The Marine Big Five of Southern Africa
are the Whale, Shark, Seal, Penguin and Dolphin. South Africa offers exceptional oportunities to view these animals all across the Western Cape Province from the Garden Route to Cape Town itself. These are the most popular sea animals of Southern Africa and ticking all five off your list is a must-do for any holiday to this beautiful country.
Marine mammals are a major draw-card to South Africa, thanks to its extensive shoreline. Dolphins can frequently be seen frolicking along the coast, swimming in schools of up to 200 or 300 individuals. Whales (such as the Humpback and Southern Right whales) appear along the local coast between July and December, and promise fabulous performances for those on the shore or on formal whale-watching tours.
The Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)
The Humpback is large and sturdy. The top of its body is dark grey or black (with a blue sheen) and the underside can be dark or light, depending on the individual animal. The slender head has bumps on top and on the lower jaw. The hump for which it is named is situated in front of the small dorsal fin. The pectoral fins are long and slender and the tail fins (or flukes) are broad with a knobbly edge.
They are favourites on formal whale watching tours between the months of July and December.
African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)
When you think of penguins, you may picture them surrounded by snow and ice. However, there is one species of penguins that is acclimated to warmer climates. African penguins live in colonies on the coast and islands of southern Africa.
Also called jackass penguins, they make donkey-like braying sounds to communicate. They can dive under water for up to 2.5 minutes while trying to catch small fish such as anchovies and sardines. They may also eat squid and crustaceans.
Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
Few creatures strike more fear in humans than the great white shark. In reality, great white shark attacks on humans are rare – and it is even rarer for one of these attacks to be fatal. However, the size of the great white shark and its efficiency as a predator add to the perpetuation of this unnecessary fear.
Brown fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus)
The Brown (Cape) Fur Seal has a wide head that is relatively large with small, external ear flaps and a pointed snout. The mane of the male is darker while the belly is quite light. Females do not have a mane and are, generally, lighter in colour, although the back and belly are darker. The rear flippers are rather short and have fleshy tips, while the fore flippers are longer with a little hair on them.
Common Dolphin (Delphinus capensis)
The Common Dolphin is the name given to up to three species of dolphin making up the genus Delphinus.
The most common of these dolphins are the Long Beaked Dolphin and the Short Beaked Dolphin .The third species (D. tropicalis, common name usually Arabian Common Dolphin), is characterized by an extremely long and thin beak and found in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.
This species of dolphin lives in pods of a dozen plus individuals and are regularly seen on and around most dive locations on the east coast of South Africa and Mozambique. They usually move along the coast between reefs and are often spotted just behind the breaking surf.