Where to Go Whale Watching in Cape Town in 2024

Last Updated on April 22, 2024 by thecapetownblog

If you’re visiting Cape Town during the winter, then whale watching should be at the top of your list! Yup, as if the Mother City didn’t already have enough on offer, it boasts opportunities to see Southern Right whales, Humpback whales, and Bryde’s whales. 

However, you’re not going to spot any whales wandering around the CBD, that’s for sure. If you’re keen to spot whales between June and December, I recommend you read up on where to look. And with that in mind, I’m going to share the best places to go whale watching in Cape Town in 2024! 

This list includes places where you can spot whales for free from the shore, as well as where to go to get out on the water with a whale watching cruise or even a kayak tour. So grab your binoculars, and let’s dive in. These places are in order of their proximity to the city centre, just so you know. 

1. Simon’s Town 

I’m kicking off with Simon’s Town, which just so happens to be where I saw my very first whale in Cape Town! After visiting Boulders Beach, my friends and I were just hanging out at a cafe and we saw one breaching in the distance. It was such a wonderful surprise! 

Boulders Beach

So, you can bring binoculars to Simon’s Town and hopefully spot some whales while visiting the penguins at Boulders Beach. It’s possible to see them from the boardwalks on the beach or one of the cafes nearby, which is what happened to me! 

Alternatively, one great way to see them is to book this kayaking tour, which takes you from Long Beach to Boulders Beach. You can do it year-round but during the winter, the chances of spotting whales are pretty high. So with whales, penguins, and probably dolphins on offer, this is a true marine life bonanza. Not bad for R525!

Whale watching cruise 

Or, between June and November, the Simon’s Town Boat Company offers 2.5-hour whale cruises along the False Bay Coast, with a 98% success rate! It costs R1,450, which I personally think is a very fair price.

What I like about this company is that they’re very passionate about the whales, and all interactions are led by the animals, so there’s minimal human interference. They know exactly how to approach the whales, they understand their behaviour, and there’s an expert guide on board who can tell you a ton about the way whales live, which is so interesting.

2. Cape Point

Cape Point is a rocky promontory, and if you head up to the top of the lighthouse, you can get fantastic views. It was very wet and windy on the day that I went, and I was still impressed by its beauty, so I can only imagine how amazing it would look on a sunny day.

You can either walk or take the funicular to the top of the lighthouse here. We took the funicular as it was raining, and then walked down thanks to loadshedding and realised the path wasn’t as steep as we had thought. Once we got to the top, we had the best seat in the house. This was in February, so we didn’t see any whales, but in winter you’d have a strong chance of seeing a fair few while you’re up here! 

3. Chapman’s Peak Scenic Drive

Chapman’s Peak Scenic Drive is so beautiful. I mean, Mercedes-Benz don’t pick ugly places to shoot their adverts, do they?

You start at Hout Bay which is absolutely gorgeous, and then as you follow the winding road, the red rocky cliffs create a striking contrast against the sky and the water. And since the road overlooks the sea, driving along here is a fantastic opportunity to spot whales! 

It’s such an amazing drive that you should do it regardless, but make sure to bring your binoculars in the car with you if you’re driving along here during winter. Oh, and do check the status of the road before you go, as it does close during wind and rain. This is definitely one to save for a sunny day. 

4. Boyes Drive

While not quite as epic as Chapman’s Peak in terms of its beauty, Boyes Drive is still pretty dang stunning. It’s a winding coastal road and it provides fantastic ocean views, so it’s ideal for spotting whales in False Bay during winter. It’s a 7-kilometre (4.3-mile) stretch of road between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay… which also happen to be fun places to explore and spot whales! 

5. Yzerfontein 

Don’t ask me how to pronounce it, but during the winter, Yzerfontein is known for wildflowers and whales! This West Coast harbour town is a great spot to see Southern Right and humpback whales, and it’s pretty common to see dusky and bottlenose dolphins around here, too. 

This self-drive tour involves a horseback safari through a game reserve to see giraffes, water buffalo, and zebras, as well as a beach ride where you can spot whales in the distance. And, during August and September, the wildflowers will be in bloom, which is even more amazing. 

For R800, I think this is pretty good value for a 2-hour horse ride. And you may well spot some whales on the drive up here, as well, as Yzerfontein is about an hour north of Cape Town. I’d also highly recommend a stop at Darling Brewery for a pint, and Darling Olives for a wine and olive tasting. They also sell olive oil lip balms and body butter that are to die for! 

