Boat Trips – which holds Mossel Bay’s only whale- and dolphin-watching permit – said that, while she hadn’t seen any of the migratory species at the time of writing, her crew did spot at least two humpback whales when they were out at sea on the 31st of May.
And Soekie Earl, who owns African Oceans Manor on the Beach, said that she’d seen the first large group of dolphins of the winter at the beginning of the week.
“We often see small groups of them far off shore, but this was a whole school – it must have been a hundred of them – and that’s a sight we only see about once a month,” she said.
Both Ms. Cook and Ms. Earl made their sightings from the comfort of their guest houses.
Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm said that it’s not uncommon to see whales and dolphins throughout the year in the Garden Route’s harbour town.
“The Mossel Bay Cetacean Project has been monitoring marine mammals in the Bay for three years. They’re out there five days a week, using surveyor’s theodolites to plot the animals’ positions accurately.”
Monica Betts has been running the Mossel Bay Cetacean Project – which is a project of the Mammal Research Institute of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria – since April.
The Mossel Bay Cetacean Project was initiated by Edith Mertz in 2010, who handed it over to Bridget James in 2011.
“By the time my study is finished, we’ll have a continuous record of five years of data, and this will allow us to develop an understanding of the movement patterns of whales and dolphins in Mossel Bay and Vleesbaai,” said Ms. Betts, who holds an honours degree in Zoology from the University of Pretoria.
“For my masters I’m looking at the movement patterns and population sizes of the humpback and bottlenose dolphins, and I’m incorporating acoustic studies into my work so that I can develop a new, more cost-effective technique for studying dolphins.
“Incorporating sound production means we can monitor them at night and during bad weather,” she said.
Ms. Betts has also spotted large groups of dolphins this season. “In May I saw two schools of between 200 and 300 bottlenose dolphins in the Bay, and two small groups of common dolphins just off The Point – and also a lot of dolphin-calf pairs, which are really cute to see.
“I did see one southern right whale early in May, but today (5 June) was the first since then – and they’re in form with lots of breaching and tail slapping.
“It’s a certainty the whales are back.”
Ms. Holm said that whale and dolphin watching rate amongst the town’s most significant tourist attractions.
“Whales and dolphins are icons of our marine environment, and the fact that we see so many of them – a fact that we can support with verified scientific research – proves how important the natural environment is to the sustainability of the local tourism industry,” she said.
At Whale-Phin Guest House http://www.whalephin.co.za/
African Oceans Manor on the Beach http://africanoceans.co.za/
Romonza Boat Trips http://www.visitmosselbay.co.za/adventures/romonza-boat-trips