Every year from around August until late November, Southern right whales come into the bays across the Cape’s coastlines to breed and calve. You may catch a glimpse of one of these gentle giants breaching out of the ocean while you enjoy lunch in Kalk Bay, take a stroll on Camps Bay beach or even drive along Chapmans Peak. But if you really want to get a good view of these amazing mammals, a whale tour is without a doubt the best thing to do during Whale Season.
Before we share some ideas on where and how you can encounter one of the most spectacular coastal extravaganzas, let’s take a look back to find out how Southern right whales got their name and what else you should know about this species of whale.
Southern Right Whales in South Africa
Many years ago, the Cape, much like many other coastal cities and towns around the world, was a big part of the whaling industry. Even today, many former whale stations can be found along the coast, including the old station in Hermanus. Southern right whales got their name during the whaling industry heyday, when these large species were considered the best or ‘right’ whales to hunt. Luckily, conservation laws began to come into effect, rendering the often cruel practice of harpooning whales for their blubber and meat to be obsolete across most of the world’s oceans.
Aside from its large size, the Southern right whale is also known for its displays of breaching, in which the whales launch themselves of out the water. On a whale watching trip, this is a sight you will not forget in a hurry – the sheer size of these mammals alone as they perform their amazing acrobatic feats is something that takes your breath away.
Whale Watching Highlights
Now that you understand a bit more about the whales, where are the best places to see them during Whale Season? Here are some of our ideas for whale watching between August and November.
- Hermanus – about two hours outside of Cape Town along the Garden Route, Hermanus is famous for its whale watching. Both shore and boat viewing can be enjoyed here, with the resident Whale Crier positioned on the cliffs to bring attention to whales as they are seen in the bays.
- False Bay – along the False Bay coast, especially between Kalk Bay and Noordhoek, it is common to see whales in the bay. Enjoy a leisurely lunch at a popular restaurant such as Brass Bell or Polana and you have excellent chances of taking in some marine entertainment as whales are spotted out in the water by excited onlookers.
- Atlantic Seaboard – it is not too unusual to see whales near Clifton and Camps Bay either, whether on land or as you take a boat cruise along the coast. Dolphins can also be spotted as they play in the water, resulting in a memorable marine encounter and fantastic photographic opportunities.
There is no doubt that the Cape is known for its rich scenery and marine life, with an abundance of beaches, coastal reserves and secluded bays to be found across the peninsula. With both Atlantic and Indian Oceans combining to create some of the most unique ocean ecosystems in the world, the annual journey made by the Southern right whales through our waters offer the perfect way to celebrate this diversity each and every year.
If you haven’t tried a whale watching tour yet, now is the time to get out there and witness this miracle of nature first hand!