Rare Dwarf Sperm Whale Arrives in Cape Town

The smallest of all the whale species—a dwarf sperm whale—made its way into Cape Town’s waterfront harbour this week.

The almost never-seen diminutive whale is smaller than a dolphin, and not much bigger than a man, which is amazing when you consider that sperm whales reach 52 feet in length—about the size of a bus.

Dwarf sperm whales are also deep sea mammals, preferring to swim beyond the continental shelf and diving deep into the mid-levels of the ocean to hunt and eat squid with their wide toothy mouths.

It was incredibly rare to see this little animal so far from its usual habitat, flopping around the harbour amongst thousands of summer holiday goers.


The whale seemed oddly placid in the water, floating on the surface, and occasionally diving down and appearing in a different area of the harbour.

I initially thought it might be sick or injured (it did have a few cuts on its face), but after researching its habits, it seems that these whales are generally very placid on the surface of the water. It’s cousin, the pygmy sperm whale, was historically known by the Japanese as a ‘floating whale’ because of its tendency to slowly rise to the surface and remain motionless for a while before diving again.

It’s possible that the whale just found its way into the Cape Town harbour and was enjoying the calm waters, before heading back out into the deep Atlantic, though we’ll wait to see if it needs help in escaping the harbour walls.



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Meet the Author
Paul Steyn is a widely-published multi-media content producer from South Africa, and regular contributor to National Geographic News and blogs. Having guided throughout Africa for some years, he went on to edit a prominent travel and wildlife magazine, and now focuses on nature storytelling in all its forms. In 2013, he joined a team of researchers and Bayei on a 250km transect of the Okavango Delta on traditional mokoros. In 2016, he accompanied the Great Elephant Census team in Tanzania and broke the groundbreaking results on National Geographic News . Contact: paul@paulsteyn.com Follow Paul on Twitter or Instagram