You don’t need to go to Hermanus and the southern coast of the Overberg (which is a two-hour drive from Cape Town, one way) to see the whales. At this time of year, they are so prevalent that they can even be seen from cafes at the V&A Waterfront (although that is rare and obviously land-based). It will take you pretty much the whole day to get to Hermanus, get out on the boat, see the whales, come back, have lunch, and come home. If you don’t have a full day to dedicate to this, let us know and we’ll suggest alternative locations closer to town.
Weather and sea state (not necessarily related!) play a big part in a successful expedition. You want wind-free days with little or no swell and preferably slightly overcast. This brings the whales to the surface a lot. So ideally, you want to have in your sights about three days in which you can go whale watching (big swells normally roll through False Bay in about three days) and pick the best of them. Going out in a big swell is really just a massive waste of time. You’ll barely see anything, pay a lot of money for the ‘pleasure’ and then come home but lots of operators will take you out anyway.
From my point of view, the first prize way to do whale watching is from a kayak (a small, human-powered boat). The absence of the engine is of course a major plus (no noise to stress the animals) and in a smaller boat, you can and are allowed to get a lot closer. On top of all this, you get the attractive feature of not having to share a boat with a whole pile of strangers and of course, you’re with a guide. Bear in mind that you need almost perfect conditions for this kind of trip though.
If the kayaking is not for you, then our top pick for boat-based whale watching would be either Dyer Island Cruises or Southern Right Charters. There are several reasons for this:
- they are both Fair Trade Accredited organisations
- they conduct pelagic cruises of the bay not just whale watching
- DIC invests over R1m a year into the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary
- SRC has a strong commitment to the social aspect of supporting the villages of the coastline and conducts annual clean-ups of beaches.
As we’re a Fair Trade Accredited travel company, we get much better rates than you would do booking direct.