South Africa has some of the best land-based whale watching in the world. There are not many places on the planet you can sit in a restaurant, enjoying dinner, while a whale breaches in front of you! During peak season, September and October, you are almost guaranteed to spot them. The whales will come right up to the shore and put on a performance for those lucky enough to be there. They will exhibit all the classic whale behaviours including blowing water out of their airholes, breaching and lobtailing. Lobtailing is when a whale lifts its tail out of the water and brings it down hard onto the water to make a loud slap. Breaching is when the whale brings all or most of its body out of the water, it is a spectacular sight!
Whale Watching in South Africa
The best places to go whale watching
You have a good chance of seeing a whale all the way up the coast of South Africa but the whales tend to congregate around the Western Cape.
Simons Town/Kalk Bay – Simons Town and Kalk Bay are lovely coastal suburbs of Cape Town. The suburbs sit on the edge of False Bay, this sheltered area is a favourite with the whales. You can spend some time relaxing in one of the many cafes or restaurants on the edge of the water or get up high onto Boyes Drive for views over the water.
Hermanus – Hermanus is a small coastal town that is about 90 minutes by car along the coast from Cape Town. This area is spectacular for whale watching as the water is very deep close to the shore, the whales can swim right up to the cliffs. Hermanus has an 11km coastal walk along the cliff line, as well as being beautiful, it’s a great walk to whale watch. The town has an annual Whale Festival every September to celebrate the whales migrating to the area.
Some restaurants are built right on the sea and we highly recommend lunch there during the whale season. You have an excellent chance of watching whales breach while you eat. Our favourite spots are:
Harbour House – Kalk Bay
The Harbour House is located right on the water’s edge with elevated views out over the sea and the working Kalk Bay harbour. It is a fine dining establishment with a relaxed atmosphere specializing in seafood. Underneath the Harbour House is Live Bait which is a more informal restaurant that also has fantastic views over the ocean. Live Bait specializes in simple seafood and great sushi.
Bientang’s Cave – Hermanus
The restaurant has a pretty unique setting, it is built into the cliffs and caves next to the sea. The outside terrace spills out onto the rocks and a large wave can result in wet feet! You are right next to the sea with panoramic views out over Walker Bay, the perfect location for whale spotting. It is a great place for a sundowner drink or to spend an afternoon with your family with its friendly, low key atmosphere.
If you prefer to get out onto the water, there are some fantastic whale watching boat trips. Tours are led by a whale expert and generally last about 2 hours. You will head out in search of whales and learn about their behaviours. Southern Right Whales are naturally very inquisitive creatures and often come right up to the boat. When you are out on the boat your guide will also point out the other marine life in the area which includes dolphins, penguins and seals.
The different species of whales you can see in South Africa are:
Southern Right Whales are the most common whales in South Africa. They migrate from the South Pole to the sea around the Western Cape to have their babies. They are in the area from June to November.
Humpback Whales migrate from the South Pole to Mozambique and Madagascar where they give birth. They are generally off the coast of South Africa between May and November.
Bryde Whales are off the coast of South Africa all year but are hard to see as they have a shy nature and dive underwater for long periods.
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