Coast KZN

18 Jun 2018

KZN man frees struggling whale

Latoya Newman (Daily News) Picture: Hugo Botha of Port Shepstone was pleasantly- and nervously surprised- when he stumbled upon a whale in need of his help recently

A morning out crayfishing for a Port Shepstone resident and his friends quickly evolved into a once-in-a-lifetime experience when he had an up close encounter with a whale that was in need of help.

“We were in the water for about five minutes when this whale started circling around us. Really close, about a meter and half to two meters. It was the most scariest thing, but the most unforgettable experience,” said Hugo Botha.
Botha and his friend, Danny Philp, had set out crayfishing at Ramsgate onThursday at around 10am.

“Danny had his GoPro camera and we went out crayfish diving. At first we couldn’t see that it was a whale, because you just see this shadow around you and you don’t know what it is. But he kept circling and getting closer. He came and actually looked me in me eyes. It was like he was trying to tell me something was wrong,” said Botha.

It was then that Botha realised the whale had some fishing line wrapped around the front end of his body, around his mouth area. “I gave my speargun to Danny and I went in to cut the line. Immediately after he just swam out to sea. It was like he was circling us as a way of asking us to help him.”

The two friends do regular spear fishing as a hobby, but Botha said this is one experience that will never be able to be matched. “That moment when he looked in my eyes. I still can’t believe it. The feeling of being able to help a wild animal is priceless. This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. To actually look a whale in the eyes like that and be able to help an animal in need. I really wanted to touch him and interact a bit more, but I had to remind myself that he is a wild animal and I should be careful. It was amazing,” said Botha.

Mike Anderson-Reade, head of operations at the KZN Sharks Board said it is not likely that this whale’s sighting and encounter was related to the sardines that popped in at Ramsgate on the weekend.

“We are in Whale migration season at the moment. We literally have thousands of whales, mainly Humpback Whales, coming pass KZN this time of the year as part of their normal migration habits away from their Summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic. They come up here to birth their calves and mate,” he said.

Anderson-Reade said they have had reports from time to time about whales being caught in shark safety gear. “But we deal with these cases as and when they are reported.”

He urged the public to always be cautious around wild animals, even if they are in need of help. “I know people want to help animals, but they must be careful. These are wild animals and sometimes they don’t understand the good intentions of people. Rather try to get hold of the Sharks Board or professionals to see to these matters,” said Anderson-Reade.