Fair Trade Tourism. – Its a funny thing, up until a week ago, I thought I’d actually seen whales. Whilst I’d stood on shorelines, clambered over rocks, peered through telescopes and focussed my extended lens across the waters, trying to bridge the distance between me and them.
Yet it took a boat based whale watching experience with Southern Right Charters to really bring me close and personal to these calming protected beauties.
On arrival we enjoyed a briefing with the guide, learning that the Southern Right Whale had been named by the very men who’d hunted them, as they were the right whales to hunt for their commercial value and floated when they where dead.
This placed them at serious risk and their numbers plummeted between the 18th and 20th century. They became internationally protected in 1935 when their numbers were drastically low and even now, despite a healthy recovery, are said to be at only 10% of their original numbers.
The Southern Right Whale’s migratory patterns have them in our waters between June and November each year. It is here that they mate and breed, delighting us as we catch glimpses of them spy-hopping, breaching, lob-tailing and frolicking off shore.
After talking through the anatomy of the whale, where their eyes and ears are located, average size and behaviour patterns, the fact that they live for about 50 years, breathe air, are warm-blooded and produce milk to feed their young. Not to mention blow air not water out of their blowholes, we were better informed and ready to put on our life jackets and take our places on the luxury boat.
Heading out into Walker Bay luck was on our side and almost immediately we could spot a few whales in the distance. Yet our skipper and guide put their experience to play and manoeuvred the boat an area a little removed from that to where they had spotted a mother and her three month old calf.
We settled there and waited until they came to us.
To do the people watching that matched our whale watching. Emerging on alternate sides, offering a bit of a tummy roll, a peek at us. Gently being right there for about an hour. It was incredible. Such a privilege.
The trip lasted a couple of hours and by then our desire to see these calming animals was well sated and we returned to shore all filled with gratitude at the experience. There I spoke to the Southern Right Charters team.
Their motto ‘Observing NOT Disturbing’ is exactly how they practice, with emphasis on the safety and conservation of the whales and marine life.
Robin Alcock said they had been looking for an association that they could align themselves with. One that could help put their sustainable and conservation practices into policies. Fair Trade gave them the guidance and provides the good umbrella that says so much.
Every year it becomes more and more important to clients and travellers that they make informed decisions about where they spend their money.
Experience must tell a story, it needs to be more than just an activity. Working with Fair Trade offers an opportunity to connect with like minded people that are open to change and offer guidance as the marine conservation evolves.
They have numerous projects on the go locally, offer training and development to all staff and are the only operator doing research.
Out at sea, waiting for the most extraordinary luck to happen.
A mommy and baby Southern Right Whale, estimated to be about three months old, circle and play around the boat.
Seeking out that perfect shot.
As though waving goodbye, this whale played and lob-tailed in the distance as we headed back to shore.
One shouldn’t decline the ocean’s invitation to sit in her spray.
Practical information is that Southern Right Charters operate out of the new harbour in Hermanus, with departures at 09H00, 12H00 and 15H00 daily in season.