Did you know that South Africa is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching? And you can even see whales as you walk on the coast paths or enjoy a meal at a restaurant with an ocean view! How cool is that?

 

Choose the best time to go

The best time to visit depends on the whales you plan to see. For the southern right whale, in South Africa, the season is between June and November. You have more chances to see them in September and October than in July and August. For the humpback whale, the season is from May to December. The Bryde’s whale can be seen year round.

Choose the right location

South Africa is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. The route to see whales in South Africa includes the famous Table Mountain National Park, Garden Route, Tsitsikamma National Park, Transkei National Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park. You can even spot them in Cape Town itself from the road along the False Bay coast.

It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience

Going on a whale watching safari is going to be a once-in-a-lifestyle experience. Of course, each experience is unique and it really depends on luck, but even seeing the whales from a distance is a magnificent sight.

Wear layers and dress for the occasion

It is windier and at least 10 degrees cooler in open water than at the shore. The trick is to wear layers and shed them (or put them on) if necessary. And remember you are on the water, so chances are you might catch some spray from the waves. Make sure your shoes, clothing, and your photography gear are prepared for this. High heels may not be the best choice on a moving boat. So opt for some rubber-soled shoes (sneakers), which don’t slip or take on water.

You may also catch a glimpse of dolphins

As it is always the case with animals, nothing is guaranteed. You may see whales. Or you may see some puffs and conclude that there must be a whale. On the other hand, you have a lot more chances to see dolphins playing around the boat regardless of when you go.

Mornings are better if you get seasick

The winds tend to pick up in the afternoon, so if the thought of going on a boat makes you queasy, you may want to choose the first tour of the day. And make sure to pack some seasick pills. But if you don’t have problems with the boat’s movement, any hour would do, but the later tours would already know if whales have been spotted earlier in the day.

If you haven’t been on a boat before, it’s best to pack some seasick medication, just in case. Most medication must be taken at least an hour before the trip. Just to be on the safe side, avoid that sickly feeling by staying away from caffeine and big meals before the trip.

It may get boring for the kids

The pleasant 2-4 hours tour may be a nice and relaxing cruise for the adults but kids don’t have the same patience. With all the standing and waiting involved, a whale watching boat tour may not be the best fit for young children. Instead, choose a family whale watching safari which involves spotting them from the land or opt for a land-base family safari until the kids grow older.

Fun Facts About Whales Found in Africa

Southern Right Whale

southern right whale

Photo Credit: rosshuggett Flickr via Compfight

  • they are the rarest of all large whales.
  • their heads can measure up to one-third of their total body length.
  • they came close to extinction between the 17th and 19th century and now they are considered endangered and have been protected since 1949.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale
  • they are known for their magical song, able to travel great distances through the ocean.
  • they are found near coastlines.
  • they regularly leap from the water, landing with a big splash. Scientists still have no idea if they do this for anything else but to have fun.

Bryde’s Whale

Bryde's Whale

Photo Credit: Nik Cyclist Flickr via Compfight

  • they are long and slender and have much more streamlined bodies than other large whales
  • they can live up to 50 years in the wild
  • they can lift their entire body out of the water in an acrobatic display

Source: bookallsafaris.com

If summer in Cape Town is for swimming, sundowners, and soaking up the sun, then winter is for red wine, crackling fireplaces, and roasted marshmallows. You probably prefer one or the other, but we’re here to make a case for why Cape Town is better between the months of May and August.

No Crowds at Iconic Attractions

Cape Town is renowned for its prominent attractions like the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, V&A Waterfront, Cape Point and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens to name but a few. The great news is that winter is regarded as low season, which means fewer tourists, less traffic, no long queues, and little chance of someone photo-bombing your selfie.

 

Neighbourhoods - Green Point Sea Point Mouille Point - VA-Waterfront-Table-Mountain-Tourists-Wheel-by-Hillary-Fox.jpg

 

Off-Season Special Deals and Offers

In winter you get way more bang for your buck as many hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and attractions discount their rates heavily during the off-season. Take advantage of a winter special and stay somewhere out of town for a few nights or treat yourself to a special restaurant meal you would only dream of in summer.

Milder, cool weather

Don’t be worried about the weather during this time! The city enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate with daytime temperatures averaging a maximum of 18-20ºC (64-68ºF) during winter and spring. The absence of the scorching Africa sun also allows for outdoor activities like hiking, trail running, and mountain biking and when it does rain, well, what better excuse to go to some of the City’s amazing restaurants surrounded by beautiful and spectacular views of Table Mountain?

Hiking Lion's Head is a must

 

It’s the Green Season

You don’t need to put on your Polaroid sunglasses to see the mountains, grass, and fields transform to bright green during winter seasons. World-renowned for its splendour, Cape Town’s flora truly comes alive after the first rainfall with Table Mountain and surrounding Cape mountain ranges at their best. It is the ideal time to grab your camera, put on your hiking boots and go view the many waterfalls and streams visible on the mountain slopes, natural forests, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and parks in and around the city.

 

Adventure Sport Heaven

Ask any surfer and they will tell you that the bigger waves, wind conditions, and warmer sea temperatures are the perfect combinations for all sorts of surfing along the coast in winter. Don’t wait until summer to take up kite-surfing, May to August is the best time to give it a try. The airstreams can also be more favourable for paragliding, and you might just get to stay up there for longer.

kite_surfing_cape_town

 

Hot chocolate mania

Cape Town loves its ice cream all year round, but in winter a type of hot chocolate fever strikes the city. Honest Chocolate is the perfect place for getting your rich dark chocolate fix, while Moro Gelato will provide you with a thick Italian cup of goodness. Conditions are also perfect for a turmeric or matcha latte or red cappuccino. If you prefer tea, then there’s luckily a whole tea scene in Cape Town for you to explore.

Cosy Feasting Experiences

During winter locals just love crawling out of their homes to go to their favourite eatery or to try out new spots on weekends. You can choose from hundreds of restaurants offering comforting eating experiences, many with cosy fireplaces, atmospheric views, and special winter deals. A perfect way to spend a cooler winter’s day is to explore the variety of bustling indoor markets in and around the city, like the City Bowl Market or the Bay Harbour Market, or do a food and wine pairing at one of the world-class wine estates.

Whale-watching Season

July to September is the peak calving season for whales, which means you are guaranteed many opportunities to spot the worlds’ biggest mammal, either from up close in a boat or from the coastline. Take a drive along the False Bay Coast with Simon’s Town being a whale watching hub, or visit Hermanus, the whale capital of the world for your best chance of spotting these beautiful sea giants.

 

whale_watching_in_cape_town (2)

Time to Relax and Rejuvenate

One of Cape Town’s best luxury experiences is visiting our world-class spa’s, and winter is the ideal season to take a day off from the rush to refresh and renew your body and mind in an indulgent environment. Spoil yourself with some proper R&R to ensure you feel and look revived,  just in time for the new season. We’d recommend trying one of the 11 unique spa experiences we’ve found for something extra special.

Flower Season Beauty

Travellers from around the world annually come to the Cape in August and September to witness a natural spectacle when millions of beautiful wildflowers start blooming for spring. A mere hour’s drive from the city will place you in the middle of the West Coast National Park, boasting a colourful carpet of white, orange, and yellow.

wild flowers in bloom west coast national park

Source: capetowntravel.com