South Africa Whale Trail Frequently Asked Questions

Whale Tail at sunset South Africa.
This Whale Trail FAQ will answer some common questions about the Whale Trail of South Africa.

Where does the Whale Trail start and end?

South Africa's Whale Trail stretches from Doringbaai, south of Cape Town, Western Cape all the way along the coast to Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
That's around 2000km (1243 miles) of Whale watching coast, covering the three provinces, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, and including several well known sections famous for their beauty or stunning beaches, these include:
  • The Cape Coast and Cape Peninsula (Western Cape)
  • The Overberg Coastal Region (Western Cape)
  • The Garden Route (Western Cape)
  • Tsitsikamma National Park (Eastern Cape)
  • The Sunshine Coast (Eastern Cape)
  • The Wild Coast (Eastern Cape)
  • The Hibiscus Coast (KwaZulu-Natal)
  • The Dolphin Coast (KwaZulu-Natal)
  • The Elephant Coast (KwaZulu-Natal)

When is the best time for Whale watching?

The South African winter months (June through to November) are when Whales visit our shores to enjoy the warm shallow coastal waters.
In Cape Town, Western Cape, Whale watching is at its peak from mid-August to mid-October. Visitors can see Whales in various areas of False Bay along the Peninsula. Great vantage points are found on the coast road between Muizenberg and Cape Point in particular on Boyes Drive which skirts the mountainside from Muizenberg to Kalk Bay. Other sites are found around Kommetjie and Hout Bay. Cape Town has a Whale hotline for enquiries during the season.

Hermanus, Western Cape (a 90 minute drive from Cape Town) is world famous for its wonderful Whale watching at very close range from land or sea. Hermanus enjoys peak Whale season, when sightings are virtually guaranteed on a daily basis, during September and October. Calving season is in August.

Sightings are common along the Garden Route, Western Cape throughout the Whale season, and for those near Plettenberg Bay, there is a Whale hotline for enquiries during the season. The main centres for boat excursions would be Mossel Bay, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. Visitors can also spot Whales all season throughout the Eastern Cape, with great boat based excursions from Port Elizabeth.

The KwaZulu-Natal coast sees a lot of Whale activity in late June, with the Whales travelling north toward Mozambique through July / August and returning south again during August, September and October. Excellent boat based excursions are available at this time from Margate on the South coast, Durban, and St Lucia on the North coast.

What is the Whale Route?

Hermanus, Western Cape has grown from a rustic fishermen's village to being acknowledged by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), as one of the 12 best Whale viewing sites in the world. This great destination is just 90 minutes by car from Cape Town. The 12km (7 mile) long cliff path stretching from one end of the town to the other, provides superb land based Whale watching vantage points.

In Hermanus you will find the world's only Whale Crier. He patrols the streets of the town blowing his kelp horn when Whales are spotted. Different horn codes refer to different spots along the coastline. View sites along the Hermanus Whale Route include Windsor Bay, Gearing Point, The Old Harbour, Siever's Punt, Kwaaiwater, Voelklip and Grotto.

Are there any Whale Festivals?

The annual Hermanus Whale Festival is usually held towards the end of September. Visitors enjoy a great carnival atmosphere and a variety of entertainment in the magnificent environment of Walker Bay, which provides an excellent venue for, what has become, the biggest Enviro Arts Experience in the South Africa.

This exciting festival offers plenty to do in between bouts of Whale watching from the coastal path that runs through town. The Whale Crier blows his horn when a Whale is sighted in the bay. Visitors can clearly see these wonderful sea creatures coming right into shore. There are also boat excursions.

Are there Walks and Hikes on the Whale Trail?

South Africa has a huge selection of walks and hikes all along the Southern and Eastern Coast, from Cape Town to the Northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal, on the Whale Trail. The Nature Reserves and National Parks (our website link) on this coast offer information on what visitors can do and see.

The De Hoop Nature Reserve near Bredasdorp in the Overberg, Western Cape has a sought after Whale Trail Hike. This world-renowned 6-day route with overnight stops and portage, stretches over 54km (34 miles) from Potberg to Koppie Alleen, offering a fabulous whale-watching experience during whale season (July to November).

Other cliff path coastal hikes:

  • Cape St. Blaize walk and the Oystercatcher Trail in Mossel Bay
  • Robberg Peninsula, Plettenberg Bay
  • Dolphin Trail in the Tsitsikamma National Park
  • Port St. Johns to Coffee Bay hike, Wild Coast
  • Pondoland Explore, Wild Coast

What does the Whale watching terminology mean?

If you are heading on holiday to South Africa's Whale Coast, you might find the following terms useful to better understand the most common aquatic displays made by Whales:
  • Breaching: Whales are often spotted breaching. It is a magnificent sight to see. Breaching describes when Whales leap upwards out and crashes back into the water.
  • Lobtailing: Another often-spotted display is the playful lobtailing of Whales. They will stick out their tail fins, swing it around and slap it onto the surface of the water.
  • Sailing: This is a very intriguing sight and describes when the Whale sticks its tale out of the water for an extended period of time, before submerging beneath the surf.
  • Spyhopping: Whales can sometimes be seen spyhopping on the surface. The Whale will poke its head out of the water to have a look around.
Whale Watching South Africa : Whale Trail Hermanus, Cape Whale Coast, Garden Route
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