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Posted on: Friday, 2 October 2009
Spring is Sprung

The Whales are in the Bay – Watch them in Cape Town this Weekend

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Bryde's whale

Bryde’s whale

It’s a good weekend, particularly this Saturday (provided the wind holds off), to get out to find the whales who are definitely in False Bay, this weekend. And don’t assume that you need to go all the way to Hermanus to do so, although, admittedly in Hermanus one gets a good deal closer to these gentle beasts, but the price you pay is having to battle the crowds in order to do so – even if it is the best land-based whale watching site around.

The WWF and Greenpeace regard whale watching in Cape Town as one of the top 3 places in the world to get ‘up and personal’ with whales. There are three types of whales usually sighted in False Bay – Southern Right, Humpbacks and Bryde’s. These sea animals that are generally the cumulative size of around 10 African elephants can be pretty elusive and September has had very few days that are conducive to sighting them, because of the wind …

Southern Right Whale

Southern Right Whale

We were up on Boyes Drive last weekend – a couple of days plagued by the typical wet weather cold fronts that can drive through Cape Town during September. But we still managed to spot a Southern Right above Muizenberg. More interestingly, we stopped and chatted to the ‘shark spotter’ based up at what looks like a bus stop just east of Muizenberg.

She immediately pointed out the whale to us. Despite the poor visibility, surfers were out en masse in the rolling waters below us, and the whale remained pretty much submerged, completely ignorning a cloud of sea birds that had ventured out to where it lay, chasing after a school of fish perhaps? The shark spotter explained that during the windy weather, for some reason, the whales seldom breach or do anything much that draws attention to them. It’s the calmer waters you’re after if you want to watch a whale in action.

Southern Right breaching off False Bay

Southern Right breaching off False Bay

And how does she spot the sharks all the way from up here. Well, our shark spotter had a super deluxe version of binoculars, but she was also armed with a pair of polarised sunglasses that cut out the glare to such a degree that you could have sworn the glasses were prescription, it was so much easier to see what was in the water below us. Had she seen any great whites lately? Yes, she does spot them and then lets the beach below us know, but her role isn’t just protecting the surfers, she’s also here to protect the rep of these huge sharks – the less often they are involved in attacks, the more people will cease regarding them as a huge danger.

Fish Hoek, Kalk Bay and Glencairn all lay claim to good whale sighting opportunities. A couple of years ago a whale and her calf were in Fish Hoek bay on a particularly calm day, and we were lucky enough to be able to watch her rollicking with her offspring. Even a couple of kayakers were allowed a little closer than the usual 300 metres that the whales generally choose as their limit, with regards to how close they allow us humans.

Whale in Cape Town

Whale in Cape Town

In Kalk Bay you can hire an inflatable boat to get out close to the whales, although you are instructed to maintain the legal 300 metre distance. At Fish Hoek, Jager’s Walk is great for whale viewing, particularly if they’re in close to the boulders. Otherwise, leave your car at Clovelly and head off along the road to Kalk Bay – the beach road often reveals the odd lucky sighting.

The coastal road between Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town too has some beautiful spots, and there are gorgeous vantage points along the road between Boulders and Smitswinkelbaai. On the Atlantic side of things you’ll sometimes get lucky between Llandudno and Bakoven, although generally speaking whales prefer the warmer waters of False Bay.

You can also find whale watching boat trips from Simon’s Town, Hout Bay and the Waterfront. Better still, there are commercial sea kayaking trips from Simon’s Town!

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Wanda Coustas

About 

Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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