Eye-to-eye with the ocean’s gentle giants
Whale-watching on the Hermanus coast.
© South African Tourism
Whether you visit South Africa’s whale-watching capital Hermanus or choose a scenic spot along the Garden Route or Wild Coast, seeing these marine giants in their natural environment wither from land or a boat is an experience that you won’t want to miss.
Did you know?
Southern Right Whales got their name because, being slow and with carcasses that float, they were once considered the 'right' whale to hunt.
From June until November, Southern Right Whales are highly visible along the Cape south coast, making this the perfect time of year for a whale-watching trip.
You don’t even have to go out on a boat to see them because Hermanus, overlooking Walker Bay, is considered to be the best land-based whale-watching spot in the world. Southern Rights often come in close to the shoreline, sometimes appearing only metres from the shore. Hermanus' cliffs offer an incomparable viewing-point.
Although the Southern Rights’ spectacular displays of raw power and elegant water acrobatics usually steal the whale-watching show, there is also a good chance of seeing humpback, minke, Bryde's and even killer whales. A qualified guide will be able to help you spot the difference.
Clear, windless conditions are the best for spotting whales. You should look out for the whale's blow, as it's usually the first sign of its presence. Other good places to see the giants of the ocean from the shore are at Plettenberg Bay, Algoa Bay and along the Wild Coast.
You can also go out by boat to view whales further out to sea. Whale tour boats are officially licensed to conduct close encounters and may legally approach whales to within a specified distance. It is then up to the whale’s natural curiosity to bring it closer.
Although Hermanus is perhaps the most famous whale-watching destination, there are excellent whale-watching tours leaving from False Bay near Cape Town, Gansbaai, Mossel Bay, Strandfontein on the West Coast, as well as Lambert's Bay, Elands Bay, St Helena and Saldanha.
Great sightings can also be enjoyed around the Cape Peninsula and along the south coast to Cape Agulhas. This southernmost tip of Africa is a particularly rewarding spot for seeing Southern right cows and calves at play – up to 50 pairs at a time.
Certain areas, like the secluded bays off De Hoop Nature Reserve, are well known as 'whale nurseries'.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
From Cape Town to Hermanus take the N2 towards George. Turn left onto the R43 towards Hermanus.
Around the area
The Southern coast of South Africa is incredibly scenic. Combine your whale-watching with visits to the penguins in Simon’s Town, ostriches in Oudtshoorn and the pachyderms of Addo Elephant National Park.
What will it cost
Whale-watching from the shore is free! Contact a local operator for current prices of whale-watching tours.
What to pack
For shore-based viewing, take along a pair of binoculars, a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
Where to stay
Hermanus has many accommodation options, ranging from affordable campsites, hostels and B&Bs to luxury hotels.
Look out for the annual Hermanus Whale Festival around the end of September.