Situated along the south-eastern coast of South Africa, 280 kilometres from Cape Town, and stretching from Heidelberg in the West to the Storms River Village and Tsitsikamma Forests on the Eastern Cape Border, you will find South Africa’s Garden Route. Featuring numerous national parks, nature reserves, marine reserves, lakes, lagoons, rivers, wild life, beautiful beaches and little bays, the Garden Route is truly a Garden of Eden’ and is named for its scenic beauty.
This ‘Garden of Eden’ forms part of the Cape Floral Region – a World Heritage Site conserving 8 500 species of Fynbos and indigenous vegetation unique to the region. The Garden Route is a magnificent stretch of indigenous coastline.
Every year, southern right whales migrate from their icy feeding grounds off Antarctica to warmer southern climes where they may be observed mating, calving and rearing their young. Avid whale watchers are treated to the theatre of raw power and water acrobatics as these majestic creatures enjoy the warmer coastal waters.
These marine giants may be viewed along the length of the magnificent indigenous Garden Route coastline, stretching from Witsand in the South to Tsitsikamma in the North. Southern right whales can be spotted along the coast between July and November, humpback whales between May and December and Bryde’s whales year-round. The legendary orcas – or killer whales – are occasionally spotted along the coast.
The Garden Route offers a unique range of unforgettable whale watching experiences to choose from including land- and boat based excursions, sea kayaking and organised seven-day whale watching tours.
Land-based Whale Watching
The Garden Route offers excellent land-based whale watching at various destinations, along the coast. These spots include the mouth of the Port Beaufort River at Port Beaufort, Witsand – which offers one the best vantage land based viewing and is known as the whale nursery of South Africa.
Gouritz River mouth and Still Bay offer great viewing opportunities, where whales may be spotted from the Lappiesbaai Restaurant situated on the beach and the Still Bay Harbour.
Mossel Bay has a number of wonderful viewpoints. The St Blaize cave situated at The Point, a Khoisan Iron Age midden is a superb vantage point for whale-watching and you’ll be amazed at the delightful and varied behaviour of the southern right whales.
Situated between Mossel Bay and Little Brak River, Hartenbos offers one of the longest walking beaches in the Southern Cape from which you may observe a wide variety of marine life. Whales may also be spotted along the beach walk between Hartenbos and Tergniet at low tide, and the sand dunes in Great Brak River offer spectacular views. Whales may be spotted from Dana Bay and De Bakke beach in Great Brak River.
Dolphin’s View Point, situated at Kaaimans Pass on the N2 near Wilderness, offers a breath-taking viewpoint of Wilderness beach and beyond. From here, whales may be observed swimming behind the breakers. Flat Rock beach, which forms part of Wilderness beach, is a hidden gem (it gets its name from the flat rock formation located on the beach there) and is favoured for whale watching and rock angling’.
Gericke’s Point west of Sedgefield is not only one of the best walks located along the rugged Garden Route coastline, but affords a wonderful vantage point for whale watching. This scenic walk is characterised by steep fossilised dunes, a beautiful long winding stretch of beach – littered with shells at certain time of the year – and the imposing landmark sandstone boulder, named Gericke’s Point. The whale deck at Myoli Beach is another great spot to use. It’s also a great place to chill out and sip on cocktails at the Pili Pili Beach Bar.
In the Knysna area, Brenton-on-Sea, the Knysna Heads and Noetzie offer the best whale watching viewpoints. Southern right whales favour the area between the Keurbooms River and the wreck of the Athene in Plettenberg Bay, and the Robberg Peninsula. The Lookout Viewpoint, also known as the ‘Whale Tail’ in Plett is iconic for whale watching. There is an actual ‘Whale Tail’ bench from which to enjoy views of both sides of the bay, amazing views over Lookout Beach, Keurbooms Beach and the Tsitsikamma Mountains.
The Garden Route is renowned for its cosy, secluded bays and theses bays offer some great whale watching opportunities. Whales may be found basking in Buffalo Bay, from where they may be observed from the comfort of the restaurant, Ballots Bay, Herold’s Bay and Victoria Bay.
Boat Based Whale Charters
Strictly regulated boat-based excursions and ‘sea safaris’ are available in Knysna, Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay. These afford enthusiasts an unforgettable close encounter with whales in their natural milieu. The Marine Living Resources Act of 1998 dictates that a permit is required to approach a whale within 300m. In the interest of responsible tourism, ensure that the charter of your choice is licenced accordingly.
The Garden Route enjoys an oceanic climate with mild to warm summers and mild to cool winters, an ideal climate for year-round exploration, holidays, adventure, events and festivals. Accommodation caters to all seasons and preferences, and ranges from camping to five-star luxury.
Experience and discover the scenic beauty of the Garden Route and stay a while.
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