The Western Cape is known for its impressive mountain landscapes, world-class wine farms, and stunning fynbos biomes. But did you know that the Cape has some of the best whale watching in Africa? The Cape’s proximity to the ocean and the migration patterns of various whale species means visitors can expect to see some of the most incredible whale sightings in Africa.
These large, slow-moving whales are known for their distinctive V-shaped blow, broad back without a dorsal fin, and callosities (rough patches of skin) on their heads. Southern right whales migrate to the coastal waters of Cape Town during the southern hemisphere’s winter and spring months (June to November) for breeding and calving.
Humpback whales are known for their acrobatic behaviour, such as breaching and tail-slapping. They migrate along the South African coast from May to December, so you might spot them along their migration.
While not whales, dolphins are also commonly seen in the waters around Cape Town throughout the year. Species like the common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, and dusky dolphin are often encountered during boat trips for whale watching.
For the best boat-based whale watching experience in Africa, Whales Up Close offers guests a unique opportunity to see whales up close and personal. As South Africa’s only licensed whale-watching boat tour operator approved to get within 5 metres of whales and other marine species, Whales Up Close is known for spectacular whale sightings and guided marine eco-tours off the southernmost point of Africa.
Book your whale watching tour with Whales Up Close
South Africa is best known for the Big 5, but the Western Cape’s whale watching is just as impressive! Every year, Southern right whales migrate to Cape Town’s waters, creating some of the best whale watching spots along the western coastline. We’ve compiled a list of the best whale watching spots for locals and tourists to explore.
Please note: Whale season in South Africa is from June to December, with peak season from August to September.
Best Known For: False Bay is known for its diverse marine life, including Cape Fur Seals, Humpback Whales, and even Penguins.
Distance from Cape Town: 30 to 40 kilometres (19 to 25 miles) from the city.
What You Can Expect: False Bay is famous for its coastal charm, vibrant small towns, and historic fishing ports. You might even see whales breaching and frolicking in the bay while driving from table mountain to cape point.
Best Known For: The southernmost Point of Africa (tip of Africa), deep sea fishing, and Whale Watching.
Distance from Cape Town:230 kilometres (about 143 miles) from the city.
What You Can Expect: Cape Agulhas is famous for being the geographical point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. It’s a fantastic location for whale watching, offering sightings of Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales, and other marine species. Being lesser known amidst tourists, whale tours offer a more private and less crowded experience, allowing for closer and more frequent whale encounters.
Best Known For:Hermanus is often referred to as whale-watching capital of South Africa, and boasts some of the best land-based whale watching in the Cape.
Distance from Cape Town: 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the city.
What You Can Expect: Hermanus has stunning elevated coastal pathways and lookout points where you can watch Southern Right Whales and their calves in the bay below. You might witness breaching, tail slapping, and other common behaviours.
Best Known For: 14km coastline, fishing, and Whale Watching.
Distance from Cape Town: 215 kilometres (about 134 miles) from the city.
What You Can Expect: Struisbaai is home to the longest continuous sandy beach (14km) in the southern hemisphere, locally referred to as Struisbaaiplaat. Southern Right whales have been known to venture as close as 20 metres from the shore during their breeding and calving season. The town’s exapansive nature reserve and beautiful coastline make it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Best Known For: De Hoop is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, highly regarded for its pristine coastline and excellent land-based whale watching.
Distance from Cape Town: 260 kilometres (162 miles) from the city.
What You Can Expect: De Hoop’s extensive views of the Atlantic and Indian oceans is ideal to see Southern Right Whales and their calves. The reserve also has hiking trails with remote whale-watching viewpoints.
Hike the The Whale Trail
Best Known For: Great White Shark Diving and Whale Watching Tours.
Distance from Cape Town: 160 kilometres (about 99 miles) from the city
What You Can Expect: Gaansbaai is famous for cage diving with great white sharks. The area also offers excellent whale watching experiences, particularly for Southern Right Whales, between June and December.
Whale sightings can vary depending on the time of year, weather conditions, and other natural factors.
If you’re planning a whale watching trip to South Africa, it’s a good idea to check with local whale tour operators and guides for up-to-date information about recent sightings, weather conditions, and the best times to go.