South African Boat-Based-Whale-Watching Association

 

Ocean Odyssey receives Blue Flag Status

Written by Ocean Odyssey. Posted in Whale Blog

Ocean Odyssey, which is Knysna’s only permitted close encounter whale watching operation, has been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag Status, an international award given to beaches, marinas and nature-based boat excursions that meet a standard of excellence in the following categories: Environmental Education, Environmental Management, Safety and Security and Water Quality. The criterion is laid by the international coordinators of the Blue Flag campaign in Europe, the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education).

Ocean Odyssey stands proudly alongside other well-known local Blue Flag sites, namely Brenton and Buffalo Bay beaches (Sedgefield Beach received a pilot Blue Flag) and Thesen Island Marina, from where the Blue Flag recipients for the 2014-2015 South African Blue Flag season were announced at a ceremony hosted by the Knysna Municipality. It was attended by esteemed guests such as the Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom, Knysna’s Executive Mayor Georlene Wolmarans, Wessa’s CEO Dr Burger and the National Coastal Programme Manager Ted Knott.

Perhaps the most significant of the aforementioned categories within the Blue Flag Programme is Environmental Education. The famous Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum penned this perspective perfectly:  “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught”. It has indeed become clear that education is crucial for the preservation of the environment.

The Blue Flag Programme is managed by WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa); the respected South African environmental NGO, whose mission it is to “implement high impact environmental and conservation projects that promote public participation in caring for the Earth”. Blue Flag falls within WESSA’s National Coastal Programme which aims at both protecting and rehabilitating South Africa’s dynamic and beautiful marine environment, which includes miles of sweeping beaches, vast estuaries, rocky shores, marinas and more. The programme offers numerous benefits including improved tourism facilities and management of coastal ecosystems.

 

Luring thousands of local and international tourists every year, the Greater Knysna area is well renowned for the raw beauty of its myriad ecosystems and is the area’s primary economic draw card. These Blue Flag statuses bring to the fore just how extraordinary Knysna really is. It lies within the extensive Garden Route National Park, which includes not one but two Marine Protected Areas (MPA”s), rich in species both in and out of the water.  The Park includes several Blue Flag beaches. Knysna itself is hugged by an estuary that is rated as the most significant in terms of biodiversity in the country. Within this estuary is Thesen Island, a Blue Flag marina, and operating from this marina is Ocean Odyssey, one only six Blue Flag whale watching companies in the country. The above facts tell a story that is real cause for celebration and should serve to inspire each of us to conserve our most precious and inspiring natural environment. 

Dyer Island Cruises

Written by Sandra Hoerbst. Posted in Whale Blog

 

Southern Right Whales have been visiting the South African coastline for thousands of years. We are very privileged to encounter these majestic mammals from late June trough December. It is interesting to watch these animals from land but it can’t be compared to boat based whale watching.

 

During the whale watching season our vessel ‘Whale Whisperer’ launches from the Kleinbaai harbour a few times a day to watch Southern Right Whales in the Pearly Beach area and around Uilenkraalsmond. About 80% of our whale watching takes place in the Pearly Beach area. To find the whales in the bay, we have an excellent wildlife spotter on board, who can spot them from miles away. He is on the look out for a whales blow and their footprints. We have three different types of whales in our area, and the blow allows us an opportunity at first identification from a distance, as every whale has a different shaped blow. The Southern Right Whales for example has a V-shape blow. The experienced crew on board is very knowledgeable in regards to the Southern Right Whale behaviour and they are always happy to answer the clients questions . We also have a Marine Biologist on-board, who is involved in research to understand the whales better and answers your questions accurately and to the best of their ability.

 

Sometimes while watching the whales in front of the boat, we can hear a big splash behind us, what was that? Later we turn around and we see another big splash. Wow a whale is breaching! It is most impressive to see such a majestic animal that close to the boat. Also seeing their impressive flukes , while the whale is sailing is an experience you will never forget.

