She was no more than two metres away, and it was love at first sight. I couldn’t take my eyes off this graceful and beautiful barnacled girl. There’s no doubt in my mind that as she glided past we shared a moment – we made eye contact and, although it was fleeting, we held each other’s gaze. The connection was undeniable.
Edna, a young southern right whale well known to the Dyre Island Cruises crew, seemed all too keen to use us for her morning’s entertainment: spy-hopping, rolling on to her side to show us her pectorals, and sneakily submerging from sight only to peek her head up on the other side of the boat – to the absolute delight of the tourists on board.
Each year, from about June to December, southern right whales move northwards from sub-Antarctic waters into the bays and coves of the Western Cape coast to mate, calve and rear their young. A boat-based whale-watching trip with a licensed operator from one of the ports is without doubt the best way to view their oversized antics.
Our dawn departure from Gansbaai on Whale Whisperer, a 11.5m purpose-built semi-rigid inflatable whale-watching vessel, was a lively affair, with large ocean swells pushing through and thrashing the shoreline. Fortunately conditions quickly calmed once we rounded Dyre Island, the area’s top great white shark viewing spot. Minutes later we chanced upon Eddie – the crew’s name for this affectionate whale before it became obvious she was more of an Edna.
She wasn’t the only blubbery cetacean we encountered during our trip, but she’s now indelibly etched in my memory bank. Perhaps one day I’ll be privileged enough to chance upon her again on another whale-watching adventure.
Follow Mark Samuel on Twitter: @MarkSamuel_ZA
Who Dyre Island Cruises
When Daily trips (weather permitting)
Cost R900 pp (adults), R600 pp (under 12s), free (for under 5s)
Contact +27 28 384 0406, +27 82 801 8014, www.whalewatchsa.com
Photography Mark Samuel, WhaleWatchSA.com