July 16, 2011

Whale Watching in Knysna

I had promised you the third installment in my Wilderness series, which was our whale watching tour departing from Knsysna.

As I've mentioned before, this involved me going through gigantic waves in a small boat, which I had vowed never to do again after some friends took us through an inlet somewhere on the North Carolina coast and I was convinced we weren't going to make it. We did indeed have to turn around that time but thankfully we didn't capsize.

We had spoken to the captain by phone that morning and due to high winds the previous day he advised to wait until afternoon. Which already made me a teensy bit suspicious. But it was a good opportunity to check out Knysna, which is beautiful:





We strolled through galleries and shops, bought two statues at a place called Porcupine, had coffee, spent some time on a kiddies playground, checked out the boat which was already docked and said "whale watching" on it (making me slightly more suspicious), and then decided to drive up onto one of the Knysna Heads, which are the two cliffs on either side of the passage into the ocean. The Western Head is a park only accessible by boat and/or on foot, but you can drive all the way up to the top of the Eastern Head, which is home to the most beautiful neighborhood. It also features a view point, from which we were able to glimpse the waves awaiting us that afternoon. Level of suspicion - not good. These look exactly like the ones in Castaway with Tom Hanks. See for yourself:


The view to the other side was equally beautiful.


Now for the boat. It really WAS small. My only other whale watching experience was earlier this year in San Diego, and that boat was huge, with several decks and an indoor area. This one had exactly twelve seats. But at least I was prepared and brought my down jacket, gloves, and a hat. I might be drowning, but until then I would be warm!

Fitting of life jackets

You can get an idea of the size of our boat

See that wave? It was one of the smaller ones!
I couldn't get a better wave picture because Sunshine, who had been fearless during our Canopy Tour, was on my lap and screaming at the top of her lungs while we made our dash into the open sea. She hates roller coasters, and this felt exactly like one. Up and down and up and down. Impatience, on the other hand, as well as the boys, couldn't get enough of it.

We made it through without incident. Once in calmer waters, we started looking. And looking. Whales, unfortunately, were  hard to come by. But we did get visited by an albatross, which might be even more rare than a whale.

Albatrosses always remind me of The Rescuers, the first movie I got to see as a kid

We cruised and cruised and were already on our way back with a distinct chill in the air, when our captain improbably spotted a large shadow somewhere in the distance and headed straight for it. It was indeed a whale, though not a humpback or right whale as we had hoped (the season for them - June to November - was just starting), but a Bryde's whale. The tricky thing with those is that they actually live there instead of migrating West to East, so there is no telling where the darn thing will resurface. I was always late with my camera, and the one time the whale was right next to our boat for a great view, it was too close for a good picture. But you can't get a good view and a good picture, so I ended up getting almost no view at all.



We also got to see tons of dolphins following our boat. But the best shot of the day was probably that of yet another beautiful sunset.


2 comments :

cat said...

I just love Knysna and that whole area.

W. A. Jeffrey said...

I wouldn't mind going out in a full size boat but I don't think I could be brave enough to do what you did. I love whales but I don't think I could stand to get very close to them in the water in case they nocked the boat over.