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Algoa Bay Whale Heritage Area
South Africa

Algoa Bay Whale Heritage Area

Boat-based wildlife tours
Celebratory events or festivals

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Algoa Bay is a unique destination and arguably one of the most outstanding marine environments when it comes to biodiversity. The bay provides warm shallow waters for Southern right whales to mate and have their calves, and also serves as a nursery for humpback whales before they migrate South to their feeding grounds. In 2016, Algoa Bay was named the Bottlenose Dolphin Capital of the World, with pods of over six hundred Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins regularly present.

Species or habitat details

Algoa Bay is home to 13 species of cetacean, including humpback whales, Southern right whales, Bryde's whales, fin whales, sei whales, minke whales, pygmy sperm whales, sperm whales, killer whales, false killer whales, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins.

Humpback whales appear from June to December, while Southern right whales can be seen from July to October. Bryde’s and minke whales are in the bay year-round. There are frequent sightings of rare Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in the shallower areas of the bay, often with newborn calves, which suggests this species is calving in the bay.

Threats

Algoa Bay is a busy waterway with OPL (Off Port Limits) operations, fishing (both commercial and recreational) and shipping. The main threats to cetaceans are fishing nets (in use and also discarded), and increased shipping traffic from a ship-to-ship bunkering operation within the bay. This increases the probability of cetaceans falling victim to ship strikes. Oil spills from ship-to-ship bunkering threaten the colony of endangered African penguins, therefore Bryde's whales and minke whales could be at risk as they rely on the penguins to feed.

Did you know?

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin's dorsal fin shape can vary, but always sits on top of a very broad base, or hump. This hump is more pronounced in Indian Ocean and Atlantic species.

Individual cetaceans, or groups of cetaceans, should not be visited more than twice a day by the same operator and should have a minimum of 3-hours break between visits.

The minke whale continues to be hunted in nations such as Iceland, Norway and Japan.

Humpback whales have one of the longest migrations of any mammal as some will swim 16,000km to and from their breeding grounds.

The right whale got its name from whalers who called it the "right" whale to hunt. They swim slowly and float after death. 

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Why visit a Wildlife Heritage Area?

Trustworthy

Visitors to Wildlife Heritage Areas can take part in outstanding wildlife watching experiences that put wildlife first. Staying in a Wildlife Heritage Area helps local communities invest in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, benefitting community well-being and driving forward sustainable practices.

Designated for excellence

Communities achieve Wildlife Heritage Area designation by playing a central role in protecting wild animals and their habitats. With support from responsible travel organisations and wildlife experts, these communities are committed to help turn the tide on biodiversity loss and the climate crisis, adopt a zero tolerance for wildlife suffering in tourism, and advocate for positive change through a willingness to collaborate.

Stories

Human-cetacean conflict solutions

Human-cetacean conflict solutions

Stakeholders in Algoa Bay continue their efforts to ensure that ship-to-ship bunkering does not grow out of control, by requesting an Environmental Impact Assessment and independent auditors. An oil spill hotline has also been set up with the assistance of environmental scientists and attorneys to monitor and check the legality of bunkering activity.

South Africa as a country...

Education and research

Education and research

Many local companies and organisations incorporate conservation-directed science and research programmes that are focused on cetaceans and sustainability, developing and delivering educational programmes to the local community.

- Raggy Charters has been visiting local schools for twenty years to help instil a whale culture in the community. In addition to these school visits,...

Cultural heritage (new/modern)

Cultural heritage (new/modern)

Since 2018, an annual Welcoming of the Whales Festival is celebrated in June when the first humpback whales arrive in Algoa Bay on their migration. Marine tour operators, conservation projects, private companies, educational institutions, and NGOs come together to engage with and educate the public about the whales living off their coasts, as well as other marine life and...

Cultural heritage (traditional)

Cultural heritage (traditional)

During the Welcoming of the Whales Festival, the history of whaling in Algoa Bay is shared. For centuries, coastal Khoisan communities supplemented their diet from stranded whales. Maritime trade in 1488 brought changes, and whales became economically exploited. In total, 1,600 whales were killed over 137 years of whaling along the South African coast.

Algoa Bay hosts some...

Sustainability

Sustainability

Local schools have started some amazing plastic clean-up projects and Raggy Charters also organises regular beach clean-ups in the areas around Port Elizabeth. Discover Mandela Bay Tourism Partners, The NMB Tourism and Sustainable Seas Trust started working on a Plastic Waste Minimisation Guide for Tourists, which will also benefit local residents.

Raggy Charters only runs one...

Collaboration for the sake of cetaceans

Collaboration for the sake of cetaceans

There is a passionate community of people who are trying to protect and preserve Algoa Bay. Many ocean-related organisations are coming together and working as a team instead of individually, thus having more clout when it comes to government issues. Local tour operators have partnered up with researchers, government departments and conservation initiatives and, through this...

Conservation success

Conservation success

Algoa Bay used to proudly hold dolphin shows in an oceanarium, but has since grown to love and appreciate cetaceans in their natural environment and advocate their protection. There are no longer any captive whales or dolphins in Port Elizabeth, and the local community is outspoken against keeping cetaceans in captivity.

One unique aspect of Algoa Bay is the sheer number of...

Explore experiences

Welcoming the Whales

Welcoming the Whales

Celebratory events or festivals

The Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whale Migration Route awareness celebrations begin with a “Welcoming the Whales" Festival held in Port Elizabeth in 2018 and, since then, Raggy Charters has held another five of these festivals. The 2020 and 2021 events were livestreamed due to the Covid pandemic; nothing was going to stop the community from celebrating the arrival of these magnificent mammals to Algoa Bay!