South Africa is one of the best destinations worldwide for watching marine mammals, whether from land or from boats, with spectacular annual visits from southern right and humpback whales and enormous pods of dolphins year-round. Every year, southern right whales migrate from their icy feeding grounds off Antarctica to warmer climates, reaching South Africa in June. The country’s coastal waters teem with the giant animals, mating, calving and rearing their young – and giving whale-watchers spectacular displays of raw power and elegant water acrobatics.
The best time for watching the southern right whale in South African waters is from June to November along the Cape south coast, although some will already be as far north as KwaZulu-Natal. Peak calving season is July and August, but whales can be seen through September and October. The curious humpback whale can be seen between May to December, moving up along the coast from Hermanus to St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal. The medium-sized Bryde’s whale can be spotted all year round, and while rare, orcas can also be seen.
Where are the best spots?
South African whale-watching territory runs from Doringbaai, south of Cape Town, all the way east and as far up the coast as St Lucia. They can be viewed from cliffs and beaches, with boat operators offering trips out to sea for close encounters.