Whale Watching

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…

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Whale Watching South Africa
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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

Whale Watching South Africa Operators

Dyer Island Cruises - Overberg

Operating around the world famous Dyer Island, Gansbaai, enjoy an incredible experience viewing our Southern Right whales. Every year from June to December they arrive to mate and calve. Witness mating displays, breaching, tail slapping, spy-hopping, etc. You may also see Bryde’s and Humpback whales, the elusive Humpback dolphin, common dolphins, Great White sharks, an array of seabirds and a...

Ivanhoe Sea Safaris - Whale Watching - Overberg

Ivanhoe Sea Safaris launch from the charming fishing village of Gansbaai, only a 2 hour drive from Cape Town via Hermanus. Climb aboard our pride and joy, the ‘Ivanhoe’, and let us take you on a whale watching safari you will never forget! We specialise in boat based whale watching trips on beautiful Walker Bay offering a uniquely personalised, stylish and safe service to a maximum of 25 a...

Ocean Blue Adventures - Garden Route

Offering up-close and personal, awe-inspiring encounters with the fascinating, majestic whales in the bay. Interact and have fun with our amazing dolphin and whale species while learning all about their phenomenal abilities and lifestyles. Take the opportunity to experience the many other wonders of the bay: pelagic birds, seals, sharks, history, geology and lots more. A two hour sea kayaking by...

Ocean Odyssey - Knysna Boat Trips - Garden Route

Observing whales in their natural environment leaves an indelible, feel-good mark on the soul, and Knysna is one of the best places to do this. Ocean Odyssey, Knysna’s only official close encounter whale watching permit holder, is passionate about showcasing and creating awareness about these gentle giants of the deep. Knysna is blessed with prolific wonders of nature and boasts an estuary an...

Offshore Africa Port St John's - Eastern Cape & Wild Coast

Based in Port St John's, Offshore Africa is the only operator of its’ kind along the Wild Coast. The business is owner run & managed by Rob Nettleton & Debbie Smith, whose experience spans in excess of 30 years in the diving/ocean & boating industry. A variety of excursions are offered throughout the year and topping bucket lists should be an ocean experience trip. Rugged and remote, the...

Raggy Charters - Eastern Cape & Wild Coast

The Penguin Patrol experience is an exciting and educational day out in Port Elizabeth learning all about the incredible marine life we have in the bay, focusing on our favourite and endangered bird.. the African penguin. The penguins in our bay lost 70% of their population in 7 years, due to overfishing of sardines and anchovies, but hopefully we are not too late to reverse this trend with the...

Romonza Boat Trips - Garden Route

Seal Island trips: From 10 am to 5 pm, every hour on the hour, all year round, we cruise to Seal Island for a closer look at more than 3 000 fascinating Cape fur seals. Sunset Cruise: A relaxed and romantic 1½-hour cruise around Seal Island and scenic Mossel Bay (cash bar onboard). Whale watching: (June to Oct) Romonza is the only permit holder offering boat-based whale watching in Mossel We...

Southern Right Charters - Whale Watching - Overberg

Join Southern Right Charters for close encounters with the ‘gentle giants’ of the ocean and other marine life. Southern Right Charters departs daily from the New Harbour in Hermanus, the capital of the Whale Coast. Our memorable whale watching trips are informative and educational. From June to December we mostly encounter Southern Right whales, seals, penguins and marine birds. We often a...

St Lucia Tours and Charters - Richards Bay - KwaZulu-Natal North Coast

Whale Watching Trips in Richards Bay with St Lucia Tours and Charters. Departing from the Meerensee Skiboat Club, (which has a club house, picnic spot, public ablutions plus showers, safe parking in an enclosed area, restaurant and swimming pool on the premises) daily (weather permitting) from walk-on jetty. If you go on an ocean-going trip, it is always a good idea to dress accordingly, roll -...

St Lucia Tours and Charters - Whale Watching - KwaZulu-Natal North Coast

ADVANTAGE CRUISER - legal boat based whale watching permit holder since 1998 - concession holder in the ST LUCIA section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and also now Durban harbor. Boat based whale watching (as close as 50 m's) to view the mighty Humpback whales which migrate past this coastline from end May untill beginning of December annually. Our ocean cruise is 2 hours long, we need 3 of...