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TThe bottlenose, Haviside’s and humpback dolphin can all be found in the waters around South Africa – they can often be spotted from the shore at our many coastal towns. Even better is to engage with them in their natural habitat – consider taking a dolphin tour on a boat or kayak the next time you’re at the coast.
During the annual Sardine Run, a large-scale northerly migration of the silvery fish that occurs every winter, dolphins abound. In May, June or July, when the sardines shoal en masse and move close inshore, you can see massive pods of dolphins riding the waves like surfers as they shadow the migration.
Plettenberg Bay, along the Garden Route, is a popular dolphin-watching destination; there are numerous places where travellers can watch and photograph bottlenose dolphins from the shore.
When you take a boat ride with Ocean Safaris, a company dedicated to the observation and preservation of dolphins, you’ll not only have a thrilling marine encounter, but you’ll also be contributing to the ongoing research and information-sharing of South Africa’s only accredited dolphin-research institute.
Dolphin Adventures offers sea kayaking, allowing explorers to get much closer to these beautiful animals. Dolphins, being highly inquisitive creatures, often splash around near the boats and might even perform a few tricks to show off.
Travellers passing through Cape Town can watch dolphins from the shore in places like Simon’s Town and along the False Bay coast.
Along the West Coast – the region running north up the Atlantic shore of Western and Northern Cape provinces from the Cape Peninsula – the smaller Haviside’s dolphin (often called Heaviside’s, but in fact named after a ‘Captain Haviside’) is more prevalent.
Lamberts Bay, in the Sandveld area just 3 hours’ drive north of Cape Town, is a good spot to find a boat tour on which you are almost guaranteed to find a pod of these dolphins.
Please note, however, that swimming with dolphins in South African waters is strictly illegal in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act. Scientific studies suggest that the feeding and nursery habits of dolphins are disturbed when people swim with them – so please do not have any dealings with tour operators who offer this illegal activity.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)82 784 5729
Tel: +27 (0)83 590 3405
Best time to visit
The most assured time to see dolphins is during the Sardine Run off the coast of Eastern Cape or KwaZulu-Natal, which takes place sometime between late May and early August every year. But you will more than likely spot dolphins at other times of the year too – there are plenty of them in these waters.
Hiring your own vehicle is the most convenient option.
What to pack
Bring your binoculars and camera – and don’t forget sunscreen and a hat.