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The Bluff Whale Heritage Area
The Bluff

The Bluff Whale Heritage Area

Visitor centres or museums

The Bluff forms part of the port of Durban on the eastern seaboard of South Africa. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with stunning landscapes and an abundance of wildlife.

People at the Bluff retain their heritage and links with cetaceans through festivals, trails, guided walks, and whale watching opportunities. The Bluff has a Whale Watching Route and celebrates the arrival of humpback whales with the annual Welcoming of the Whales Festival. The Old Whaling Station is being transformed into a Heritage Site and Eco Tourism Hub point where they can share their history with tourists and guests.

Species or habitat details

From May to December, humpback whales can be seen as they migrate along the east coast of South Africa. There are estimated to be over 7,000 humpbacks migrating through the waters of Durban now, compared to only 340 when the whaling station was closed in 1975. Similarly, the population of southern right whales has increased to over 1,000 individuals.

Other cetaceans in the area include sperm whales, minke whales and Bryde’s whales. Humpback dolphins and long-beaked common dolphins are also commonly sighted between May and July, while bottlenose dolphins are seen year-round.

Threats

Plastic pollution, accidental capture and entanglement are some of the major environmental concerns associated with cetaceans in the area.

The Durban port acts as a sink for waste entering the port from canals and city storm drains. This waste is then released into the ocean and washes up on beaches along the KZN coastline and within the WHA area.

Whales and dolphins can become trapped in abandoned nets or accidentally caught by the fishing fleet.

Did you know?

Humpback whales migrate from Antarctica along the east coast of South Africa through the coastal waters of Durban during the months of May through to November.

Whales were originally hunted for their blubber, spermaceti (sperm whale oil), and baleen, all of which were used for a variety of household and industrial products.

The number of Southern right whales has increased to over 1000 whales off the coast of South Africa, making Durban a premium whale destination.

The local Zulus called the bay eThekwini, the lagoon. A thriving trading post grew around the bay, becoming the third largest city in South Africa.

Long-term photo-identification studies suggested that some humpback dolphins display long- distance movement patterns (up to 150 km), while other individuals display long-term residency within the KwaZulu-Natal area including Durban.

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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

In just two generations, the coastal community has progressed from hunting whales to protecting them, and the relationship between humans and cetaceans in this area has evolved to respectful co-existence.

The KZN Whale Heritage Route includes sea-based whale watching as well as land-based viewing, including five viewpoints situated along The Bluff coastline.

The responsible...

Conservation success

Conservation success

In 2021, Shell were due to begin seismic surveys along the Wild Coast. Seismic surveys produce a powerful underwater noise, greater than 230 decibels, continuously for months, which is extremely damaging to marine life.

Local communities and NGOs, supported by WILDOCEANS, campaigned to stop Shell from following through with this operation.

Grahamstown High Court in Makhanda...

Education and research

Education and research

Whale watching operators in The Bluff have a unique collaboration with WILDOCEANS, who manage school programmes to educate local children about protecting the planet and cetaceans. WILDOCEANS also run the WhaleTime project, encouraging local ‘citizen scientists’ to contribute photos of humpback whales to an identification catalogue that will help researchers to understand more...

Cultural heritage (new / modern)

Cultural heritage (new / modern)

At the end of June each year, the Bluff celebrates its cultural heritage and connection to whales by hosting the ‘Welcoming of the Whales’ festival. The festival focuses on educating locals and tourists alike about cetaceans, marine life, eco-tourism, recycling and general protection of the ocean. The streets are closed for the festival and painted murals and sculptures are...

Cultural heritage (traditional)

Cultural heritage (traditional)

The Old Whaling Station located in The Bluff used to be one of the largest whaling stations in the southern hemisphere. Whaling started in 1907 and continued through to 1975, using harpoon guns. The whaling station then moved to the seaward side of the Bluff, due to the bad smell that saturated the area and also to protect bathers from sharks that were attracted by the blood...

Sustainability

Sustainability

To combat the issue of plastic pollution, one of the projects at WILDTRUST is focussed on the removal of waste from ecologically important areas such as beaches and the Durban port. WILDTRUST started work in the port in 2017, collecting waste from the beaches and waterways coming into the port, and has collected and recycled more than 96,000 kgs of waste to date. All of the...

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