Guide to Whale Watching South Africa

Updated: Aug 16

South Africa is one of the best places in the world to see whales and dolphins. Our rich and diverse coastline has not 1 but 2 Oceans. This results in a wide variety of different species of Whales. Add to that, there is nothing but open water between us and Antarctica, which makes the South African Coast the ultimate breeding site for whales.

Image by Craig Howes (South African Travel Photographer)


When can you see Whales in South Africa?

The best time to see whales in South Africa really depends on what kind of whales you want to see as each species has its own migration schedule. However September - October is when you will find most species in South African waters.

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Hermanus, which is arguably one of the most accessible and best places in South Africa to view whales, is about an hour and a half drive from Cape Town and has an annual whale festival.


This year the 2022 Hermanus Whale Festival is on Friday 30 September- Sunday 2 October.

What Kind of Whales are in South Africa?

There are 37 species of whales that can be found in South Africa. However, the main Whale attractions focus on:

  • Humpback Whales

  • Southern Right Whales

  • Bryde Whale

  • Killer Whales (Orca)

  • Bottlenose Dolphin

  • Humpback Dolphin

  • Common Dolphin


Best Place to see whales in South Africa?

Hermanus:

Hermanus is known as the land-based whale capital of the world. The reason being is that the whales come exceptionally close to the shore to breed which means you have incredible whale sites from land.

A variety of whales use the warm sheltered shores of Hermanus to complete three-year-long reproductive cycles. Southern Right whales travel thousands of miles – on a journey that starts in June to breed in Hermanus.


Transkei (Wild Coast) Durning the Sardine Run

The Transkei is home to one of the world's greatest ocean migrations- the Sardine run. Once a year, billions of sardines – or more specifically the Southern African pilchard Sardinops sagax – spawn in the cool waters of the Agulhas Bank and move northward along the east coast of South Africa. This phenomenon happens from May through to July.

The Sardines bring with them giant PODs of Dolphins and Whales. This makes it one of the best whale-watching spectacles on the planet. The only drawback is that this spectacle takes place in the Transkei which is remote and takes a while to access. You will also need to book a boat tour.


Humpback gathering in South Africa

Recently scientists have reported huge gatherings of Hump Back WHales off the Southern Coast of South Africa. These 'super-groups' of humpback whales range in size from 20-200 whales.

Humpback whales super pod SOuth Africa
Image by Jean Tresfon

JEAN TRESFON is a South African marine conservation photographer specialising in aerial and underwater photography.


Best Time to See Southern Right Whales in South Africa

The best time to see Southern Right whales in South Africa is during September and October in Hermanus, Western Cape


Orcas Vs Great White Sharks in South Africa

Over the past couple of years, South Africa has seen a decline in Great White Shark populations. Combined with a couple of strange cases of Great White Sharks being found dead with just their eaten, lead scientists to believe Orcas (Killer Whales) were hunting great white sharks and eating their livers resulting in the Great Whites fleeing the area.