Bryde's Whales can be sighted in Plettenberg Bay through out the year; they are however more prolific during the summper months.
Bryde's Whales are baleen whales, one of the "great whales" or rorquals. They prefer tropical and temperate waters and are never seen in the colder temperate, sub-polar and polar seas and are thus often called the Tropical Whale. They are largely coastal rather than pelagic. Bryde's Whales are very similar in appearance and almost as large as, (and are often mistaken for) Sei Whales.
"Bryde" is pronounced "brooda or brooders", the name coming from the Norwegian consul to South Africa, Johan Bryde, who helped set up the first whaling station in Durban, South Africa in 1908. They are often seen feeding at sea, usually associated with frenzy feeding together with other bird, seal and penguin species, but are generally shy and keep away from vessels and other disruptive activities. Best spotted from whale watching vessels, they may come closer to investigate, but often when seen as individuals will continue swimming away and feeding.
Brydes Whale - Size
Brydes whales can grow to a length of 12.5 metres to 14 metres (46ft) and a weight of 26 tonnes, with the female larger than the male. There has often been confusion between the Sei whale and the Bryde's whale as they are similar in both size and appearance.
The head of Bryde's Whales makes up about 25% of the body, with relatively large eyes. They contain 240 and more coarse gray baleen plates up to 40 centimetres (16 in) long. 40-70 ventral pleats are located on the animal's underside.
Bryde's whale is unique amongst rorquals in that it has three longitudinal ridges on its rostrum, from the tip of the snout back to the blowhole.
Brydes Whale - Identification
Bryde's whales are considered medium-sized for balaenopterids, dark gray in color with a white underbelly. It is a baleen whale (rorqual) with twin blowholes and a low splashguard to the front. Like other rorquals it has no teeth but has two rows of baleen plates.
Color varies - the back is generally dark grey or blue to black. The ventral area is a lighter cream, shading to greyish purple on the belly. Some have a number of whitish-grey spots, which may be scars from parasites or shark attacks. The whales have an erect, curved, pointed, "falcate" dorsal fin located far down its back and broad flukes. The dorsal fin is visible at the surface. The broad, centrally notched tail flukes never break the surface. The flippers are small and slender. Their blow is columnar or bushy, about 3 – 4 metres high. Sometimes they blow or exhale while under water. Bryde's whales display seemingly erratic behavior compared to other baleens, because they surface at irregular intervals and can change directions for unknown reasons.
Brydes Whale - Diet
These whales feed opportunistically on plankton (e.g. krill and copepods), and crustaceans (e.g. crabs and shrimp) as well as schooling fish (e.g., anchovy, herring, sardine, mackerel, and pilchards). Bryde's whales use several feeding methods, including skimming the surface, lunging, and bubble nets.
Brydes Whale - Social Groups & Activity
Brydes Whales are often found individually or in pairs, and occasionally in loose aggregations of up to twenty animals around feeding areas. They are able to dive to about 300 metres, and stay under for 5 to 15 minutes. Unlike other whales such as the Humpbacks, Bryde’s Whales do not lift and display flukes when diving. They are capable of swimming up to 24 km per hour, but the normal pace is slow at 1.5 to 6 km per hour.
Brydes Whale - Reproduction
Bryde’s whales breed in alternate years, apparently in any season, with an autumnal peak. Their gestation period is estimated at 12 months. Calves are about 4 metres (13 ft) long at birth and weigh 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb). They become sexually mature at 8-13 years of age. At birth, the single calf is about 3.4 metres long (11 feet).
These whales are shy animals, not a great deal more is known about them.
Brydes Whale - Distribution
Bryde's whales prefer the tropical, subtropical and warm temperate waters of 61–72 °F (16–22 °C). They inhabit the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, from 40° South to 40° North. Some populations migrate seasonally, moving towards higher latitudes during the summer and towards the equator during the winter. Some populations do not migrate.
There may be up to 90,000-100,000 animals worldwide, with two-thirds inhabiting the Northern Hemisphere. The numbers are uncertain, and there is insufficient data to determine population trends. Historically, this species was not significantly targeted by commercial whalers, but became more important in the 1970s as the industry depleted other targets. The Japanese still hunt this species as part of their 'scientific' whaling program.