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Best destinations worldwide for watching marine wildlife, including whales, whether from boats or land, with impressive annual visits.
Whales and dolphins are some of the most outstanding species on the planet and confronting them in the wild is an inspirational and every so often a touching experience. Africa is home to some of the best whale and dolphin-watching destinations on Earth. Although South Africa accounts for a large proportion of overall whale watchers in Southern Africa due to its immensity, at the same time neighbouring countries such as Namibia and Mozambique also give off descent experience that is coupled with dolphins viewing. Expedition is particularly tide and weather reliant and as with any wild animal, whale sightings can never be guaranteed.
South Africa is a popular destination for both boat and land‐based whale watching with incredible whale viewing opportunities along the coastline. The Western Cape of South Africa is one of the foremost sought spots for land‐based whale watching in the world, and the town of Hermanus, overlooking Walker Bay, is perhaps South Africa’s best‐known whale watching location.
Boat‐based whale watching primarily takes place from Hermanus, Plettenberg Bay, Cape Town, Gansbaai, Lamberts Bay, Mosselbay, and Knysna in the Western Cape Province. The excursions are mostly centred on the southern right whale, even though other types such as humpbacks, Bryde’s whale, orcas and dolphins are seen opportunistically. Most expeditions also offer opportunistic sightings of other wildlife such as seals, pelagic birds and oceanic sharks.
Land‐based whale watching also continues to be a huge draw card, particularly in the Western Cape Province. Land‐based whale watching in country is almost completely fixated on southern right whales. Hermanus still remains central to whale watching and continues to hold an annual whale festival, which can attract as many as 100,000 people in a weekend. With population growth and sightings taking place more regularly from several locations along the Western Cape coast, land‐based whale watching is now also prevalent from Cape Town, Plettenberg Bay, De Kelders, Gansbaai, Fish Hoek, Hangklip‐Kleinmond, Simon’s Town, as well as Table Mountain National Park22. Other National Parks where whale watching is possible, are Addo Elephant, Agulhas, Tsitsikamma, West Coast and Wilderness.
Namibia has whale generally runs broad nature trips that cover sightings of cetaceans (predominantly dolphins) and other wildlife, including fur seals, turtles and sunfish. Humpback and southern right whales are seen opportunistically between June and October on their annual migration. The principal area for whale watching is Walvis Bay.
Trips are generally three to four hours in duration and, for trips in Walvis Bay, follow a similar course that includes fishing or mining vessels secured in the bay, one of the oyster farms, Pelican Point (for Heaviside’s dolphins), the fur seal colony at Pelican Point, and Bird Island (a man‐made guano platform), with other wildlife sighted opportunistically along the way. Heaviside’s dolphins are a unique attraction to this area as they are widespread in the region, being found only off the coast of Namibia and the western coast of South Africa.
In Mozambique the vast majority are dive centres or boutique hotels that offer opportunistic and dedicated dolphin and whale watching. Vessels range from sea kayaks, to motorised boats, recreational fishing boats and dive boats. Whale watching is focused mainly on bottlenose dolphins, although humpback whales are also seen on their migration between the months of June and October. The main area for whale watching is Ponta do Ouro on the southern tip of Mozambique. Resorts and boutique hotels in the Bazaruto Archipelago, Quirimbas Archipelago and at Inhambane also offer permanent seasonal whale watching trips and opportunistic dolphin watching.
Whale watching in Tanzania occurs within the Menai Bay Conservation Area, southwest of Unguja island, the larger of two islands of Zanzibar and on the Mafia Island. Seasonal opportunistic whale watching is offered on these islands. During the months of September and August, experiences the Humpback Whale migration in the south of Mafia as they head for warm waters with their calfs. Humpbacks are renowned for their magical songs which travel for great distances. These songs are complex and often continue for hours on end. They migrate annually from the cool polar waters to the warmer waters near the equator to mate and nurse.