One of the big attractions of a visit to the Cape Provinces of South Africa is the opportunity to go whale-watching. During the winter months of June to November the whales come up from the freezing waters around Antarctica to give birth to and rear their young calves in the sheltered bays along the coastline. Our video was taken on one boat trip, and gives a flavour of what you can expect.
The most populous type of whale you see in the Southern Right, but there are also plenty of Humpback whales as well. They spend their days playing in the water, jumping, showing their tails and playing with the calves. There are also large pods of dolphin to be seen, although these are around year round.
It’s possible to watch the whales from the shore, the small town of Hermanus on Walkers Bay. Just a few hours from Cape Town, is a famous viewing place which even employs its own town crier during the season to announce the sighting of a whale breaking the surface. The best way to see them however is by going a float, when you can get up close to these incredible animals.
One famous location this can be done from is Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape, a few hours from Port Elizabeth. Here there are guided boat tours that take you out in search of the whales, with guides and spotters. You can also hire kayaks if you want a slower and more peaceful experience or even a small plane if you wish to travel further out.
Many of the boats are big and fast, carrying up to 30 visitors. They head off down the coastline, a beautiful sight of large breakers crashing onto the pristine, forest-fringed beach. When a whale or dolphin is spotted the boat closes to a safe distance and cuts its engines, letting you enjoy the spectacle in the peace. Some of the boats have a small viewing platform you can climb when the boat is stationary to get a great view down onto the whales themselves. Beware, it does swing back and forward in the swell and can lead to sea-sickness!
While you are not guaranteed to see whales or dolphins, most trips return with satisfied customers. As well as the whale watching, the sight of several hundred dolphins swimming with your boat is an amazing sight and if you are exceptionally lucky you might even see one of the rarer killer whales.
Whether you just sit in a Cafe in Hermanus staring out over the Ocean, or enjoy a boat trip out from Plettenberg Bay, a sighting of these incredible creatures in the wild is a highlight of many people's holidays to South Africa.