The appeal of being able to go whale watching is not something everyone understands, that is, until one is actually seeing a whale in its natural habitat. That first experience has the tremendous effect of turning 9 out of 10 first-timers into “whale junkies.” Did you know that there are about 13 million people who go around the world to go on organized whale watching tours? Whale watching trips isn’t just seeing these magnificent animals from a distance but being amazing at how trusting they are that they are sometimes willing to come up close to boats and not endanger the people in the boat.
In South Africa, there are dozens of stories about young children growing up seeing whales up close and even climbing on the back of some of the whales. With the construction of harbors and other infrastructure, these kinds of experiences don’t occur as often especially close to land.
The country offers a variety of choice spots for whale watching although most South Africans would automatically refer Cape Town and False Bay as a great spot to see whales from land. The best time to try whale watching is from August to October. Cape Town prides itself in being home to the Southern Right whales which prefer the warm waters and can sometimes swim close to land.
To really get up close, drive on Boyes Drive which is also in Cape Town. The road snakes through the side of the mountain between Kalk Bay and Muizenberg and overlooks the popular False Bay. There are look-out points throughout the stretch of Boyes Drive which are perfect for watching whales. If whales get close enough, you might even get to enjoy a fun drenching from their blows.
Other points for whale watching in South Africa are Cape Point cliff, the route between Boulders and Smitswinkelbaai, Slangkop Lighthouse, Chapman’s peak, the coastal road between Simon’s Town and Fish Hoek, and Hout Bay.
There is a Whale Watch Hotline which is open to anyone 24/7. This Whale Watch Hotline (021-7879140) is used by the Cape Town Tourism Muizenberg branch to inform callers on whale sightings and whales who may be in trouble.
Boat-Based Whale Watching
Aside from a land-based whale watching experience, there are a number of businesses that offer boat-based whale watching trips. Some start off from Hout Bay or Simon’s Town and the trip can last from half a day to one whole day. From Simon’s Town, you also have the option of a sea kayaking trip or finding a helicopter service in Cape Town which offer whale watching from above.
Whale Watching Season
Generally the whale watching season starts in June and end in November. Whales come to South Africa to mate and to calve. They also enjoy playing in the water which is why many times, whale watching end up photographing the whales’ tails more than anything else.
With over 35 species of whales and dolphins in South African waters, going out to the cliffs or on boats will always be a joy and thrill. Some of these whale species are the humpback, southern right, grey whale, bowhead whale, narwal, Minke whale, blue whale, sperm whale, Orca, and short-finned pilot whale.