8 Wicked ways to whale watch in South Africa

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If there’s one thing that gets us excited about the approaching winter, it’s the whales that come with it! South Africa has some of the best whale watching in the world, attracting travellers from across the globe between June and November. If staring at a bunch of over-sized dory fish sounds boring to you, think again, because there are some wicked ways to watch whales in South Africa!


1. By sea kayak


The best way to appreciate the true size of a whale is by paddling out to sea a 2-person kayak. You may feel small in size, but it will only highlight the magnitude of the experience as the curious giants float up to greet you. WalkerBay Adventures are the only licensed sea kayaking operator in Hermanus and you don’t have to have any previous experience to do the expedition.

Marine Drive, Hermanus | +27 (0)82 739 0159 | wbadventures@hermanus.co.za


2. From the air

supplied by african wings (1)

African Wings takes whale watching to new heights! The Flight of Giants tour lets you see whale behaviour that is impossible to comprehend from the ground. Watch a baby cuddle on its mother’s stomach and see how tactile these mammoth creatures are as they touch cheeks and stroke each other with their fins. You are guaranteed sightings in season and will receive a full refund if whales aren’t found. Their record to date is 135 whales in a 30 minute flight in Walker Bay!

Weltevrede Airfield, Stanford | +27 (0)28 312 2701 | safari@africanwings.co.za


3. Underwater

Humpback whales

While it’s not a common practice and you’ll struggle to find any operators who offer whale dives, Humpback whales are known as being easily approachable and curious, so it’s not dangerous to dive with them. Some scuba diving spots with regular humpback whale sightings include Aliwal Shoal, Sodwana Bay, and various places around Cape Town.


4. On The Whale Trail


De Hoop Nature Reserve is perfectly situated at the meeting point of 3 different whale migration routes, with roughly 700 whales stopping by in season. The Whale Trail at De Hoop is one of the best hiking trails in South Africa, covering coastal and mountain terrain, and offering plenty of whale watching opportunities. The route is currently a 4-day trail, but will revert back to a 5-day trail once upgrades of the Noetsie cottage are complete. If hiking isn’t your thing, opt for a short Interpretive Marine Walk tour or spend the day on the dunes, secluded beach, and outlook rocks at Koppie Alleen for some of the world’s best land-based whale watching.

De Hoop Nature Reserve | +27 (0)86 133 4667 | info@dehoopcollection.co.za | Book a stay


5. By boat

Ocean Odyssey (supplied)  (3)

Boat trips are not only a great way of seeing whales, but also other marine life like dolphins, seals, and penguins. Here are a few great options for boat-based whale watching.

  • Ocean Odyssey, Knysna

Ocean Odyssey is a blue flag holder operating out of the magnificent Knysna estuary and Thesen Island harbour. As a whale watching operator, they are permitted as close as 50m from the whales, giving you a close encounter and photography opportunities. Ocean Odyssey has a very high whale-spotting success rate, much of it due to a spotter on the viewpoint who is able to sight all the mammals and communicate back to the skipper.

24B Saffron Lane, Thesen Island Harbour Town, Knysna | +27 (0)44 382 0321 | info@knysnaboattrips.co.za


  • Raggy Charters, Port Elizabeth

Raggy Charters was named the best marine adventure visitor experience in the 2014 Lilizela Tourism Awards. It is the only licensed boat-based whale watching permit holder in Port Elizabeth, allowing you to come as close as 50m from the whales.
3 Albatros Crescent, Port Elizabeth | +27 (0)73 152 2277 | info@raggycharters.co.za


  • Ivanhoe Sea Safaris, Gansbaai

Ivanhoe Sea Safaris is the first charter company to receive a whale watching permit. After extensive research along the Cape Whale Coast, they discovered that De Kelders is the second best whale watching destination after De Hoop Nature Reserve, and so they chose to operate here.
3 Harbour Way, Gansbaai | +27 (0)28 384 0556 | info@whaleviewing.co.za


6. At a festival


The Whale Festival puts “creatures of the deep on stage and under the spotlight” every October, drawing over 100,000 people to the shores of Hermanus. The festival is taking place from 2 – 4 October 2015, so save the date and book your weekend accommodation early to avoid missing out.

Corner Patterson and Main Roads, Hermanus | +27 (0)28 313 0928 |


7. As the Big 7

Ocean Odyssey (supplied)  (2)

South Africa’s Big 7 refers to the addition of southern right whales and great white sharks to the traditional Big 5 list of lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo. The only park in South Africa where you can see all 7 within its borders is the Addo Elephant National Park, but with some creative planning, you can tick the whales and sharks off any winter safari.


8. From a bathtub


There are many land-based whale watching spots in South Africa, from Kalk Bay to St Lucia. But why stand out in the cold when you can whale watch from a bathtub? We have an incredible amount of oceanside stays in South Africa for every whale watcher’s needs!

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