Eye-to-eye with the ocean’s gentle giants
South Africa prides itself on the best land-based whale-watching in the world.
Watching whales in their natural environment is an overwhelming experience of nature at its most glorious. Make a memory to last a lifetime on your trip to South Africa.
Whether you visit South Africa’s whale-watching capital Hermanus or choose a scenic spot along the Garden Route or Wild Coast, seeing these marine giants in their natural environment is an experience that you won’t want to miss.
From June until November, Southern Right Whales are highly visible along the Cape south coast, making this the perfect time of year for a whale-watching trip.
You don’t even have to go out on a boat to see them because Hermanus, overlooking Walker Bay, is considered to be the best land-based whale-watching spot in the world. Southern Rights often come in close to the shoreline, sometimes appearing just a few metres from the shore.
Although the Southern Rights’ spectacular displays of raw power and elegant water acrobatics usually steal the whale-watching show, there is also a good chance of seeing humpback, minke, Bryde's and even killer whales. A qualified guide will be able to help you spot the difference.
Clear, windless conditions are the best for spotting whales. You should look out for the whale's blow, as it's usually the first sign of its presence. Other good places to see the giants of the ocean from the shore are at Plettenberg Bay, Algoa Bay and along the Wild Coast.
You can also go out by boat to view whales further out to sea. Whale tour boats are officially licensed to conduct close encounters and may legally approach whales to within a specified distance. It is then up to the whale’s natural curiosity to bring it closer.
Although Hermanus is perhaps the most famous whale-watching destination, there are excellent whale-watching tours leaving from Strandfontein, on the West Coast, as well as Lambert's Bay, Elands Bay, St Helena, Saldanha and Ysterfontein.
Great sightings can also be enjoyed around the Cape Peninsula and along the south coast to Cape Agulhas. This southernmost tip of Africa is a particularly rewarding spot for seeing Southern right cows and calves at play – up to 50 pairs at a time.
From Cape Town to Hermanus take the N2 towards George. Turn left onto the R43 towards Hermanus.
Southern right whales are present off South Africa’s coast from June until November. The best time to go whale watching is from July until October.
Whale-watching from the shore is free! Contact a local operator for current prices of whale-watching tours.
For shore-based viewing, take along a pair of binoculars, a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
Hermanus has many accommodation options, ranging from affordable campsites, hostels and B&Bs to luxury hotels.
Look out for the annual Hermanus Whale Festival around the end of September.
The Southern coast of South Africa is incredibly scenic. Combine your whale-watching with visits to the penguins in Simon’s Town, ostriches in Oudtshoorn and the pachyderms of Addo Elephant National Park.
Whale-watching on the Hermanus coast.
Southern Right Whales got their name because, being slow and with carcasses that float, they were once considered the 'right' whale to hunt.
Whale-watching in South Africa
South Africa offers the best shore-based whale-watching in the world. There are a number of excellent whale-watching spots, especially in the town of Hermanus