Winter is the time to experience some of the most exciting land-based whale watching in the world! Southern right whales migrate into the coastal waters of the Western Cape to calve and nurse their young. You’ll also be able to see humpback and Bryde’s whales (usually seen further off shore all year round).
Watch for these signs
- Blowing: a sound made when air is expelled through the blowhole. You’ll also see a spout of water that follows this.
- Breaching: leaping out of the water and falling back on their sides.
- Lobtailing: the slapping of their tail on the water – causing a loud sound.
This beautiful reserve is one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa. The park offers the well-known Whale Trail, which stretches over 55 km. The trail is the best way to see southern right whales that come here to calve and breed from May to December. On the third and fourth day of the trail you walk along the beach where whales can be seen from the many whale watching points. Reserve manager Lamla Yaso says: “My top favourite whale watching spot in De Hoop is definitely Koppie Alleen, the first hill from Noetsie (3rd overnight of the Whale Trail), Hamerkop (4th overnight stop) and Lekkerwater. At Hamerkop cottage hikers sit on the balcony for ages watching whales and dolphins. After dark the balcony becomes a stargazing hub, some hikers even sleep on the balcony. In whale season many of the Whale Trail groups request to spend at least two days here. Lekkerwater also offers whale watching from the veranda. One thing that is common with all these whale watching spots is the ease of access and the distance from which you can see these giant sea creatures (less than a kilometre from the shore).”
Agulhas is not far from Cape Town (about 200 km away). This coastal town is famous for its lighthouse, museum and shipwrecks. Agulhas is also popular with whale watchers who can spot southern right whales that come to breed in the bay from August to November. Here you can explore the area and look for whales on hiking trails such as the Rasperpunt or Shipwreck routes.
Known mainly for fishing, it’s also a great place to see whales. You get the feeling that you are totally alone as a single cottage that sleeps up to six people is the only accommodation in the park. The 7km Sterna Trail takes you through renosterveld and along the beach.
This reserve is ideal for day trips from Cape Town. The park lies just east of Hermanus. There are lots of hikes to do and southern right whales can be spotted as you walk along the beach. Bryde’s and humpback whales can be seen throughout the year.
The park’s coastal section has one of the world’s largest sand dunes that can be reached on the two-day Alexandria hiking trail. At the top of the dunes, look out for whales and dolphins.
Marketing and communications manager Megan Taplin recommends these two whale watching spots:
Sundays River Mouth
Enter off the N2 near the town of Colchester (follow the road past the fuel station). You need to enter through the Pearson Park campsite where a private entrance fee is payable, then follow the gravel road along the Sundays River estuary to the beach.
Follow the signs to Woody Cape section, Addo Elephant National Park from the R72 (just before the town of Alexandria) which goes towards Port Alfred (the R72 is accessible from the N2). Ask for directions at the rangers office to the beach which you can access via a boardwalk. After about a 1,5km walk on a trail and 100m on the boardwalk, you will get to the beach and a great lookout point over the coastline.
For both points
You can walk for kilometres along the white sandy beaches flanked by the Alexandria dunefield. In season (July-November) southern right whales can be spotted from the coastline. Algoa Bay is also home to Bryde’s whales and minke whales all year round as well as migratory humpback whales. You can also spot groups of (sometimes hundreds) of common and bottlenose dolphins from the shore.
There are countless places to see whales. One of the best spots with a view over the ocean is at Elsie’s Peak. It’s an easy walk to the top from where you can see across False Bay to as far as Hangklip. From the top you will see Glencairn, Fish Hoek and Muizenberg to your left. Behind you, you will see the beaches of Noordhoek, and the Atlantic Ocean.