South Africa is one of the top 10 locations worldwide for whale watching, with exceptional land and boat-based whale viewing from Cape Town and the Garden Route to the Wild Coast, Richards Bay and St Lucia.
Make your way to South Africa’s 2000km long Whale Coast for a privileged encounter with the largest mammals on Earth!
Whales have captured our imaginations for eons, featuring in literature, museum exhibits and on the Hollywood big screen. Despite their gargantuan dimensions and their marine existence, man has always felt an emotional connection to these gentle giants.
Of the 37 species of whales and dolphins observed in South African waters, the most commonly seen are the southern right, humpback and Bryde’s whales. Dolphin sightings include the Heaviside’s (Haviside’s), common, dusky, bottlenose and the orca, the largest member of the dolphin family, is also spotted. Keep an eye out for various sharks including the great white shark, Cape fur seals, African penguins, sunfish and pelagic birds.
Peak whale viewing season is June to December when the southern right’s arrive from Antarctica to mate, calve and nurse in relatively warm, sheltered waters. During this period, boat-based whale watching is in full swing and is an incredible experience!
The industry is tightly regulated with a limited number of permits issued across the country to ensure minimal impact on the whales. Boats operate under strict conditions governing approaching distances, viewing duration, and the number of times whales can be approached in any one day.
Browse Dirty Boots’ handy summary of our recommended and licensed boat-based whale viewing operators in South Africa:
Cape Town – Simon’s Town Boat Company explores the western half of False Bay, while Waterfront Adventures are based on the V&A Waterfront offering whale viewing trips around Robben Island and Robbesteen.
Overberg – Explore Walker Bay with 3 reputable operators. Southern Right Charters depart from Hermanus, the heart of the Cape Whale Coast. At Gansbaai, choose from Ivanhoe Sea Safaris on the upmarket ‘Ivanhoe’ custom designed whale watching vessel, and Dyer Island Cruises head out to Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, around 8km from Kleinbaai Harbour.
Garden Route – Romonza Boat Trips have been heading out from Mossel Bay Harbour for 25 years and can accommodate up to 50 passengers. Join Ocean Odyssey in Knysna and admire Knysna Estuary on the way to the Indian Ocean. In Plettenberg Bay, Ocean Safaris take up to 30 whale-watchers per trip and Ocean Blue Adventures kick off with an exciting beach launch before heading into the bay and around Robberg Peninsula.
Eastern Cape & Wild Coast – Raggy Charters in Port Elizabeth embarks in their 28ft catamaran, and join Offshore Africa in Port St. John’s to witness the humpback whale migration which synchronises with the sardine run.
Durban & KwaZulu-Natal North Coast – Experience humpback whale and dolphin encounters with St. Lucia Tours and Charters, operating from both Richards Bay and St. Lucia.
Here is our list of recommended whale watching companies in South Africa:
African Wings, Southern Right Charters and Dyer Island Cruises in the Overberg
Ocean Blue Adventures, Ocean Odyssey, Ocean Safaris and Romonza in the Garden Route
Offshore Africa Port St John’s and Raggy Charters in the Eastern Cape
Simon’s Town Boat Co and Waterfront Adventures in Cape Town
St Lucia Tours and Charters in KwaZulu-Natal