Have a Whale of a Time in South Africa
South Africa has long been considered one of the best countries in the world for whale watching. In fact, the destination is one of just a handful of countries where you can actually see whales from dry land; although more conventionally, visitors take boat or helicopter trips out to the sea in order to spot these incredible creatures. The waters of South Africa are home to more than 37 different types of whales; the three most popular being the southern right, the humpback and the Brydes.
If South Africa is the whale-watching capital of the world, then Hermanus is definitely its epicentre. Tourists flock from all over the world to visit the home of the southern right whale, so named because it was long ago considered the right whale to catch. Nowadays the southern right whale is a protected species and whether it’s their well-documented curiosity or the shallow waters of Hermanus, they can often be seen within a few metres of the shore-line. The annual Hermanus Whale Festival takes place in September and this is also breeding season for the whales. The festival lasts nine days in total and consists of music, food and partying.
The humpback whale is probably the most awe-inspiring of all the whales and if you travel to the Plettenberg Bay area during November then you have a very good chance of spotting one. South Africa’s most common whales, the southern right stay in Plettenberg Bay from September to early November, and as they leave the humpback whales start to arrive with their calves, staying in the area until January. At Plettenberg Bay there is a wide selection of whale-watching trips available and you can choose to take a boat trip out to sea or a helicopter ride over the Indian Ocean to view these wonderful creatures. If dolphins are more your thing, then you’ll be pleased to hear that a number of operators in this part of South Africa also run dolphin kayaking adventures and dolphin spotting tours.
If you don’t plan on straying far from South Africa’s capital, then rest assured that Cape Town also has numerous sites where you can view whales. In the warmer waters of False Bay whales are more prevalent and when walking on the cliff-tops you can often spot them in the waters below. Another popular area for whale watching in Cape Town is Kalk Bay, where you can hire a boat and attempt to spot whales on your own. However, it’s worth noting that without a permit you are not allowed any closer to a whale than 300 metres.
If it’s a variety of different whales that you’re looking to spot, then Kwa-Zulu Natal is your best whale-watching bet. The area on the Eastern Cape still has South Africa’s most popular whales like the humpback and southern right, but on this stretch of the coast you can also spot sperm and minke whales. Kwa-Zulu Natal is also a popular area for game fishing and in the area of Protea Banks you can watch Zambezi sharks feeding at the reefs.