During the months from June to November, graceful southern right wales head to South Africa’s coast for breeding and calving. Sightings are plenty and spectacular. By Arnold Ras

Every year, several CapeNature reserves along the Western Cape coast become a playground for giant southern right wales. These massive and endangered mammals annually migrate to South Africa’s more temperate waters. Their arrival creates great excitement amongst nature lovers, who flock to hotspots to get a glimpse of their activities.

South Africa’s sheltered bays provide ideal protection for females to rear their young and make for memorable encounters from the shore. Cameras ready… You don’t want to miss those spectacular leaps and splashy crashes.

Where to go to see these marine visitors? Wild brings you a list of must-visit destinations where whale watching can be enjoyed for hours on end.

What a view!

Where: Robberg Nature Reserve

Robberg Peninsula-Rudolph de Girardier-CapeNature

Pictures courtesy of CapeNature, Rudolph de Girardier

Why: The reserve’s dramatic peninsula is something to experience – waves crash onto the rocky shore while seabirds soar over steep cliffs. Just imagine tracking the antics of southern right whales from the Robberg escarpment. Robberg is a marine protected area and a perfect example of South Africa’s many ocean wonders.

Beauty in numbers

Where: De Hoop Nature Reserve

De Hoop Nature Reserve-Rudolph de Girardier-CapeNature

Picture courtesy of CapeNature, Rudolph de Girardier

Why: Not only is De Hoop a World Heritage Site, but also one of the largest marine protected areas (MPA) in Africa. Yearly some 120 southern right whales return to the MPA to frolic in its waters. The high dunes of Koppie Alleen provide a great vantage point for whale watching. Hikers, the reserve is home to the world-famous five-day Whale Trail. For slackpackers, De Hoop Trail ticks all the boxes. Read about this glamorous, laid-back option in the summer issue of Wild magazine.

Take a drive

Where: Kogelberg Nature Reserve

Kogelberg Nature Reserve - Western Cape - South Africa

Picture courtesy of CapeNature

Why: Known for its incredible fynbos, Kogelberg offers a scenic coastal self-drive route with the Hottentots Holland mountain range as backdrop. Kogelberg, one of more than 400 biosphere reserves worldwide, is exceptional beauty at its best. No wonder southern right whales call this stretch of ocean their temporary homestead.

Serene sightings

Where: Walker Bay Nature Reserve
Why: Kilometres of white beaches, a lagoon, dunes as far as the eye can see, and ancient caves where Middle Stone Age people once lived. Need we say more? Explore Walker Bay’s historical and environmental significance while watching several southern right wales go about their business.

From the shore

Where: De Mond Nature Reserve

De Mond-CapeNature

Picture courtesy of CapeNature

Why: Binoculars will come in handy when visiting the picturesque De Mond – coastal scenes, a gorgeous river mouth and saltmarshes combine to create a dreamy landscape. There are many freshwater and marine angling spots on offer, so pack a picnic basket and cast a line while waiting for the wonderful whales to make their appearance.

More to explore

These CapeNature reserves are also popular with whale enthusiasts:

Did you know?

  •  The southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) has no dorsal fin.
  • Size-wise, they can reach lengths of up to 15 metres and weigh some 47 tonnes.
  • They were named “right” as they were so easy to hunt. As of 1935, southern right whales are a protected species.
Additional source: Two Oceans. A guide to the marine life of southern Africa. GM Branch, CL Griffiths, ML Branch and LE Beckley. Struik Nature. 2010.