 

The Southern Right Whales are friendly and curios creatures, sometimes they come up close and have a look at our boat. When these mammals are so close you can actually see how big they are, in comparison to our 11.5m vessel. These gentle giants are 15.5m on average and weigh between 55 and 65 tonnes.

 

Every now and then we are lucky to spot a small group of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, a school of Bottlenose dolphins or Common dolphins.But our company is passionate about all marine life in the area. This includes birds we can see flying away and towards Dyer Island and also the endangered African penguins on the Island. From time to time we see thousands Cape Cormorants flying away from Dyer Island to go fishing in the deep blue sea, that’s just breathtaking! And don't forget about the sixty thousand Cape Fur seals on Geyser Rock we see on every trip while we are cruising through Shark Alley. On our daily cruises we also pass our sister company Marine Dynamics Shark Tours, who offer Great White Shark cage diving. Here we get a glimpse of the fascinating apex predator, the Great White Shark.

 

We offer an unforgettable and informative whale watching trip but it really is more accurately classified as an Marine Big 5 eco tour, as we aim to show you whales, seals, great white sharks and dolphins.

 

 

Ocean Odyssey

Written by Ocean Odyssey. Posted in Whale Blog

Across vast ranges, whales are navigating their way around the world’s oceans, many taking part in epic annual migrations. Each winter, the southern right and humpback whales participate in an ancient migratory ritual, leaving their frosty feeding grounds off Antarctica to mate and calve in the warmer waters off our Southern African coastline. Fortunately for us, the coastline adjacent to Knysna in the Garden Route is teeming with these sentient animals en route to equatorial waters and the area is considered is a premier whale watching destination.

Ocean Odyssey is Knysna’s only official close encounter whale watching permit holder, celebrates the return of the whales on their ancient migratory ritual. Their permit, which is issued by the DAFF & the DEA under the Marine Living Resources Act 1998, includes an extensive area of operation that stretches from the western side of the Robberg Peninsula all the way to Gericke’s point in Sedgefield. The company operates out of Thesen Island, which has been awarded Blue Flag status. The company is passionate about showcasing the whales that frequent these local waters as well as the many other species that make up the complex web of marine life.

Throughout the world, whale watching is an extremely popular pursuit and it easy to understand why. Whale watching can be best described as a thrilling game of anticipation. One can only guess as to what is happening beneath those deep indigo depths. There is evidence that they are out there, because when a large whale dives, its enormous weight and size creates a lingering pool of smooth glossy water on the ocean’s surface. This is known as a whale’s footprint. However, we never quite know when or where they are going to reappear.

And so you wait… eyes scanning the extraordinarily immense body of water around you. Then, suddenly, you catch a distant glimpse of fine spray rising up from the surface of the water and perhaps a back or dorsal fin. And as quickly as they emerge from their liquid realm, they are gone. How long will it take for them to resurface in order to draw a breath, just a few minutes, or perhaps many more?

This is what makes whale watching so exciting. When they do decide to grace us with their magnificent presence, showing off their grand flukes or, if one is lucky, a powerful breach right out of the water, it is a truly unforgettable experience. Their sheer size, grace and power is mesmerising.

Many people have a fondness for the humpback whale in particular, as they are the most social and active above the surface, and thus one of the most enjoyable to observe in the wild. They have the longest migration of any mammal, an astonishing 6000 miles. Since the end of May we have had regular sightings of these travelling humpback whales. One day we were fortunate enough to see 20 of them.  

They also love to sing!! The humpback whale song is thought to be the most complex in the entire animal kingdom. Only the males sing and interestingly, just as we have different languages, whales occupying the same geographical areas tend to sing the same song, with only slight variations and whales from non-overlapping regions sing entirely different songs. The songs themselves evolve over time, and are often different from year to year. After years of research however, marine biologists are yet to grasp the complexities behind their underwater vocal repertoire. Ocean Odyssey’s vessel is fitted with a high tech hydrophone, so passengers can experience the remarkable humpback whale song on-board, which serves to heighten the thrill of a whale watching excursion.

 

Ocean Odyssey offers an unforgettable marine encounter!!




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