When words like breaching, fluking, spouting and spyhopping, can be heard around Cape Town, it means it’s whale season. From June to November, Southern Right Whales enter Cape Town waters – their 60-ton, barnacle-covered bodies can be seen frolicking not far from the coastline where they come to breed and calf each year on their annual migration from Antarctica. Between May and November it’s the turn of Humpback whales who have for millennia made the journey from the polar region to the Cape of Storm where they court and give birth before setting out with their young to Mozambique and Madagascar. Whale season in Cape Town is as exciting for locals and tourists as it is for the whales, so we’ve picked five of the best ways to see whales around Cape Town.
- Simon’s Town Boat Company
Little more than a thirty minute drive from Cape Town’s city centre, historic Simon’s Town is one of the best places to whale-watch. Simon’s Town Boat Company is happy to help with a number of sea tours and boat charters – definitely the best way to experience the beautiful False Bay coast that stretches from Strandfontein all the way to Cape Point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. The area, tucked away from the open ocean and surrounded by sheltering mountains at the southern tip of Africa, is an ideal winter home for whales. You might be lucky enough to see them from the shoreline or you can get a closer view of these gentle giants in their natural habitat by setting out on one of four custom-designed vessels, skippered by highly qualified crew and your very own expert tour guide. Keep an eye out for other ocean visitors like Humpbacks, Orcas and dolphins.
- Ocean Wonder
Ocean Wonder offers boat-based ocean wildlife encounters, guided by Paul Lipschitz and his knowledge of the Table Bay area and the creatures who live in it, whether whales, dolphins, penguins, sun fish or seals. These guided trips take you wherever the ocean giants can be reached – and along the way, you’ll be enchanted by the facts and stories Paul can tell you, about the ocean’s wildlife and the breathtaking habitat they call home. The boat is a 7.2 meter Ballistic semi-rigid inflatable (SRI), certified by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) for use as a commercial charter boat. You can expect an exciting and comfortable ride that can accommodate 11 passengers.
- Dyer Island Cruises
Dyer Island Cruises is based in Gansbaai, a two-hour drive from Cape Town. The area surrounding Dyer Island and “Shark Alley” is the world renowned home of the Marine Big 5. Depending on the time of year, you can see whales, dolphins, seals, African Penguins and Great White Sharks – sometimes in a single trip! Peak season is July to December, and Southern Right Whales are prolific between August and November.
Dyer Island Cruises’ marine tour guides know this area like the back of their hand and are not only extremely knowledgeable about all things ocean, but are also keen to ensure that your trip is as enjoyable as it possibly can be onboard the Dreamcatcher – a 5-star, custom-built whale-watching vessel.
- Southern Right Charters
Southern Right Charters’ purpose-built catamaran “Miroshca”, is a great way to experience the marine playground of Hermanus. This area hosts most of the Southern Right Whales that visit the South African coastline. Humpback and Brydes Whales are also a common sight, along with many other marine creatures. Tours leave from the Hermanus’s New Harbour – dubbed the “Capital of the Cape Whale Coast” – and head out to Walker Bay, one of the best whale-watching areas in the world.
Southern Right Charters describes itself as a “progressive, environmentally-sensitive company that operates according to the ‘Observing NOT Disturbing’ principle’, which puts the safety and conservation of whales and marine life first”.
The charter company also offers on-land facilities at New Harbour. The Whale Shack on the water’s edge has refreshments, WiFi and free internet access, a DVD pre-viewing area, local crafts and souvenirs, as well as regular whale sightings in peak season.
Hermanus – rated one of the top 12 whale-watching locations in the world by the World Wildlife Fund – offers not only boat charters, but opportunities to view the whales from land, for those who’d prefer not to get their feet wet. Since the whales often come within metres of the shoreline, a number of viewing terraces have been set up at the Old Harbour and Gearings Point. One the unique experiences of whale season is the Whale Crier – who blows on a traditional kelp horn to alert locals and tourists to the presence of whales. If you’re able to visit in August, you can experience the Kalfiefees(the Calving Festival) or wait for the first week of October when the seaside town hosts its annual whale festival—a unique event to welcome the whales home, and celebration all things cetacean.
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