It was a warm and sunny Sunday morning along the shores of False Bay in Cape Town. All the enthusiastic club divers had woken up early and were meeting at Whale Lookout, which was the local meeting spot for the weekly club dive. It was decided that shore conditions were average and a consensus had been reached that Windmill was the chosen dive spot for that particular morning. Windmill is known for little creatures like nudibranchs and other small critters, and therefore a great spot for macro photography.
We kitted up, paired up with a dive buddy, and made our way into the ocean. It was at least 15 minutes into the dive before I felt a tap on my shoulder and my dive buddy, Colin, pointed up towards the surface of the water. I looked up and saw what looked like a tail of a fairly large animal (It took a few moments to adjust my eyesight because I was looking closely on the ocean floor for tiny critters). The first thought that passed through my mind was that it was a Great White shark because there had been a few sightings in the area recently. After closer inspection, I saw that the shape of the tail was horizontal depicting that of some sort of whale, and not vertical like a shark.
A shadow then appeared behind the tail as the animal slowly started making a u-turn and began swimming towards the group of divers. I was struck with such amazement and awe that the minutes that followed seemed surreal. The shadow grew larger and larger and slowly came to rest on the ocean floor. There were about 10 divers all lined up in a row, kneeling on the ocean floor and watching a spectacular show unfold before them. It was a 7m inquisitive juvenile Southern Right whale that came around to see what we were doing. After a few minutes, it let out a soft groan before making its way to the surface for a breath of air. As I looked up towards the sun, the whale’s large body cast a shadow on us as it slowly began to descend again. The bubbles released from my regulator were literally hitting its large belly! I was wondering if it was going to land on me, but it then stopped its descent and started swimming forward. We followed the whale for at least 10 minutes before it finally disappeared into vast open ocean.
Photo credit: Colin Mostert
The divers swam back to shore and slowly exited the water. As we started talking amongst ourselves about one of the most amazing whale encounters a diver could ever experience, one of the divers at the back said, “What whale?” We all looked around at him in disbelief and wondered how he managed to miss one of nature’s greatest presentations!