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WHALE WATCHING

The coastline from Cape Town to Hermanus offers some of the best whale watching opportunities in the world. Every year, usually between June and October, hundreds of Southern Right Whales arrive along the coast to mate and calve, often sheltering within 100 meters of the roads and paths that thread their way along the steep rocky shoreline. Although the whales are easily and often spotted from the shore boat trips are also available. Southern Right whale numbers have increased in recent years and new born whales are often seen close the shore.

The coastline from Cape Town to Hermanus offers some of the best whale watching opportunities in the world. Every year, usually between June and the end of November, hundreds of Southern Right Whales arrive along the coast to mate and calve, often sheltering within a 100 metres of the roads and paths that thread their way along the steep rocky shoreline. The whales, females are larger than the males, reach 12 – 15 metres in length and spend most of the southern hemisphere summer feeding in the icy plankton rich waters of Antarctica.

Once arriving in the shallow waters on the coast the animals can easily be seen from the shore. New born calves regularly stay close to their mothers in the shallows and can easily be seen from shore.

The Southern right whales are often joined by Humpback whales but they usually move further north to their calving grounds between Mozambique and Madagascar.

Whale watching, if the weather is co-operative and it is the right time of year, is very easy along the Cape Coast. Many people stay at hotels or B&Bs on the Cape Peninsular, rent a car and drive along the False Bay coast. Other people opt to stay at the very popular town of Hermanus or other small villages. The premier viewing areas can easily be driven through in a day.
Some people may wish to travel further afield to Plettenberg Bay although the whale population is not as dense.

In many areas, particularly between Gordon’s Bay and Hermanus, the road runs along the slopes of steep fold mountains which plunge directly into the sea and the elevation provides great visibility for whale watching. Although binoculars are useful for watching whales in deeper waters many of the animals come in very close to the breakers.

Others may choose to contact operators who

maintain contact with officials and whale experts and thus have a good idea where whales can be found on a day to day basis. Some operators offer boat tips to see the whales but are fortunately limited by law as to how close they may approach. This is primarily to protect the whales from the stress caused by boats approaching too closely, especially when the mothers have new born calves.

Occasionally other whale species are also spotted along the coast.

Humpback whales

The Humpback whales that visit Southern Africa tend to move north along the Cape and KwaZulu Natal Coasts on their way to calve in the warm waters of northern/north east Madagascar. These whales usually arrive in South African waters as early as May and pass south again in September or October. As with the Southern Right whale they spend their summers in Antarctic waters.

Although they are often seen along the Southern and Eastern Cape coasts they are also sometimes spotted by fortunate tourists visiting the iSmangaliso Wetland Park in Zululand. Some visitors are lucky enough to have spotted elephants and rhinos while on game drive in the Park and then, from the high dunes that run along this part of the coast, also watched migrating Humpbacks. A number of whale watching operators offer boat trips in the area.

These whales calve and mate in the waters of northern Mozambique where some tour operators offer boat based whale watching. The shallow channel between Ile Sainte-Marie (Nosy Boraha to locals), a small island off the north east coast of Madagascar, and the main island is a premier viewing area as is the wide sheltered Antongil Bay, a short distance to the north.

The best time to watch whales in these areas is between June and September.

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