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WHALE WATCHING

 
 

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the water. Males produce a complex song, which lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is repeated for hours at a time. The purpose of the song is not yet clear, although it appears to have a role in mating.

Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres (16,000 mi) each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. The species' diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net feeding technique.

Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for th whaling industry. Due to over-hunting, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a whaling moratorium was introduced in 1966. Stocks have since partially recovered; however, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution also remain concerns. There are at least 80,000 humpback whales worldwide.

A humpback whale can easily be identified by its stocky body with an obvious hump and black dorsal coloring. The head and lower jaw are covered with knobs called tubercles, which are actually hair follicles, and are characteristic of the species. The fluked tail, which it lifts above the surface in some dive sequences, has wavy trailing edges.

The long black and white tail fin, which can be up to a third of body length, and the pectoral fins have unique patterns, which make individual whales identifiable. Several hypotheses attempt to explain the humpback's pectoral fins, which are proportionally the longest fins of any cetacean. The two most enduring mention the higher maneuverability afforded by long fins, and the usefulness of the increased surface area for temperature control when migrating between warm and cold climates.

Newborn calves are roughly the length of their mother's head. At birth, calves measure 20 feet (6.1 m) at 2 tons. The mother, by comparison, is about 50 feet (15 m). They nurse for approximately six months, then mix nursing and independent feeding for possibly six months more. Humpback milk is 50% fat and pink in color.

Females reach sexual maturity at the age of five, achieving full adult size a little later. Males reach sexual maturity at approximately 7 years of age.

Fully grown, the males average 15–16 metres (49–52 ft). Females are slightly larger at 16–17 metres (52–56 ft), and 40,000 kilograms ; the largest recorded specimen was 19 metres (62 ft) long and had pectoral fins measuring 6 metres (20 ft) each.

Females typically breed every two or three years. The gestation period is 11.5 months, yet some individuals have been known to breed in two consecutive years. The peak months for birth are January, February, July, and August. There is usually a 1-2 year period between humpback births. Humpback whales can live up to 48 years.

Whale watching is an unforgettable moment. Their way of swimming, their fins movements, their jumps are incredible. Those behaviours can mean different things and are a way of communication for them : loving parade, take shells off their body, area examination and demarcation, etc.... For us, it is an incredible choreographic show, that you can observe each year along Madagascar coasts between mid june and mid september.

 
   
 
 
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