The southern right whale is a baleen whale and one of three species classified as right whales. They are easily distinguished from others because of their broad back without a dorsal fin, wide pectoral fins, a long arching mouth that begins above the eye and small rough patches of skin on its large head.It has very dark grey or black skin, with occasional white patches on the belly. Its two separate blow holes produce a distinguishing V-shaped blow. Southern rights have an enormous head which is up to one quarter of total body length. The callosities on the head are made of hard material, similar to human finger-nails, which appear white due to large colonies of whale lice called cyamids. The number, shape and position of the callosities are unique to each individual whale, and allow us to tell them apart. Southern right whales tend to have a large callosity at the front of the head, called a ‘bonnet’.Every year southern right whales migrate from their icy feeding grounds off Antarctica to warmer climates, reaching South Africa in June. The coastal waters team with the giant animals, mating, calving and rearing their young – and giving whale-watchers spectacular displays of raw power and elegant water acrobatic, One behavior unique to the southern right whale, known as sailing, this is when they use their elevated flukes to catch the wind, remaining in the same position for considerable amount of time. It appears to be a form of play and is most commonly seen off the coast of Argentina and South Africa. Some other species such as Humpback whales are also known to display it. Right whales are often seen interacting with other cetaceans, especially Humpback whales and dolphins.Their huge curiosity often prompts them to approach boats to investigate – a trait with tragic consequences in the days of the whalers. The best time for watching the southern right whale in South African waters is from June to November along the Cape south coast. jump