Visitors to Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront were treated over the past few days to an extremely rare sighting of a Dwarf Sperm whale – the smallest whale species in the world.
V&A visitors often spot marine animals like Cape fur seals frolicking in its harbour, but this was extra special as Dwarf Sperm whales are very seldom sighted at sea. They prefer the deeper mid-levels of the ocean, mainly feeding on squid and crab. And the majority of information about these whales comes from the study of stranded carcasses.
Simon Elwen, a Research Fellow at the Mammal Research Institute, located at the University of Pretoria, says it’s quite rare to see a live 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 quite small – 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 to see the rare 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.”
Stanton added that the whale has been spotted in the V&A Waterfront for the past two weeks.
“I spoke to a member of a dive company based at the waterfront, who told me that they occasionally spotted the whale swimming in another basin for almost two weeks, before it moved to the basin in front of Quay Four.”
Elethu Mkhangelwa, manager at the Quay Four restaurant, said the little whale generated quite a lot of interest over the weekend.
“We spotted the whale in the basin in front of our restaurant on Friday and Saturday, and it was quite popular with our guests. I’ve been told that the whale is extremely rare, so it was quite an experience to see it so close to us.”
Andre Van Kets, owner of Cape Town car hire company Drive South Africa, says a rare sighting of this magnitude just adds to South Africa’s rich diversity of wildlife.
“South Africa is blessed with the Big Five, the Small Five and to have a rare species such as the Dwarf Sperm whale on our shores at the iconic V&A Waterfront – one of Cape Town’s top tourist attractions – just illustrates how incredible our country’s biodiversity is.”