Interestingly enough, very few people know that Kenya hosts a number of humpback whales each year. The Indian Ocean, like all major seas, is home to whales and other large animals. However, the humpback whales do not permanently stay in Kenya but move across oceans for different reasons including mating and feeding. Watamu is one of the best places to view these humpback whales, which migrate to Kenyan waters between July and September. Amazingly, this migration happens concurrently with the wildebeest migration in the Mara! Here are a few thrilling facts about humpback whales.
They are not really humpbacked
The name comes from the way their backs arc to form a hump when diving into the sea. Other whales and sea animals dive directly or with a shortened arc. The humpback whales make a more elongated and distinct hump during their dive.
They are very friendly
Humpback whales have been recorded to be friendly both within and outside their species. Although they often travel solo apart from mother and calf, humpback whales have been seen to interact with each other especially during migration and hunting times. They have also been seen to act as protectors of calves and smaller sea animals against killer whales and sharks.
They are huge
Although the blue whale is the largest sea animal, the humpback whales are still significantly large. Male humpback whales can grow between 13-15 meters while females can grow up to 16 meters in length. The average weight of a humpback whale is 30 tons although isolated individuals have been seen to grow up to 90 tons in weight.
They are mammals
Humpback whales like all other whales are mammals. This means they give birth to live offspring. Humpback calves can weigh an average of 900 kilos when born. They rely on milk until they are weaned at around 2 years. Humpback milk is 50% fat and is pink in colour. They also breathe in air thus their constant need to stay close to the surface.
They are toothless
Humpback whales do not have teeth. However, they have over 200 plates in their mouths which look like teeth and act as sieves. This helps in catching and trapping fish when the whale opens its. The water is then expelled leaving the solid food in the mouth, which is then ingested.
They feed on small fish
The main diet of humpback whales is krill. These are tiny sea animals that resemble shrimp. A whale needs up to a ton of food a day to survive and maintain its body weight.
They are migratory
As mentioned above, humpback whales migrate across polar and tropical waters for mating and feeding. When they are at Watamu and other equatorial waters, they give birth to their young ones and nurse them for some time before the calves are ready to move. They also use this chance to stock up on food because, in polar waters, hunting is less frequent. The humpbacks thus result in surviving on their fat reserves. Humpback whales can migrate up to 7000 kilometres.
They love breaching
Humpback whales breach water with their very stealth acrobatics. Given their size, it is very impressive how they easily jump up to 3 meters into the air and back into the water. It is believed that the breaching helps release parasites from the whale’s body. The whales can also do this for breathing and sometimes just to play.
Believe it or not, humpback whales are very vocal animals. Although only the male humpbacks do this, the animals have been recorded to sing. Their songs are often loud and long. The songs have been suggested to be for communication and mating purposes though no specific conclusion has been made.
To view these wonderful creatures, make your way to Watamu between July and September. You can check out Hemingways Watamu for whale watching packages.