7 Tips for a Successful Whale Watching Tour

Written by Cris Puscas

Did you know that South Africa is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching? 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?

Majestic animals that still intrigue us with their behaviour, whales have been part of the popular folklore and made appearances in books for centuries. If you are also fascinated by the fictional white whale from Herman Melville's novel "Moby-Dick; or, The Whale" and have always wanted to see whales in their natural habitat, a team has put together a useful list of tips to know before you go whale watching.

1. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience
Going on a whale watching safari is a once-in-a-lifetime 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.

2. 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 or ginger candy  (yes, it works!). 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 all year round.

5. 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, Transkel National Park and Isimangaliso Wetland Park. You can even spot them in Cape Town itself from the road along the False Bay Coast.

6. 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. Plus, 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-based family safari until the kids grow older.

7. You may also see 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.

As a bonus, some facts are included about the whales you can see in Africa.

Southern Right Whale
  1. they are the rarest of all large whales.
  2. their heads can measure up to one-third of their total body length.
  3. they came close to extinction between the 17th and 19th century and now they are considered endangered and have been protected since 1949.
Southern Right Whale
Photo Credit: rosshugget Flickr via Compfight

Humpback Whale
  1. they are known for their magical song, able to travel great distances through the ocean.
  2. they are found near coastlines.
  3. 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.
Humpback Whale

Bryde's Whale
  1. they are long and slender and have much more streamlined bodies than other large whales.
  2. they can live up to 50 years in the wild.
  3. they can lift their entire body out of the water in an acrobatic display.
Bryde's Whale 
Photo Credit: Nik Cyclist Flickr via Compfight

Looking for great whale watching safari options? Browse the hundreds of amazing safaris and choose the one which suits your best!

Author's Bio
Cris hails from Europe where she is a social media specialist by day and blogger by late evening. She is a passionate photographer, with a love for nature and travel. She constantly looks for new places to explore and write about.

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