6. Hermanus 

Where better to go whale watching in Cape Town than Hermanus? This seaside town is world famous for its whale watching, and the annual whale festival that takes place every September. It’s a 2-hour drive from the city, so you can take a day trip from Cape Town, but if you’re able to, I think it’s worth staying overnight – Beautiful Abalone has lovely rooms starting from just R900, but you can check out the full list of hotels here.

Once you’re in Hermanus, there are a few different ways to see whales. To be honest, between June and December, you’ll probably see plenty of them just walking along a section of the famous Cliff Path (or the whole thing, if you’re up for a challenge!) 

Whale watching cruise 

For me, a whale watching cruise in Hermanus would be the clear choice. It’s one of the best places in the whole world to get out on a boat and see whales, so if you’re going to do it anywhere, do it here! 

Cruise with transport from Cape Town

You can either take a whale watching cruise from Cape Town so that you don’t have to stay overnight in Hermanus, which is ideal if you’re short on time. I think that this tour is a fantastic choice as you get a 3-hour whale cruise, a visit to the African penguin colony at Stony Point, and to go to a fantastic local winery for lunch – usually Creation, which I’ve been to and loved. I couldn’t ask for a better day out. 

It costs R3,040 which includes everything except your lunch and tasting at the wine estate. But this is because it’s flexible, so you can also grab a takeaway from somewhere else. If you’re not a wine lover, I suggest asking your guides to take you to the Station in Hermanus instead. Simon makes the best eggs benny, cheesecake, and pretty much everything else in town! 

Cruise from Hermanus 

Alternatively, this tour includes pickup from your Hermanus hotel, and then you’ll head out on an epic marine safari! And when you’re in Hermanus during whale season, that means whales, whales, and… oh yeah, more whales. 

The rest of the Marine Big 5 is comprised of sharks, dolphins, seals, and penguins, so get your bingo card out for this cruise. One thing that I really appreciate about this tour is that there’s one crew member to every 6-7 guests and they don’t overcrowd the boat. I’ve been on tours where they shove you in like sardines, and it’s not pleasant! 

This cruise costs R2,400, including tea and coffee beforehand, a warming bowl of soup in a restaurant afterwards, and entry to the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary. This experience is also wheelchair accessible, but there’s a maximum of two chairs per boat so do contact the company through Viator after booking and let them know your requirements. 

Beach ride

I don’t think horse riding on the beach can ever be bad, but this one is extra special because you get to spot whales along the way. It actually takes place along the beaches within the Walker Bay Whale Sanctuary, which is a marine conservation region. So really, where better to spot whales from the shore? 

The tour costs R1,100, which is pretty good for a 4-hour beach ride! I paid R800 for an hour-long one in Cape Town itself, and I didn’t even see any whales. (It was incredible though, and you can find out more about horse riding in Cape Town here.) 

Walk the Cliff Path

Walking the famous Cliff Path is a must while you’re in Hermanus. I’ve only done a section of it myself, but I would love to do the entire thing one day. The 12-kilometre (7.5-mile) path hugs the coastline, so in terms of views, it’s basically whale-central. It takes about 3.5 hours out-and-back, and I’d definitely recommend bringing your binoculars for this one. Make sure to keep count of how many you see – I would love to know! 

7. Gansbaai 

Gansbaai is best known for its Great Whites, but its close proximity to Hermanus and the Walker Bay Reserve mean that it’s also a pretty great place to spot whales. In fact, you can actually spot them both on this shark cage diving and whale watching combo tour – how insane is that?

You can do this tour on a day trip from Cape Town, as it includes return transport from the city. Now, I’ll be honest, it’s pretty far – at least 2.5 hours each way. And when I went shark cage diving, I thought it was too far to drive for an hour-long boat ride. However, I cheaped out and didn’t go with the most reputable company, and with this tour you get a second boat cruise to go and spot whales. 

I also like this company because they offer a repeat experience within two years if you don’t see any sharks. And so I do think that getting to see sharks and whales makes the high amount of travel time worth it. So if you can, I would definitely recommend waiting and doing this combo tour in the winter rather than going shark cage diving by itself during summer. 

This tour costs R4,800, including return transport from Cape Town, breakfast, lunch, hot drinks, and the two boat trips. 

Thank you so much for reading this blog post! For more resources to help you plan your trip to Cape Town, you might also like…

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