Your Guide to Whale Watching on the Cape Point Route

Whale season in Cape Town runs any time from June  – November every year. Peak Season for whale watching is usually August – October. This is the time that whales migrate into the coastal waters of the Western Cape to calve and nurse their young. These gentle giants are often metres from the shore and provide an incredible whale watching opportunities.  Enjoy our guide to watching the whales on the Cape Point Route.

Whales in False Bay. Photo: Cathy Withers-Clarke

Whales in False Bay. Photo: Cathy Withers-Clarke

Which Whales is it?
The most common whales spotted off the Cape Point Route coastline are Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales and Bryde’s Whales.

  • Southern Right Whales are baleen whales. They can easily be identified by the massive callosities on their big broad heads and massive tail flukes- a uniformly dark colour. They have no fins on their backs. The easiest way to spot a SRW is by their V-shaped blow.

    Southern Right Whale. Photo: D.Hurwitz 2012

    Southern Right Whale. Photo: D.Hurwitz 2012

  • Humpback Whales are also baleen whales and are beautiful blue-black in colour. Their tails are especially striking with contrasting white undersides and dark on top. Their blowhole can spray a big bushy balloon of spray about 3 metres into the air. The tend to perform acrobatic rolling dives and arch their backs – hence their name.

    Humpback Whales. Photo: D.Hurwitz 2013

    Humpback Whales. Photo: D.Hurwitz 2013

  • Bryde’s Whales are also baleen whales and are dark gray in colour, with a white underbelly. They are long and tubelike and are normally seen in pairs or alone. They are quite shy and not as athletic as their Southern Right and Humpback Whale friends.

    Brydes Whale. Photo: D Hurwitz 2013

    Brydes Whale. Photo: D Hurwitz 2013

Top 10 Land Based Whale Watching Spots:
False Bay tends to have slightly better viewing but sightings can be equally spectacular on the Atlantic Coastline.  The great news is that it is approximately 40 minutes from Cape Town City Centre rather than the 2 hour round trip to Hermanus.

Typical False Bay Sighting - Humpback Whales. Photo: Cathy Withers-Clarke

Typical False Bay Sighting – Humpback Whales. Photo: Cathy Withers-Clarke

  • Boyes Drive: gorgeous scenic, mountain pass between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay. Look out for the shark spotters – they have the best view!
  • Kalk Bay: Often seen near the harbour. Hot tip: Walk the Muizenberg – St James walkway along the coastline.
  • Clovelly: At the northern side of Fish Hoek Bay – either from the beach or the mountainside. Jager’s Walk: Fish Hoek – undulating coastal path between Fish Hoek Beach and Sunny Cove. The end of the walk is a favourite “hang-out” spot for Southern Right Whales
  • Glencairn Beach: Around the corner from Sunny Cove, sheltered bay with good sightings- the whales often hang out at the boulders in the northern corner of the beach.
  • Boulders – Smitzwinkelbaai – Simon’s Town This stretch of coastline including Froggy Pond and Murdoch Valley is excellent for whale watching – quite often you get good acrobatic displays as they move along the coastline.
  • Cape Point Nature Reserve: Rugged rocks, sheer cliffs and an elevated vantage point makes the reserve a great spot for whale watching. The Cliff view at Rooikrantz is one of the best spots.
  • Misty Cliffs – Kommetjie: The road above Slangkoppunt Lighthouse has awesome views and excellent whale watching spots.
  • Chapman’s Peak Drive: One of the most spectacular coastal roads on the planet running between Noordhoek and Hout Bay.  Amazing views of Hout Bay and all the way to Kommetjie. Mountainside vantage viewing!
  • Llundudno on the northern side of Hout Bay and the road to Bantry Bay has some worthwhile viewing spots if the whales are close to shore so keep your eyes peeled for a whale blow, then stop!
Typical sighting from land. Fish Hoek July 2013 Photo: Roy Allen

Typical sighting from land. Fish Hoek July 2013 Photo: Roy Allen

Water Based Whale Watching:
If you REALLY want to see whales up close and personal then get on the water on a boat trip.  It is a truly memorable experience to be close enough to hear and watch the whales in action.

  • Whale Watching Boat Trips leave Simon’s Town Harbour (weather permitting) daily in whale season at 10:30 and 14:00 but it is recommended to make a reservation.  Cost: R895 per adult and R545 for Children under 12.  Read More… 

    Whale Watching Boat Trip. Photo D Hurwitz August 2012

    Whale Watching Boat Trip. Photo D Hurwitz August 2012

Unexpected Whale Watching Encounters:
Legally one may not approach whales by boat within 300m (unless you have a specific licence) – however the Cape Point Route is a watery playground and if you are participating in water activities you may be lucky enough to encounter a whale during one of these activities.

  • Sea Kayaking with Whales – commercial trips operate from Simon’s Town and paddle to Boulders Beach to see the penguins. During the whale season it is not uncommon to see the whales but keep your distance, enjoy the experience and listen to your guide.

    Sea Kayaking with Whales. Photo: Derek Goldman

    Sea Kayaking with Whales. Photo: Derek Goldman

  • Surfing with Whales – whilst this is not a random activity to undertake casually, the whales have been known to hang out beyond the breakers at Muizenberg and the surfers there get a spectacular view from their boards.

    Sea Kayaking with Whales. Photo: Derek Goldman

    Surfing with Whales. Photo: Dave Jones July 2010

  • Scuba Diving with Whales – it is not uncommon during whale season for the dive boat to be stationary waiting for the divers and to have a Southern Right swim past. Amazing sight to be sitting still and just waiting and watching for the whale to cruise by! Occasionally scuba divers in the Cape get a rare but amazing underwater encounter!

    Diving with Whales. Humpbacks under water. Photo: Tony Baskeyfield. Image courtesy of Pisces Divers

    Diving with Whales. Humpbacks under water. Photo: Tony Baskeyfield. Image courtesy of Pisces Divers

Air Based Whale Watching:
A full peninsula helicopter trip from Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope is an unforgettable experience at the best of times.  During Whale season there is a good chance of seeing the whales from the air as they hang out in the nursery of the deep!

Aerial View of Whales. Photo: South African Tourism

Aerial View of Whales. Photo: South African Tourism

Tell Everyone About it:
If you spot a whale please share your sighting.

Make a Weekend of Whale Watching: 
Day tripping to watch whales, armed with binoculars and a warm jacket is a fabulous excursion but we recommend a whale weekend getaway.  See our 2011 blog of accommodation with views of whales or contact us for suggestions on where to stay and watch whales from your room or the balcony. tel: 021 782 9356

You could stay here and watch whales! Photo: Mike from the Winston

You could stay here and watch whales! Photo: Mike from the Winston

Cape Point Route offers day tourspackagesaccommodationactivities and car hire in Cape Town’s south peninsula in addition to teambuilding events in Cape Town. We will happily arrange group activities, transport and extended programmes.

Call  021 782 9356 or visit www.capepointroute.co.za 

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