The waves crash onto the coast. The evergreen flowers emit heavenly odours that permeate through my, uh, lavender dwelling. The sun lazily creeps up from the ocean. What a great way to wake up – pure relaxation. What a great day to sail to Australia. Wait, what?
Maybe it’s the power of the solstice that gets to me but I find it a great day to immigrate to Australia aboard the 12m long Romonza. I reckon it will probably take a month or to reach there – enough time to perfect my Aussie accent.
I like harbours. It probably started when I went on the cruise ship, Rhapsody. That ship has since been renamed and sold off to some other non MSC shipping consortium but that is not important. These behemoths are just amazing. These chunks of steel that weigh thousands of tonnes are kept afloat by pure engineering ingenuity (and physics but let’s forget about that for now.) Anyway, the Mossel Bay harbour is a pretty shallow harbour due to the coastline being very steep and, like offshore from Cuttings Beach in Merebank, there is an offshore pipeline that is utilised by ships to transfer oil and gas. As the water around Mossel Bay is pretty cold, there is an abundance of fishing trawlers here with several fish processing factories around the harbour.
The day was amazing to sail the big blue. The wind was pretty negligible and the sun did not gaze down and drain us of all our energy – it was just right. We blissfully sailed towards the horizon at a brisk pace. Sailing away from civilisation is very much like taking off in a plane where the houses below rapidly shrink. Here, though, this shrinkage does take some time but I think this does have a better effect. Mossel Bay has an abundance of enormous houses – as you sail into the bay, these houses slowly shrink until the houses look like mere specks. At this distance, it’s difficult to discern a large house from a smaller one. Weirdly, this does make you realise the unimportance of these large materialistic possessions of man. Anyway, this is a bit too much thinking for this marvellous day – I lay back and just enjoyed this. It would be a few more hours before we pass Mauritius and Reunion.
The Romonza is a whaling vessel equipped to catch Southern Right Whales. These whales are, on average, around 14m long. That is big – trust me. These whales are slow swimmers that keep to the surface. When harpooned, the excessive blubber, which is meant to keep them warm in the Antarctic Ocean which is where they spend most of the year, makes these whales float. The meat is pretty palatable and the oil is pretty useful. Hence, this was the “right” whale to catch. Seeing that it lived in the South and that there already was a Northern Right Whale, the early whalers christened this beast, the “Southern Right Whale.” It’s pretty amazing how man just shows his power over an animal several times his size through a name.
Southern Right Whales actually are amazing creatures. Even though I was told that these creatures are 14m long, you can’t fathom what that means until you see these in the flesh. About an hour into our journey, a mother and calf decide to put on a show for us. As the waters in the Antarctic get colder, the whales and calves make their way up to the coastal waters of South Africa. Hermanus is famous for its abundant land-based whale viewing. These animals aren’t shy and nonchalantly play and speak even though our boat comes within 10m of them. The whale’s call is majestic yet eerie. Hearing it for the first time will give you goose bumps. Despite their size, the whales come very close to shore – a few fishermen on the bank actually stopped fishing to view these whales as they put on a show which lasted almost an hour. Anyway, we harpooned the mother…
A feature of Mossel Bay is the Seal Island maybe a kilometre out to see. Home to 3000 Cape Fur Seals, it is a sure fire way to clear your sinuses. It is also Happy Hour for the Great White Sharks that frequent these waters. When I say frequent, I mean frequent – this week, SIX Great White Sharks were spotted in these waters. Although the waters around Mossel Bay have an abundance of fish, these Cape Fur Seals are rather choosy and prefer the hake that reside up to 60km from the coast. They go out in groups of around 15 and return with 12-13. The rest get eaten by Great White Sharks. If you have watched any of the nature channels, you might have come across the flying Great White Sharks. These sharks breach in their pursuit of seals. It is terrifying. These multi-ton animals force themselves out of the water then reaching dizzying heights of up to maybe 3m above the water surface. Go try and jump 3m into the air and then imagine these killers doing the same from underwater. These sharks inhabit the Mossel Bay coast. You are welcome to go deep water swimming in these waters – I’m pretty cool chilling at the shore hey.
Seeing that we’ve harpooned a whale, it wasn’t advisable to sail all the way to Australia. I was pretty hungry after all and whale braai is undoubtedly the BEST braai you could ever have! ANYWAY, in all seriousness, the trip was absolutely stunning. I didn’t actually plan to go on the boat but in hindsight, this four hour cruise relaxed me oh so much. These creatures are best left alone to roam and rule the oceans that they grace. It is great that we live in a country that allows these whales to live in peace and the only hunting that occurs is in my over-active imagination. The crew of the Romonza were pretty clued up and could answer all the questions we asked them. The boat is pretty large and the swaying and rocking was pretty agreeable – no seasickness detected anywhere here. Mossel Bay, also, is the cheapest place to go whale watching from a boat. As you go further west towards Cape Town, the price slowly creeps up until you get to Hermanus where you have to sell a kidney and your bottom left molars to afford the ticket.