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Making a splash: Get ready for SA’s whale-watching season

South Africa’s waters come alive at this time of the year with all kinds of marine activity to watch – from magnificent southern right whales calving in the bays to great white sharks breaching as they feed.


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Renowned as one of the world’s best destinations for whale-watching, the warm Indian Ocean waters off the eastern shores of South Africa play host to large numbers of southern right and humpback whales that settle here after their annual migration to warmer waters to breed, as well as enormous pods of dolphins.

Beautifully warm spring days, calm seas, and no crowds make this the perfect time to head to these sunny shores.

Finding the whales

Small coastal towns all along the coastline are flooded each year with visitors arriving to see these magnificent mammals breaching in the indigo waters. Whales can be seen all along the southern coast, however, the best place to get up close and personal to these creatures is the small town of Hermanus in Walker Bay on the Cape south coast.

This otherwise quiet seaside town offers some of the best spots to sit and watch these majestic creatures as they frolic in the bay. Take a scenic stroll along the clifftops overlooking the ocean for a perfect view.

Hundreds of southern right whales leave their feeding grounds off Antarctica and make the arduous journey north to the warmer waters of the South Africa coast where they arrive in spectacular form to spend several months mating, calving, and rearing their young. 

The waters teem with these giant, majestic creatures who give whale-watchers spectacular displays of the magnificent power and graceful water acrobatics.

When to start looking

The best time to see them is from June until November, when the southern right whales are at their most active along the Cape south coast, making this the perfect time of year for a whale-watching trip.

While Hermanus is often described as the “whale-watching capital of the world”, there are many other fantastic places along the Cape coastline to see them. The wide, sheltered bays of the Western Cape coast are the southern right’s breeding ground, where they spend months nursing their new-born calves and taking time out to court and play. 

Generally, the whales tend to head to the warmer waters of the east coast, however, excellent sightings of southern rights can be enjoyed all the way up the West Coast from Strandfontein to Yzterfontein.

Also read: Waiting for a special whale named Thembe