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Whale Watching in South Africa
Fast Facts

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Whale Watching Destinations in South Africa
 
 
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Family Travel Tips
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Whale Watching in South Africa

Whale Watching

 

Photo by Jurie Steenekamp, courtesy of Hermanus.co.za

In South Africa, a wildlife adventure need not take place in the bush. With 3000 km or nearly 1900 miles of coast, South Africa is one of the best places to observe sea life, even from shore. South Africa's coastal waters are frequented by more than 2000 species of fish including the most impending, the Great White Shark. Turtles breed on the beach. Dolphin, seals and otters frolic on or near the shore. But for many, the main attraction is likely to be the largest of the marine mammals. Humpback, Bryde's and southern right whales as well as Orcas or killer whales, can all be spotted here. Whether you partake in shore or boat-based whale watching, a trip to the South African coast is unlikely to be forgotten soon.
Getting Started
 
Vacation planning should begin with an outline of your trip priorities. Once you've established a budget, define the length of the family vacation and the amount of time you wish to spend watching whales. Research the species that frequent South African waters and in addition to learning more about the whales, find the right observation point and determine the peak viewing season. If you plan to partake in a whale watching tour, you will want to consider the age of the kids, their interest in sea life and their propensity for motion sickness. Review the options with your partner and the kids and be sure that they know what to expect.
The Right Trip
 
Shore-based whale watching allows both adults and children to take in the big picture and observe as one or more marine mammals puts on a show. Coastal cliffs and ridges along the Atlantic coast afford the best views of southern right whales. Boat-based whale watching trips will bring you within 50 feet, even closer if they turn the boat, of a whale. And for many this is likely to be the ultimate marine thrill. Look out for the whale's blow and you may be the first to spot one!
Plotting your Route
 
The peak whale watching season along the South African coast is from July through October when the southern right whale, once considered the right whale to hunt, is resident along the Cape south coast and Humpback whales frequent the waters off the Elephant Coast in KawZulu Natal. Brydes whales can be seen off the South African coast year round, albeit further out. While whale watching is possible just about anywhere along the Cape coast from Lambert's Bay to Plettenberg Bay, Hermanus is the best place to spot southern right whales from shore. Boat-based whale watching tours also depart from Plettenberg Bay and the less commercial De Hoop Nature Reserve. Families intent on spending their holiday in Cape Town need not miss out on the fun. False Bay, on the city's southern edge, offers exceptional shore-based whale watching. While the Cape coast receives the most hype, the Elephant Coast boasts the highest number of sightings. Whale watching excursions depart the village of St. Lucia situated 80 km (50 miles) north of Richards Bay.
Packing Tips
 
Equip each child with a camera and binoculars as well as a notebook to record all sea life sightings. Don't forget to pack a waterproof jacket and hat for each member of your crew and be sure the kids pack their patience. Rub sunscreen on exposed areas before you head out to sea.
Health & Safety
 
Don't underestimate the risk of seasickness on a boat-based whale watching tour; an ocean that appears calm from shore can actually be rough at sea. Potentially queasy kids should sit in the center of the boat, keep their eyes on the horizon and limit their snacks on board to dry crackers and carbonated drinks.
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Travel Trivia
At Four Corners you can stand in which four U.S. States?