The Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis) was given this name because they live in the Southern Hemisphere and at the time was the 'right' Whale to hunt because they floated when killed.
It is quite easy to spot a Southern Right Whale because of its many unique features. The Southern Right Whales are baleen Whales, which means that instead of teeth it has long plates hanging over the top jaw. The head of a Southern Right is much hairier than most Whales, it also has callosities (a series of horny growths) behind the blowhole, on the chin, above the eyes, on the lower lip and on the rostrum (beak like upper jaw). The Southern Right Whale is very rich in blubber (oil) and actually has 2 blowholes. Watch out for the V shaped cloud of water that it spurts when it breathes out.
Southern Right Whale females are about 16.5m long and males are about 15.2m long. The females are slightly larger than males, as with all baleen Whales.
The Southern Right Whale's skin is usually black with white and/or brown patches. Southern Right Whale calves are blue to grey coloured.
Southern Right Whales are seasonal feeders and carnivores that filter feed zooplankton (tiny crustaceans like copepods, krill, pteropods, etc.) from the water. These Whales are skimmers or filter feeders that swim slowly with their mouth open, constantly eating. On occasion, they are also bottom feeders, eating benthic prey from the mud on the ocean floor. The fine baleen hairs can filter out very tiny prey including copepods, steropods, euphasiids and mysids (tiny crustaceans).
The Southern Right Whale is a migratory Whale, which means that they spend one season in one place and the rest of the year in another, and travel long distances between these seasons. In summer (December through May), they are in the cold polar regions of the Southern Hemisphere where food (mainly krill) is present and in quantity. Winters (June through November) are spent around the shallow coastal waters of Southern Africa, South America and Australia.
Calving is thought to occur only every 3 to 5 years. A single young is born after a gestation period of 12 months and within a year, the calf is weaned and independent. Females usually have one calf every 3 years, gestation (pregnancy) is about 13 months. Most calves are born during August. They have an average length of 6.1m (20 feet). They suckle for 4 to 8 months and drink up to 600 litres of milk per day growing 3cm (1.2 inch) per day.
The best time to spot the Southern Right is in early June, when the Whale leaves its Antarctic feeding ground for the warm waters of the Cape Coast. South Africa’s Whale Route stretches from Doringbaai, south of Cape Town, all the way along the coast to Durban. That’s nearly 2000km of Whale watching coast, and includes several sections famous for their beauty, such as the Garden Route, Tsitsikamma National Park, and the West Coast.
In Hermanus, avid whale watchers can see the Southern Right Whale swimming and mating. Plettenberg Bay also boasts prime Whale viewing and the Southern Right Whale is around for the whole season.