A Guide To Whale Watching in South Africa

Humpback Whale

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.

Here are the things you should know before watching Whale in South Africa

About The Whale

There are four kinds of Whale in South africa

1. Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Humpback Whale

  • Stocky body with obvious hump.
  • Very long pectoral fins.
  • Mostly dark brown/black.
  • White underbelly
  • Large throat grooves.
  • Fluked tail with wavy edges.
  • Length: 12–16m (39–52ft).
  • Weight: 25–30 tons
  • Highly vocal species Highly acrobatic

2. Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis)

Southern Right Whale

  • Distinctive callosities on head.
  • Lacks dorsal fin
  • Length: 13–16m (43–52ft).
  • Weight: 50–70 tons
  • Distinct v-shaped blow.
  • Mostly black in colour
  • Slow swimmers (10kph max) Highly acrobatic.
  • Frequently breach, tail-slap & lobtail.
  • Very common in Hermanus area

3. Bryde’s Whale (Balaenoptera brydei)

Bryde’s Whale

  • Pronounced “broo-duhz” whale.
  • 3 distinct notches on dorsal fin.
  • Dark gray color
  • White underbelly.
  • Length: 13–14m (43–48ft).
  • Weight: 12 -25 tons.
  • Broad, centrally notched tail- flukes never break the surface .
  • Best seen from boats o shore

4. Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)

Killer (Orca) Whale

  • Regarded as apex predators.
  • Member of oceanic dolphin family.
  • Black back with white chest & sides.
  • White patch above & behind eyes.
  • Large dorsal n up to 2m tall.
  • Length: 6-8m (20 to 26ft).
  • Weight: 6 tons.
  • Exceptionally sophisticated- echolocation abilities
  • Best seen in Algoa Bay area

When to visit

You should visit during May to Oct period and it’s best from Jul to Sep.

Where to visit

1. False Bay and the Cape Peninsula

  • Boyes Drive
  • Fish Hoek
  • Coastal Road
  • Chapman’s Peak
  • Baden Powell Drive
  • Clarence Drive

Whale watching boat tours operate from Simon’s Town, Hout Bay & V&A Waterfront

2. WALKER BAY – Heart of the Whale coast

  • Hermanus (Resident Whale Crier. Whale festival end September & Calf festival in August)
  • Gansbaai (also Great White Sharks) Kleinbaai
  • Danger Point
  • De Kelders

Whale watching boat tours operate from Gansbaai & Kleinbaai.

3. Garden Route

  • Mossel Bay (boat trips to Seal Island)
  • Herolds Bay
  • Victoria Bay
  • Sedgefield (Gerike’s Point & Swartvlei Beach) Knysna Heads & Buffalo Bay
  • Plettenberg Bay (area between the Athene shipwreck and the Keurbooms River)
  • Robberg Peninsula (shore & cliff-based)

Whale watching boat tours operate from Mossel Bay, Knysna & Plettenberg Bay


1. Look for white patches out at sea – these are usually indicative of waves breaking over the bodies of whales.

2. Sometimes rather than a white patch, you can sight a n brie y as the whale rolls – this is a sure indicator of whale action.

3. Any giant splash out of the corner of your eye could be whales breaching, continue to look in the same direction for a while.

4. Check in with the whale crier in Hermanus, or the shark spotters on Boyes Drive for latest updates.

5. Be aware that if you take a boat-based whale-watching trip it is highly likely that you will get seasick, so be prepared.

6. When possible try calling the local tourism o ce before heading out to make sure whales are in the area


Breaching – leaping or twirling whales, believed to be either communication, playfulness or to help with skin irritations

Lobtailing – tail vertically out of the water whilst the rest of the whale is submerged, followed by a resounding slap on the water’s surface

Fluking – similar tail out of the water, but this time it is the start of a dive

Spyhopping – just as it sounds, the whale lifts its head out of the water, perhaps to look around

Blowing or spouting – the action of blowing water from their blowholes at the tops of their heads. Southern right whales have two blowholes

Logging – lying in the water with its head and back exposed, tail submerged

Most Popular

To Top