Cape Town - The most popular whale watching destination in South Africa, Hermanus, welcomes local and international visitors to its shore to get a glimpse of the migrating creatures while taking in the natural beauty of the coastal town.
The Hermanus Whale Festival is set to begin from Friday, 29 September to Sunday, 1 October, celebrating the migration of Southern Right Whales and other marine wildlife.
The festival, which began 26 years ago in the Western Cape’s coastal town, allows visitors to observe the migration of marine wildlife, while enjoying various ocean-themed activities and exhibitions, emphasising education and environmentally responsible adventures.
ALSO SEE: WATCH: Paddling alongside humpbacks in Cape Town
Hermanus, known as the best land-based whale watching destination in the world, hosts thousands of visitors. “In 2014 we welcomed over 100 000 visitors,” says Hermanus Tourism.
Visitors say that whales come up close to the shore, sometimes displaying playful attitude towards the spectators.
Considered the only eco-marine festival in South Africa, visitors can expect to see eco-tourism operators and eco-marine themed exhibitions, with the main focus to create awareness and celebrate the annual return of the Southern Right Whales. See the full programme of events here.
With whale watching season until November, the route along SA’s coastline is superb to view the oceans’ giants.
While the Western Cape boasts some of the world’s best places to whale-watch, Hermanus isn't the only place in SA to spot these magnificent creatures. We take a look at some of the country's best whale-watching destinations you can check out.
Plettenberg Bay and the Garden Route
The Garden Route offers a stretch of coastline for whale watching. In Mossel bay, along the Garden Route, spectators can even get the opportunity to see killer whales feeding on seals.
The seaside town of Plettenberg Bay is where one can spot whales predominantly in winter, although Bryde's whales or orcas can be seen throughout the year if you’re really lucky.
In addition to the whales, visitors can spot Cape fur seals and other marine mammals, and take boat or kayak trips for an even more extraordinary viewing experience.
During the months of May to December Humpback whales and Southern Right Whales arrive along the Eastern Cape coast.
One of the best parts of whale watching along the Eastern Cape coast is that you don’t need a boat ride into the ocean to see the whales – they are clearly visible with just a pair of binoculars.
SEE: Whale season is here: Where to get the best action
Humpbacks, bryde's whales, and even sperm whales can be spotted along the eastern coastal region of the Wild Coast. With the warm waters reaching this part of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal coast, it’s no surprise that dolphins are also regularly seen here too.
Also on the east coast, from St Lucia to Cape Vidal, spectators can come see humpback whales.
The World Whale Watching conference was held in South Africa from 24 June to 29 June , and served as a platform where whale watching was scrutinised to ensure more responsible whale-watching takes place, with additional regulation.
Dylan Walker, CEO of the World Cetacean Alliance says that “the flourishing industry requires more safeguards to reduce stress on marine species and minimise disruptions when they are resting, socialising, feeding or travelling.”
In light of this, do take note of these guidelines to ensure responsible whale watching during your next visit along SA’s coasts. Click here for guidelines on how to be a responsible whale watcher.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- SA a 'world leader in responsible whale-watching' but more regulation needed
- Welcoming of whales: Africa’s first World Whale Conference to be hosted in SA
- WATCH: Paddling alongside humpbacks in Cape Town