The Western Cape of South Africa is a great destination for watching whales, whether from land or from boats, with spectacular annual visits from southern right and humpback whales.
Each year Southern Right Whales migrate from Antarctica to calve in the sheltered bays of the coast of southern Africa. From June to October and sometimes even until December, the coast from Doringbaai on the West Coast to Storms River Mouth in the Tsitsikamma National Park offers one of the world’s most spectacular vantage points for whale-watching. Whales breach, lobtail and engage in courtship rituals – often as close as 50 metres from the shore.
Humpback Whales migrate through the region between May and December each year en-route to their feeding and breeding grounds off Mozambique and Angola.
Brydes Whales are found slightly further offshore in False Bay (Cape Town) all year round.
Boat-based Whale Watching
Boat-based whale watching is legal in South Africa, but only for the few operators that have been issued boat based whale watching permits. It is illegal to approach within 300 m of whales without a permit.
Groups of passengers are taken out to the whales in a ski-boat for 1-2 hours keeping 50 meters away but avoiding cows with calves. Some whales are inquisitive and may surface 3-4 meters of the boat, providing an unforgettable close-up encounter.
While on these trips huge schools of dolphins, seals as well as many types of sea birds are often encountered.
Land Based Whale Watching
Hermanus in Walker Bay offers the best whale viewing from land in the world. A cliff path stretching from one side of the town to the other, gives whale watchers unlimited opportunities to study whales in the coves below or lolling just beyond the breakers.
From the path or from rocky outcrops just off the path, whale watchers can get within 20m of whales cruising in the coves. Benches all along the cliff path provide comfortable resting and watching spots.
Land based whale watching is, however, not restricted to Hermanus and can be enjoyed along the Cape Coast from Lamberts Bay on the Cape West Coast, down to Elandsbaai and Saldanha Bay, down to Yzerfontein and Cape Town, around the Peninsula and into False Bay, where whales frolick in the protected waters. In Cape Town, you can see them from the road along the False Bay coast, and they’re distinctly visible on the western seaboard if you get high enough.
Cape Whale Route
There are many beautiful areas along the Western Cape Coast from which to watch the whales, each with wonderful accommodation and other facilities.
Follow the Cape Whale Route for a remarkable experience. Informative whale interpretation boards situated at beautiful view points makes it the ideal route to view these giant mammals of the ocean.