The whales are in the bay!
For those of you who haven’t already stopped your cars on one of the numerous cliff-top routes between Cape Town and Witsand in a bid to sight them. The annual migration to our ‘warmer’ waters to mate and calve of the southern right whale, between August and November, is a phenomenon for which thousands of people head to our shores, for both land-based and boat-based whale watching.
But where can you be almost guaranteed a sighting?
Here are our 5 best whale watching spots along the Cape Coast …
CAPE TOWN’S PENINSULA
Head up Boyes Drive, drive along the coastal road between Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town, or along Chapman’s Peak (when it’s open again) and somewhere along the route people will be standing in clumps, binoculars at the ready. Most of the time this indicates someone has spotted a whale and it would be worth a stop to find out.
Southern right whales are readily seen close to shore, whilst Brydes and humpbacks are also around at this time of year. Good spots include St James beach, Fish Hoek’s Jager’s Walk and Boyes Drive above Muizenberg beach. (For more info see Whale watching in the Cape Peninsula)
Hermanus is without doubt the best land-based whale watching in the Western Cape. They also celebrate a whale festival between 20 – 24 September, but they welcome the whales into Walker bay as early as August.
However, because Hermanus has done such a fine marketing job about their vantage point above the whales, expect a bit of shoulder jostling and parking freneticism – worth it for the whale sightings but best if you can avoid weekends and the September school holidays. The seaside town is also easily accessible for a day visit from Cape Town – only 120km away. (For more info see Whale watching in Walker Bay)
GANSBAAI AND DE KELDERS
They offer boat-based whale watching trips whilst the next door village of De Kelders, across the bay from Hermanus, has wonderful cliff-based whale watching from its scenic boulder strewn beach. And it makes no bones about giving Hermanus a run for its money as far as getting up close and personal with whales goes. (See more info at Whale watching in Cape Whale Coast)
Witsand and De Hoop are regarded as the ‘whale nursery” of the Western Cape because of the record number of whales sighted here every year (locals mention how just born whale calves are tossed into the air by ‘midwife’ whales to trigger first breaths). Witsand’s custodian devotion to the whales who calve in their bay has made this little seaside village, some hours from Cape Town, one of the best spots for a long weekend at this time of year.
The peaceful little village supplies a whalewatching platform on the roof of a local restaurant for the very purpose of sighting whales. Just around the promontory of the bay, De Hoop Nature Reserve benefits from the increased number of whales who head to St Sebastian Bay. Koppie Alleen and Klipkoppie offer unbeatable shore-based whale watching with the added bonus of peace and quiet, almost virgin beaches, and parts of the Whale Trail. (See more info at Whale watching in St Sebastian Bay).
PLETT’S ROBBERG PENINSULA
By all accounts, Plettenberg Bay offers some of the best boat-based whale watching, but the rocky Robberg Peninsula, regarded as something of an icon by locals, offers heights from its rugged cliffs from which to spot whales, seals and dolphins. Other land-based whale watching spots include Keurbooms Beach, Lookout Beach or Central beach as well as Nature’s Valley and Kranshoek. (For more info see Whale watching in the Garden Route)