Visitors to Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (V&A) often spot marine animals such as Cape fur seals frolicking in its harbour. However, during November 2016, they were treated to an extremely rare sighting of a Dwarf Sperm whale – the smallest whale species in the world.
Words: Jarred Manasse
Pictures: Sion Stanton
Dwarf sperm whales are not often sighted at sea, as they prefer the deeper mid-levels of the ocean, where they can feed mainly on squid and crab. The majority of information about these whales comes from studying stranded carcasses.
Simon Elwen, a Research Fellow at the Mammal Research Institute, located at the University of Pretoria, says it’s rare to see a free swimming animal so close to shore.
This Dwarf Sperm whale was spotted swimming in a basin in front of the Quay Four restaurant. They are smaller than a dolphin – growing up to about 2,7 metres in length and weighing in at approximately 250 kilograms.
Sion Stanton, a wildlife photographer based in Cape Town, visited the V&A Waterfront on Friday 11 November 2016 to see the whale.
“I spotted the Dwarf Sperm whale at around 08:10 in front of the Quay Four restaurant. I watched it for about an hour, as it swam in circles, moving around the basin.”
“I spoke to a member of a dive company based at the waterfront, who told me that they had occasionally spotted the whale swimming in another basin for almost two weeks, before it moved to the basin in front of Quay Four,” Stanton added
Elethu Mkhangelwa, manager at the Quay Four restaurant, also spotted the Dwarf Sperm whale in the basin opposite their eatery, and says it generated quite a lot of interest over the weekend.
“We saw the whale in the basin in front of our restaurant on Friday and Saturday, and it gained popularity with our guests. I’ve been told that spotting this type of whale is extremely rare, so it was quite an experience.”
Andre Van Kets, owner of Cape Town car hire company Drive South Africa, says a rare sighting of this importance just adds to South Africa’s rich diversity of wildlife.
“To have a rare species such as the Dwarf Sperm whale on our shores at the V&A Waterfront just illustrates how incredible our country’s biodiversity is.”