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IITV’s ‘South Africa with Gregg Wallace’ episode 4, which aired on Tuesday, 26th January 2021, Gregg sets off to explore the Whale Coast Route; a 300-Kilometre scenic coastal driving route that snakes from Cape Town to Gansbaai, a town locally known as ‘Shark Town’. He’s lucky enough to get up close and personal with some of South Africa’s diverse marine life, as well as get a taste of some classic seaside cuisine. Catch up on the ITV Hub here.
“The Whale Coast is the only place in the world where you can see the Marine Big 5; Whales, Dolphins, Sharks, Cape Fur Seals and African penguins!”
IIn this episode, Gregg gets to come face to face with some of these amazing creatures, but before he swaps his shorts and t-shirt for a wetsuit, he has the chance to stop off at some beautiful spots along the coast. First is the popular Muizenberg beach, famous for its colourful beach huts, perfect surfing conditions and spacious, sandy shoreline, watched over from high by the famous shark spotters.
Feeling hungry, he's off to Kalk Bay, a working fishing harbour home to the most famous fish and chip shop in South Africa – Kalkys. Of course, Gregg can’t wait to savour the local speciality, Snoek and Chips, before continuing past the breath-taking sandy beaches and towering cliffs of Clarence Drive.
UUpon arrival, Gregg heads straight to African Penguin and Sea Bird Sanctuary which is based near Dyer Island, home to over 29 bird species including one of the largest colonies of the endangered African Penguin in the Western Cape, and is devoted to nursing injured and sick seabirds back to health before releasing them back into the wild. Gregg gets stuck in helping give the excited penguins their lunch and learns from Xolani, the keeper who spends his days caring for the sick birds.
For Gregg and some rehabilitated penguins, it was time to head out to sea from Gansbaai with marine biologist and Meet Your South Africa guide Alison Towner, with the first stop close to Dyer Island to release the adorable penguins back to their colony. They continue to sail through ‘Shark Alley’, a narrow channel between the penguin home of Dyer Island and a six-thousand strong colony of Cape Fur Seals, and one of the best areas in South Africa for shark cage diving.
AAlison is not only a shark expert, but also a passionate about helping people understand these fascinating creatures and changing their perception of sharks by educating them through shark cage diving. With a little persuasion, Gregg agrees to get into the cage so he can witness the sharks up close in their own element. He’s lucky enough to be surrounded by over 20 Copper sharks and is amazed by the beauty and power of these impressive fish. Alison explains that sharks kill very few people, but a hundred million sharks are killed every year by humans. Gregg returns to the boat having a new perspective on sharks; something that happens to many who partake in this incredible experience. Learn more here.
AAlison also "challenge anyone to find another place on earth that offers such diversity so close to shore" as Gansbaai. South Africa’s coastlines are met with the chilly Atlantic and warm Indian Oceans, making the surrounding waters of this country a perfect place for spotting an array of diverse marine life. Learn more here.
Want to know the best time for whale watching, or the best place to admire dolphins? Then keep reading below!
Your guide for the marine life seasons and spots:
Generally, the Western Cape offers some of the best locations for viewing the diverse marine life that bless the surrounding oceans each year, mainly due to the currents of the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean meeting. But, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal also offer fantastic opportunities to spot dolphins and whales of different species at different times of the year.
- Southern Right whales can be spotted between June to November when they arrive along the coastlines to calve. The peak time for viewing is during September and October.
- Humpback whales arrive with their calves early November to end of February, returning during May and June.
- Bryde’s whales can be seen all year-round.
TThe whale-watching capital of South Africa is the seaside town of Hermanus in the Western Cape. Due to its coastal clifftop location, it offers impeccable land-based viewing and during whale season, is complete with a local whale crier – a man who sounds his horn to alert tourists of a whale sighting so it can be enjoyed by all. There is also a whale festival which takes place in the month of September. Lear more here.
The waters surrounding Cape Town are packed with whale activity during the peak months. You can enjoy water-based viewing on a popular whale watching boat tour or opt for land-based viewing from the high vantage points surrounding the city such as Cape Point, Boyes Drive and Clarence Drive. Learn more here.
The Garden Route generally, from Stilbaai through Mossel Bay and on to George, Wilderness, Knysna and Tsitsikamma, is a magnificent stretch of coastline hosting southern rights, humpbacks and bryde’s whales all year round. You can also enjoy chartered whale watching tours from the city of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, as well as Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.
There are three types of dolphin that can be admired frolicking in the bay’s and open ocean. Dolphins can be easily spotted all year-round from the waters of Cape Town, along the Garden Route and all the way up to the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Enormous pods can often be seen, with popular viewing spots including Cape Town, Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth, Jeffrey’s Bay, Durban and St Lucia.
- Bottlenose dolphins.
- Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins.
- Long-beaked common dolphins.
African penguins can be admired from land and sea year-round and are permanent residents of South Africa.
TThe best place to view the adorable African Penguin is at the sheltered bay of Boulder’s Beach, located just an hour’s drive from the centre of Cape Town. This beach is home to around 3,000 birds and they can be easily viewed by various raised walkways around the beach. The penguins can also be viewed further down the coast at Betty's Bay, which tends to be less visited or by chartered boat tour to Dyer Island located close to Gansbaai in the Western Cape, as well as Algoa Bay, close to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.
Like penguins, fur seals can be spotted all year-round in South Africa. Much like dolphins, you can find Cape Fur seals along the coastline from the Namaqua National Park in the Northern Cape all the way to Algoa Bay in the Eastern Cape. There are 25 colonies dotted along the western and southern coasts of South Africa, 19 of which are on islands and six on mainland. Due to the large colony located on Seal Island just north of False Bay in Cape Town, you can often admire these animals sunbathing and frolicking in the V&A Waterfront harbour in Cape Town. Other popular locations for observing seals include the shores of Robberg Nature Reserve in Plettenberg Bay and by boat to the offshore islands close to Hout Bay and Kleinbaai.
IIf you’d prefer to get up close and personal with the playful seals in their own habitat, we recommend a stop in Plettenberg Bay, where you can snorkel with these ‘dogs of the sea’ and witness their highly amusing and inquisitive personalities up close. https://offshoreadventures.co.za/
The best place in South Africa to experience the likes of the great white shark and Bronze whaler shark up close is in the seaside town of Ganbaai, aka "Shark Town". Different species can also be viewed in the tropical waters outside of Durban such as Blacktip, Dusky and Tiger sharks to name a few.
Sharks are migratory animals and are very much unpredictable like the weather. South African waters have up to 117 different species visiting them each year, which makes every day different and amazing shark sightings are possible throughout the year, but one must bear in mind they are wild, precarious fish and no two days are the same. In terms of physically viewing sharks, visibility in the water is at its best between June to September.
SSardine Run - Unmissable event
Each year, around the month of June, one of the largest migrations and most breath-taking marvels in the animal kingdom takes place off the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Millions of sardines travel north through the warm Indian Ocean and following close by is an assortment of fantastic marine life including dolphins, sharks, seals, game fish and occasionally whales and orcas. The feeding frenzy can be witnessed by diving straight into the action - a once-in-a-lifetime, exhilarating experience that will stay with you forever. Read more here.
Are you interested in supporting the conservation of the diverse marine life of South Africa? We’ve included some links for volunteering opportunities below:
Need some inspiration on how to package your South Africa holiday? Here is our suggested itinerary:
TTune in to episode five (2nd Feb) of ITV’s South Africa with Gregg Wallace to grab a lift by tuk tuk and be transported the colourful and energetic township of Soweto, just outside of Johannesburg.