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Whales visit Knysna on their annual migration northwards.

Friday, 05 August 2016 01:32 Written by  Lisa Leslie
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When it comes to creatures of the animal kingdom, Knysna has always been celebrated for its elusive forest elephants and its tiny and rare Knysna seahorse. These days however, it is also famed for whales, and is considered one of the best places in the country to observe whales in their natural environment. This is due to the fact that the ocean adjacent to Knysna's craggy coastline just happens to be directly in the path of one of the planet's most impressive animals migrations – that of the southern right and humpback whales, during which time our oceans are literally heaving with cetaceans.

In sync with the natural rhythms of life, they navigate our coastline each year along an instinctive migratory route. When we are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to observe them in Knysna's blue depths, they have already travelled many thousands of miles across vast ocean ranges. Their starting point is their frosty feeding grounds off Antarctica which they need to leave in order to mate and safely calve in the warmer waters off our Southern African coastline.

Both of these whale species move past our coastline in their thousands, an extraordinary reality considering that by the time a ban on commercial whaling was put into place in 1986, their numbers had sadly, and drastically reduced. Fortunately, according to observation and research statistics, their numbers have increased significantly with each passing year, and we, as awe struck spectators, get the opportunity to watch them swim passed our coastline.

While there are several land based whale watching spots from where one can view them from afar, there is nothing more rewarding than to experience a close encounter with these leviathan beauties. Ocean Odyssey is Knysna's only permitted whale watching operation. Only one permit is issued each year in Knysna by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), to exit the Knysna heads in order to view whales in their natural environment. There are strict guidelines in place.

Ocean Odyssey is dedicated to showcasing both these visiting giants and other marine life. If you have ever been whale watching, you will understand why it is such a popular activity, but if you haven't it isn't easy to put it into words. Observing them in the wild, evokes an indescribable emotion.

Knysna's whale watching season has so far surpassed all others since whale watching commenced in our town. This year, their first sightings of humpback whales was on the 20th April 2016. From that day onward they continued to have sporadic sightings. And now Knysna is currently heading into the height of whale watching season, when whales can be seen daily in large numbers. Large mating groups are a common spectacle, as well as mothers with their newborn calves.

A visit to Knysna is not complete if you haven't gone out the Knysna Heads in search of whales.
For more info: www.oceanodyssey.co.za

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