The Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is thought to be so named because of its pronounced arching of the back when surfacing. Latin name arises from Megaptera - large winged (reference to the flippers) and novaeangliae - from the New England Region.
Also called "songsters of the sea" because of their complex musical talent. Only the males are thought to sing when they are on breading ground. The patterns of the songs change gradually over the years, so that completely new song patterns evolve all the time.
Occurance: Humpback whale can be viewed on the Cape Whale Route.
The second most commonly see whale along the South African coast, Humpback whales migrate northward from the Antarctic through South African waters on their way to the tropical waters off Mozambique, southern Madagascar and Angola as early as April and May.
Their numbers peak during June and July, which are the best viewing months. The best places to view humpback whales from the land are from coastal headlands (such as Robberg, Plettenberg Bay) or Capes (Knysna Heads).
Features: Black or grey with light underside. Distinctive rows around head. Grooves or pleats on underside of throat & chest. Dorsal fin has a small triangular shape. White patterns are found under their scalloped edge flukes. Flippers are long, tapering and wing-like, usually white below.
Length: 14,6 - 15,2 m
Weight: 30 000 - 40 000 kg
Cruising speed: 4 knots
Blow: Pear-shaped and upright, about 3 m high
Breeding biology: Both mating and birthing takes place to the north of South Africa in warm tropical coastal waters. Gestation is approximately 11,5 months and peak birthing occurs in August. Lactation (suckling) takes place for approximately 11 months.
See also Brydes Whale and Southern Right Whales