BY Anna Cummins on 17 Jul 2023

Lucky onlookers caught a rare sighting of a Bryde's whale in Hong Kong waters on Thursday, with footage of the animal quickly going viral.

Witness Catherine Lumsden shared footage of the encounter near Millionaire’s Beach in Sai Kung with Hong Kong Free Press. “Still buzzing from it now! Beyond magnificent and stuff of dreams, and right here in Sai Kung,” Lumsden told HKFP.

The footage of the whale was captured from a nearby boat, understood to be from Hebe Haven Yacht Club.

The Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera brydei) is a baleen whale, meaning it has no teeth and instead has rows of plates. They are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and can grow up to 15 metres long. Although Bryde’s whales are the only large whales to spend their time entirely in tropical or sub-tropical waters, sightings of the animal are rare in Hong Kong.

Speaking to RTHK, Lumsen says: “We’re out all the time in that area on the water. And we’ve never seen anything remotely like it. It was just magnificent.”

She said the whale kept its distance from the nearby speedboats but was curious and gentle.

“[It] would come up and then we wait and then [it’d] just come up again a little bit further away or a little bit closer. But then eventually it looked like [it] was going out into deeper water,” Lumsden said.

Also speaking to RTHK, Taison Chang, the chair of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, explained that the whale was ‘trap’ eating.

“It is a very typical foraging behaviour of what we can see in Baleen whales… they usually feed by opening wide their mouths and then try to take in a large amount of water and try to filter out the small animals like fishes or shrimps or krill inside the water,” Chang said.

The public is being encouraged not to approach the whale if it is sighted to avoid stressing the animal or causing it to accidentally beach. 

“But if you are already on the boat and you spot the whale, you can just simply keep your distance from the whale,” said Chang. “Try to give the animal some space. And that may allow the animal to try to look for its way out to go out to open water again.”

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