THE cherry on top of Namibia’s commemoration of World Oceans Month in June will be the migration of humpback whales along the country’s coast.
To welcome the whales, eco-marine cruiser Catamaran Charters will be setting sail on 26 June with 30 passengers, including marine mammal expert and principal investigator of the Namibian Dolphin Project Simon Elwen, who will give an onboard talk on the southern African humpback whale’s migration route.
Catamaran Charters’ Theunis Keulder says the idea to take people out to see the majestic animals would complement the spirit of World Oceans Month, as well as a series of talks by experts on ocean conservation organised by the Swakopmund Scientific Society.
“Although our ocean is pretty clean and well managed when it comes to traffic and fishing, awareness of the beauty and vulnerability of the ocean and its ecosystems is still very important, and we are hoping this cruise would contribute to that awareness. It also gives people a chance to see how much life is really out there, which cannot be seen from the shore,” he says.
According to Keulder, chances are good that the whales would be spotted as this year they are closer to the shore than usual.
“We see them now nearly every day, so we are always optimistic. The cruise will also give people the opportunity to learn more about the whales from a real expert, such as Simon Elwen. The Namibian Dolphin Project has very good research data, and are doing good work, which does not always reach the public,” he says.
He says he hopes there will be an event to welcome the whales annually.
Bridget James, a researcher at the Namibian Dolphin Project, says humpback whales migrate along Africa’s west coast from the Antarctic waters where they feed to the warmer waters toward the equator to breed between May and August.
They have a “little stopover” in the vicinity of Walvis Bay, she says.
James says most of the time the whales swim further off the coast and also move in “dribs and drabs” instead of large pods, and therefore are not as visible or seen as frequently.
This also makes it harder to count them.
“The tour companies have, however, had quite a few sightings this year,” she says.
Beachings of humpback whales along Namibia’s coast are not uncommon, with the most recent one involving an eight-metre juvenile male at the Canopy fishing area north of Cape Cross, which had seemingly starved to death.
This is one of the most common causes of stranding.