Whale Season in South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar
Earlier this month I witnessed the mesmerising spectacle of whale season along the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa. I was visiting Scottburgh and was treated to an awe-inspiring display of breaching and lobtailing by the many humpback whales off the coast, right from my hotel window. Their acrobatic displays were truly impressive and surprisingly graceful for such gigantic creatures.
Each year humpback and southern right whales embark on an epic migration, from their feeding grounds in the frigid Antarctic waters to the warmer Indian Ocean where they mate and give birth. The nutrient-rich currents and diverse marine life along the South African, Mozambican and Madagascan coasts provide a vital food source.
When to go
The prime months for whale watching are July to November. However, the peak whale activity is often during August and September when the whales are most active close to the shore.
Best whale watching locations
Scottburgh is very much an off-the-beaten-track destination for whale watching and I wasn’t able to find a tour operator doing boat-based whale watching tours.
The most well-known places to do whale watching in South Africa are Hermanus, De Hoop and St Lucia. Inhambane and Vilanculos in Mozambique, while Nosy Be, Fort Dauphin and Bay d’Antongil in Madagascar are all excellent locations too.
Hermanus and De Hoop are renowned for being prime locations for land-based whale watching.
You can experience this annual spectacle for yourself, in a few different ways.
1. Boat Tours: Join a guided boat tour led by experienced marine guides to venture into the ocean and witness the whales in their natural habitat. These tours often offer insights into the whales’ behaviour and ecology. Make sure to book with a reputable operator.
2. Land-Based Viewing: Many coastal towns have designated viewpoints along their cliffs, offering an opportunity to spot whales from the shore. Bring binoculars for a closer look.
3. Whale Walks: Some regions, like De Hoop Nature Reserve, offer guided coastal walks that provide not only whale-watching opportunities but also a chance to explore the diverse coastal ecosystems.
Where to stay
Grootbos has the most incredible views of Walker Bay and provides an excellent vantage point for whale watching, albeit at a fair distance. I love Grootbos for its conservation ethos, its excellent staff, gorgeous suites and pristine landscapes.
Coot Club is another exceptional place to stay, especially for families looking for a laid-back vibe, excellent food and comfortable accommodations. You won’t be able to do land-based whale watching from the hotel itself, but Gansbaai harbour, where you can do boat tours, is a short drive away.
In De Hoop Nature Reserve, you can choose between the 5-star Morukuru Beach Lodge or the simpler self-catering cottages at De Hoop Collection. Morukuru Beach Lodge has an incredible location right on the sand dunes with magnificent vistas out to sea, with whale watching possible from the hotel itself. De Hoop Collection is situated inland from the sea and to view the whales from the shore, you will need to drive to the parking spot and walk along the dunes.
The Marine is perfectly situated for whale watching from the Hermanus Cliff Path just in front of the hotel, or even from your sea-view bedroom!
Seeing these impressively large mammals in their ocean playground makes any vacation all that more special. Reply to this email if you’d like to know more about whale-watching holiday in South Africa, Mozambique or Madagascar.
P.S. This month, we’ve been celebrating Women’s Month in South Africa. We remember and honour the courageous women marchers who protested against apartheid-era pass laws in 1956. These women advocated for equality and for women’s rights in 1956 and paved the way for a more equal society.
Leopard is proud to be a woman-owned business that supports female entrepreneurs. Find out more about the team here.
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