Looking to spot a whale this season? Your best bet is a trip to De Hoop – more than 90% of all the whales counted in 2019 were seen in the waters of the nature reserve.

This, according to Jean Tresfon, a well-known marine conservation photographer, and pilot of the aerial survey done by the Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit. Jean is also the photographer behind this beautiful aerial image of whales in De Hoop waters.


“Although below the number expected for this time of the year, a total of 288 southern right whales were counted,” explained Jean, “[There were] 131 females with calves, and 26 adults without calves – and nearly all females with calves were located in the De Hoop Nature Reserve.”

The current count is less than the number expected for this time of year (and less than last year) — experts speculate whale reproduction is not back to normal levels.

The next aerial survey will be done in a few weeks’ time.

Last year, Jean was blown away by the sightings of southern right whales in the area around De Hoop Nature Reserve – from Skipskop Point to Lekkerwater– where a record-breaking 1,116 whales (558 cow/calf pairs) had been spotted.

Of all the whales counted in 2018 (a total of 1,400), only about 200 were not in the De Hoop area.

This confirmed De Hoop is the most important nursery area for southern right whales on the South African coast. One of the best spots for whale viewing in the reserve is at Koppie Alleen, where the high dunes provide an excellent vantage point.

De Hoop, a World Heritage Site, offers world-class whale-watching and is paradise for bird enthusiasts with its more than 260 species of birds, including the endangered Cape vulture.

A colony of almost 200 vultures roost and nest in the Potberg Mountains, where exciting vulture hikes and viewing opportunities are offered. Other activities include interpretive marine walks, hiking and mountain biking trails.

Plan a visit

Getting there: De Hoop Nature Reserve is a three-hour drive from Cape Town, along the world-renowned Garden and Whale routes, and an ideal stop-over en route from the Cape Winelands to Plettenberg Bay.