The motorboat is hushed except for the chorus of ‘Wows!’ from your fellow passengers. Everyone holds their breath, hoping she will do it again. You are in luck! The southern right whale ducks under the waves, pushing herself down with a thrust of her powerful tail. Then, with Godzilla-like propulsion, she launches her massive body out of the water crashing down again into the blue depths.
For a moment she floats beneath the surface, raising a lazy fin, ‘waving’ at her audience, and you break into spontaneous applause. But this is no show: this is whale watching in the ocean off South Africa’s famous Whale Coast. The seaside town of Hermanus is the unofficial capital of this pretty coastline and regarded as one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world.
Good conservation regulations keep boats from disturbing the whales that migrate here to breed and calve (and keep you safe when viewing them). Expect a chilly boat ride at speed to get out to the best views of breaching whales, stopping along the way to enjoy the clowning of seals at nearby colonies. You are in the experienced hands of a local skipper and passionate whale guide. The best times for boat trips are late morning and early afternoon, when the ocean is filled with direct sunlight and the whales are making the most of the warmer surface water.
When you get back to terra firma, the whale watching continues – Hermanus is dotted with lookout points making the most of the world’s best land-based whale watching.
Read more about where to go on the Cape Whale Coast for the best whale-watching hotspots.
Quick links to travel advice
- Tips for Boat-Based Whale-Watching
- How to Combine South Africa's Favourite Destinations
- A Taste of the Hermanus Wine Route
Get in on the adventure! Read about all of our top African activities and experiences