22 humpback whale breaches

What a treat to have seen these breaches!

I’ve put the YouTube notes on this video below. The coolest thing, which you can see in the video’s screenshot, and then twice in the film, is a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) jumping completely out of the water. I haven’t see a breach like that before.

And yes, some weigh 80,000 pounds.

It was a rare clear, crisp, cold, winter day offshore Mbotyi in Pondoland, Eastern Cape province, South Africa (formerly Transkei).

The seas were unusually calm that day on the Indian Ocean. That wouldn’t last long, soon returning to howling winds, whitecap waves, and giant swells! Did I mention it was cold – on land, at sea, and in the water?!

We are four SCUBA divers in a small “rubber duck” inflatable boat with two powerful 110 hp four stroke outboard motors. Clive is captain, Carlos is divemaster, and Levi is deckhand.

We are hunting for sardines. It is the annual world famous “South African Sardine Run”, a mass migration of pilchard fish up the east coast of Africa.

Actually, we are not interested in the sardines but rather the predators they attract. Hungry bottlenose and common dolphins herd the long line of small sardines into compact groups called “bait balls”. Once a ball is formed, a feeding frenzy ensues. Dolphins, sharks, and birds feast on the dense pack of small fish.

An ultralight airplane is overhead, looking for the action. Sightings are radioed to us and off we go at breakneck speed, hoping to record some real action.

Sadly, our six or seven hours daily on the water entail mostly waiting, waiting, and waiting a little longer until we find the elusive sardine bait ball.

Entertaining us while we wait are migrating humpback whales. Some are a mothers with calves. Some are males traveling in small groups.

This day, there were few sardine sightings but the whales seemed to be everywhere! An unexpected bonus!

This video shows a humpback whale mother cow swimming with a calf. It shows an adult 40 ton whale on its back, slapping both its left and right fins on the water, then leaping entirely out of the water!

It seems that never before has a recording been made of an adult humpback whale leaping entirely out of the water! A very rare event, indeed.

Dolphins and even Great White Sharks have been seen flying out of the water, but this is a first for an adult humpback whale!

Note: I sometimes have to remind my northern hemisphere friends that although it is summer in July and blisteringly hot and dry in parts of America and Europe, in South Africa it is exactly the opposite! It is dark, cold, winter now! Did I mention that it is cold?


  1. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    This is amazing!

    I initially read it as “beaches” and was wondering why our Jerry appeared to be celebrating a whale stranding!

    • Mike
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      What a privilege to watch something like that, I’m sure they do it for fun and I have a sneaking feeling for entertainment purposes, notice how one kept spy hopping ?,he’s checking the Audience is still there.lol

      • Colin McLachlan
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        I apologise for posting this video again, but in it, it looks like the wild dolphins are deliberately showing off to the people watching from a boat.

        Wild dolphins show off

  2. Posted July 27, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Watching whales has been on my bucket list for decades, alas no longer likely to be fulfilled. This is truly awe inspiring. Thank you!

  3. ploubere
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    They look like they’re having fun when they do that, although some speculate that they are dislodging parasites or something similar. I’ve seen grey whales frolicking off of Monterey, but never saw a breach like those.

  4. rickflick
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never seen a film of a full breach. I’m looking forward to a trip to Maui in February. Maybe we’ll see one.

  5. busterggi
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Another 22 reasons I don’t go into the ocean.

  6. Posted July 27, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    When they twist in the air, which is often, they always seem to twist in the same direction.

  7. klf
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Why the hell do they do that? It must take enormous energy to accomplish. The comment about dislodging barnacles/parasites was a new thought and made some sense…

    Also wonder, how to put it: if no one is there to see it, does a whale breech? Like the tree falling thing. Could they be kind of showing off?

    Or, more likely, showing who’s boss? But I wonde, if the viewers were not there, or less interested, would it have been so… boisterous?

    It does look like fun. But the open mouth breathing later… It’s also tiring.


    Could they be trying to communicate?

    (Did I just say that out loud?)

    • klf
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:29 am | Permalink

      PS – what a cool cool cool thing to get to see. Thank you for sharing!

    • rickflick
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      I think I’ve seen footage of humpbacks scraping the bottom gravels in shallow water, presumably to remove barnacles (I can’t seem to find a reference to it). So, I think it’s something they care about.

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