Did you know?
Humpbacks are the fifth-largest mammals on Earth, famous for the long, intricate love songs they sing.
Between May and November, humpback whales make their way north from their Antarctic feeding grounds, heading for the sea channels between Mozambique and Madagascar.
Here they give birth to their calves in bathwater-warm temperatures, only leaving when the babies have developed enough thick blubber to withstand the icy temperatures down south.
On their way there and back, they stream past the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. And yet, until fairly recently, not much fuss was made of the whale-watching opportunities the humpbacks offered: the lolling southern right whales off the Southern Cape coast tend to grab all the attention.
St Lucia Tours and Charters, based in the toe of the famous iSimangaliso Wetland Park, is a responsible tourism operator certified by Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa. It is the only operator with a licence in KwaZulu-Natal to take people out humpback whale watching.
On your trip into these biodiversity-rich waters of the Indian Ocean, you might also spot turtles, whale sharks, dolphins, marlin and unusual pelagic birds.
Danie Bennett, who will almost certainly skipper the boat, has long been fascinated by humpback whales, and has one of the largest photographic collections of their tails, each one unique as a fingerprint.
St Lucia Tours and Charters, also known as Advantage Tours and Charters, is best known for its cruises up and down the St Lucia estuary. From its custom-made boat, the Advantage, you’ll almost certainly spot hippos and crocodiles, admire the mangrove trees, see iridescent malachite kingfishers hawking for tiny tilapia fish, and almost certainly hear the wild call of an African fish eagle.
The company can also take you deep-sea fishing, on turtle tours in egg-laying season, or on snorkel safaris of nearby Cape Vidal beach.
But it’s not all about marine and estuarine life. St Lucia Tours and Charters also offers game viewing in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, horse riding along the beach and a cultural tour.
Its offerings reflect in miniature the wealth of experiences offered at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, designated a World Heritage Site in 1999.