Marine Big 5 – A Quick Guide

Marine Big 5 - A Quick Guide

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Today, 8 June, is World Oceans Day.

In case you haven’t heard of The Big Five, they are the five great mammals that you find in different parts of the African bush. The African lion, the Cape buffalo, the African elephant, the African leopard and the black and white rhino. They are all fantastic creatures and anyone lucky enough to go on safari will be in awe of these fine animals. But have you heard of the Marine Big 5?


South Africa

When I worked as a volunteer at Addo with the elephants many years ago, they introduced me to this area of conservation.


Marine Big 5 map


The Sundays River Valley forms part of Addo land and the river empties into the Indian Ocean near Port Elizabeth on the southern coast. The Sundays River Valley is important because of the irrigation system it provides to the whole area, both for the people and the wildlife. That area includes a large section of the ocean and of course, the aquatic life it contains.

At the time, I remember they had started to include marine life as part of their conservation efforts. It was all new and everyone was learning about how to protect it. I wasn’t able to include it as part of my volunteer experience though, unfortunately.

Be that as it may, while on tour in Cape Town, I did see the seals and the penguins up close, a wonderful experience. For the dolphins and whales, I would have to wait until I went to New Zealand, but that’s a story for another day.

They use the term, “The Serengeti of the Sea” and you can see why. Where the Pacific Ocean collides with the Atlantic Ocean, there exists the most amazing marine ecosystem.

As today is World Oceans Day, let’s appreciate the wonderful and (many) endangered creatures which live in the oceans.

Let’s protect them, not only today but in the future too.


The Marine Big 5

Marine Big 5 - the southern right whale



Southern Right, Humpback and Bryde´s Whales

Average length: 15 metres

Depth: 300 metres

Weight: 60 tons

Max Speed: 17 kph

Interesting fact: They can withstand life at sea for up to 100 years.



Great White Sharks

Average length: 5 metres approx.

Depth: 1200 metres

Weight: 3 tons

Max Speed: 50 kph

Interesting fact: They can go without food for up to 3 months.


Marine Big 5 - cape fur seals


Cape Fur Seals

Average length: 2 metres

Depth: 200 metres

Weight: 200 kg

Max Speed: 16 kph

Interesting fact: After spending a long time out at sea, they are able to go to sleep while floating on the water in a particular way, still able to breathe.


Marine Big 5 - african penguin


African Penguins

Average length: 60 cm

Depth: 130 metres

Weight: 3.5 kg

Max Speed: 20 kph

Interesting fact: Sometimes referred to “jackass” penguins because of the call they make which is similar to a donkey.


Marine Big 5 - common dolphins



Common, Humpback and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins

Average length: 2.5 metres

Depth: 500 metres

Weight: 200 kg

Max Speed: 40 kph

Interesting fact: Pregnancy lasts 17 months.


Marine Big 5 – A Quick Guide


Video from South Africa Tourism


Please leave any comments below and I´ll be happy to get back to you.

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