Whale Behaviour and Terminology

Examples of whale behaviour you will hear when discussing whales

South Africa Outdoor ActivitiesWhale Behaviour and Terminology

Below are some examples of whale behaviour that will come up when discussing whales and whale watching.

Whales spend up to 90 percent of their lives below the water, and wander into such stormy and remote seas that despite the urge scientists battle to follow. Consequently, we know very little about these huge yet mysterious mammals of the deep.

Have a look at our Whale Watching Infographic which depicts the different whale behaviours mentioned below.

Whale Terminology


Breaching is leaping or twirling whales, believed to be either communication, playfulness or to help with skin irritations.


Lotailing is tail vertically out of the water whilst the rest of the whale is submerged, followed by a resounding slap on the water's surface


Fluking is similar to lobrailing - tail out of the water, but this time it is the start of a dive


Just as it sounds, the whale lifts its head out of the water, perhaps to look around

Blowing or spouting

Blowing or spouting is the action of blowing water from their blowholes at the tops of their heads. Southern right whales have two blowholes


Logging is lying in the water with its head and back exposed, tail submerged.

South Africa's most popular Whale Watching Destinations

Cape Peninsula

Where? False Bay
During the late 1800s and 1900s False Bay and Table Bay had thriving whaling stations, there were so many whales in the bays. Today they do not attract quite the level of whale activity as towns further east, but come they still do. Humpback and Byde...

More info and photographs: Whale Watching in False Bay, Cape Peninsula

Cape Whale Coast

Where? Whale Coast
The coming of the whales to the Western Cape's southern coastline, also known as the Cape Whale Coast, every year between June and November, not only creates a stir, but brings to our shores a large, intelligent and remarkable giant of the sea and the...

More info and photographs: Whale Watching on the Cape Whale Coast, Western Cape

Walker Bay

Where? Cape Overberg
Walker Bay heart of the whale coast. The waters between Hermanus and Pearly Beach attract hundreds of whales annually to the shallow waters of this coastline, also known as the whale coast. Daily sightings of these giant beasts of the sea, certainly...

More info and photographs: Whale Watching in Walker Bay, Cape Overberg

Cape Agulhas

Where? Cape Agulhas
Cape Agulhas may not be as beautiful as the Cape Peninsula, nor boast quite the whale watching of Hermanus, Walker Bay or Witsand. However there is the bonus of fewer people, and thus the advantage of access to the whales without the crowds...

More info and photographs: Whale watching in Cape Agulhas

St Sebastian Bay

Where? Cape Overberg
St Sebastian Bay, and the waters off De Hoop Nature Reserve, are known as the whale nursery of southern Africa there is such a high concentration of southern right whales during their annual winter migration. The bay is relatively solitary, with little...

More info and photographs: Whale Watching in St Sebastian Bay, Cape Overberg

Garden Route

Where? Garden Route
Whilst the Garden Route, between Mossel Bay and Storm's River, does not get landbased whale watching in quite the same way as Hermanus, Witsand and De Hoop, whales are still very much in evidence in the more secluded bays particularly around...

More info and photographs: Whale Watching in the Garden Route

Algoa Bay

Where? Port Elizabeth
Algoa Bay did not feature in the boat-based whale watching scene until a company was awarded a licence in 2011, making visitors' chances of seeing not only southern right wales but orcas (killer whales), Bryde's whales and humpback whales that much...

More info and photographs: Whale Watching in Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth

St Lucia

Where? St Lucia
St Lucia and the chance of seeing humpback whales - When you think of whale song, you think of the sound that the humpback whale makes. Their collection of moans, cries and howls can continue for hours and have made them rather famous. St Lucia, on the...

More info and photographs: Whale Watching in St Lucia, KwaZulu Natal


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Did you know?

Bryde's whales are distinguishable by the three distinct notches on their dorsal fins.

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