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The Whale and Shark Coast

The Atlantic Ocean coast from Cape Town along to Africa’s most south westerly point, the Cape of Good Hope, and its southern extremity, Cape Agulhas, to the Indian Ocean at the De Hoop national park in the east, is one of the world’s best coastlines for observing whales from the land and seeing them on whale safaris at sea. It is also one of the stretches of coast which has the highest numbers of the iconic great white shark, and it is in a class of its own if you want to see one close up. You can find many whales and dolphins in the seas off Cape Town all year round, especially in the cooler months of the southern winter and into the milder spring. In other words the high season for whale watching here is from May into October.

Here the huge Southern Right Whales turns up in their thousands, the females come here to calve and nurse their young, while the males ready themselves for ting again, and are often seen breaching - leaping clear of the water. This all happens in protected, relatively shallow waters near the coast, and in some places it is possible to sit comfortably at a viewpoint and watch the whales from a very short distance. The cliffs of the town of De Kelders and the dunes of De Hoop national park are two such places we can recommend.  If you want to get really close to the whales, you should go to sea on one of the many excellent boats that offer guided whale safaris. The best boats and guided tours naturally start out from the best localities for whales, namely the towns of Hermanus and Kleinbaai.

In this area large humpback - and Brydes whales are also seen regularly, together with a number of species of dolphin, if luck is on your side you may even spot a pod of orcas, one of the oceans top predators. If you would like another of the oceans iconic predators then Klainbaai is the place to go, as most of the best shark safaris depart from here. In specially designed boats, bringing along bait and a solidly built cage, you will sail out to the sharks favourite holding areas. Here the boat will anchor up and the cage will be lowered over the side, followed by the bait, known as chum, which might be described as a type of ill smelling and slightly rotten  ”fish soup”, in an attempt to attract the the large sharks. If successful, which it nearly always is, you can put on a wetsuit and mask and spend a few minutes in the cage while the sharks swim close to it. If you would rather not take part in the spectacular and totally safe experience, whose only draw back is that you will end up smelling slightly of the ”fish soup”, you can remain on deck, as there will be plenty to see and photograph. The sharks regularly stick their heads out of the water often with their (in)famous jaws wide open, and sometimes they can even jump right out of the water.

Whether you stay on the coast, or join a whale-or shark safari you will see many sea birds such as gannets and cormorants. If you would like to see the really spectacular seabirds, of which the albatross is at the top of the list, you should take a whole day tour out from Simon´s Town, which is where the best tours start from, but you must be ready to sail out far in to the huge ocean on a relatively small boat. The very best hotels in the area are all found close to the best localities, white the company Marine Dynamics in Kleinbaai runs the most professional whale- and shark safaris on the best boats.


   •      Top class whale safaris, the Southern Right Whale is particularly common and can be seen “close-up”

   •      Eye contact with a great white shark – seen from the safety of an underwater “shark cage”

   •      Outstanding viewpoints along the coast, where the whales swim very close to land

High season: June to November


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