Best Whale Watching in Hermanus: Your Complete Guide 2023
🖋️ By Deb | 🗓️ Updated December 15, 2022 | 🐳 Hermanus Whales
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This is the place to find the best whale watching tour in Hermanus, South Africa.
Whale watching in Hermanus, South Africa is one of the best ways to spend your time in Western Cape. In fact, Hermanus has some of the best whale watching on the planet.
The picturesque town itself is a popular tourist destination on its own, and the abundance of whales that swim its waters makes it irresistible.
As whale watching is one of the top activities in Hermanus, many tours are offered. It can be difficult to know which one to choose for the best tour possible.
🏆 Author’s Choice: Best Whale Watching
➨3 Day Safari and Coastal Tour
Get a taste of all the best that South Africa has to offer – Hermanus whale sightings, the garden route, and 2 land safaris!
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about whale watching in Hermanus. This includes the best Hermanus whale watching spots and trips! There’s a tour for everybody, whether you’re into boats or not.
Are you ready to discover the best whale watching tours in Hermanus? Let’s do it! After we’ve explored all the tours, have a look at the Whale Watching FAQ, for the answers to any questions you might have left.
Then check out this essential Hermanus information for all the info you need to have a great time in this gorgeous area.
6 Best Whale-Watching Tours in Hermanus
1. Big Marine Safari from Hermanus
⭐️ Rated: 5 out of 5 (33 reviews) | 🐳 Expert Guide
On the Big Marine Safari from Hermanus, your mission will be to not only see whales, but the entire marine Big 5 of Hermanus. You’ll be looking for dolphins, African penguins, Cape fur seals, and great white sharks as well as the Hermanus whales.
You’ll actually get a chance to see several types of whales while you’re out there! This boat trip heads towards an area where they know these animals like to hang out.
After being picked up at your hotel, you’ll head out with a group of no more than 15. You’ll learn about the whales’ environment through commentary along the way.
What’s Included? As well as hotel pick up and drop off at your accommodation, foul weather gear is available, in case you run into a bit of rain.
Tea, coffee, and muffins are served before setting out, and you’ll get warm soup and bread after returning from mission accomplished. Bottled water is provided for you to stay hydrated in the sun.
* You even get a free visit to the African Penguin and Seabird sanctuary! Wheelchair accessible
2. Whale & Dolphin Watching Boat Trip
⭐️ Rated: 4.6 out of 5 (98 Reviews) | 🐳 Whale Specialist
➦ Here’s what one guest had to say about their trip: “Amazing! the guide was informative and helpful. the boarding and waiting area were nice. We got to see 3 different whales and dolphins and seals! not sure how regular it is to see all of these in one trip, maybe we got lucky? but it was worth every dollar spent.“
Head out to sea to find these enormous creatures in their home environment! There’s nothing like spotting the spout or tail fluke of a whale in the wild.
And if you’ve ever seen dolphins in the wild, it’s like watching a bunch of puppies playing! It can be the besst part of a boat tour!
Once whales or dolphins have been spotted, your boat will disengage the engine to avoid injury to the whales, as they often decide to swim over and do some people watching!
While you’re on the water you’re likely to see other marine life as well. This might include Cape Fur seals, plus some of the astounding sea birds that call this area home.
See a whole different side of South Africa from the water!
What’s included? You’ll be provided with water, soda, and potato chips for a snack while you’re on the water.
* Not wheelchair accessible; kid friendly
3. Hermanus Land Based Whale Walking Tour
⭐️ Rated: Get in on this new tour! | 🐳 Expert Guide Dave de Beer
Start your tour at the Hermanus’s Whale Museum to learn about the history of whales in Hermanus. You’ll also get the inside scoop on the connection between the town and the whales that swim in its waters.
Dave will guide you along the cliffs to all of the best places to see whales in Hermanus from land. He’ll introduce you to the local whale population, explain their behaviour and share other amazing facts!
This is your chance to experience a private whale tour – just you and your group.
*Not wheelchair accessible
4. Full Day Trip to Hermanus from Cape Town (with Wine!)
⭐️ Rated: 4.7 out of 5 (15 reviews) | 🐳 Expert Guide
If you’re based in Cape Town but are dying to see the whales of South Africa, this tour is for you. You’ll get to sit back and enjoy the stunning views as you travel from the Mother City.
When you arrive in Hermanus, you’ll be taken to the best shore-based whale watching spot. Whales love to swim close to land, giving you excellent viewing opportunities.
You may even get to see dolphins and other marine life in the water.
On your way back to Cape Town you’ll either stop for some wine tasting at one of South Africa’s premier wineries or hang out with the penguins at Stony Point.
Then relax and enjoy the scenery as you’re returned to your accommodation.
* Not wheelchair accessible
5. Hermanus Whale Watching Full Day Tour from Cape Town
⭐️ 4.5 out of 5 (2 reviews) | 🐳 Expert Guide
Another great tour for those staying in Cape Town! This is a land based whale watching tour with the option of also embarking on a 2-3 hour boat tour to look for these giant marine mammals.
You’ll experience heartstopping views on the road trip between Cape Town, and will stop in Betty’s Bay to see the adorable African penguins at Stoney Point.
The sunset on the return trip to Cape Town is one you won’t forget.
6. Three Day Safari and Coastal Tour with Transfer from Cape Town
⭐️ New Tour!
If you’re based in Cape Town and are short on time, this is the perfect way to go whale watching in Hermanus. AND, fit in some other don’t miss, classic South Africa activities.
You’ll not only have the spectacular opportunity to see Hermanus whales from its cliffs. You’ll also visit the true southern tip of Africa, as well as the penguins at Betty’s Bay.
In addition, you’ll join an expert guide for 2 wildlife safaris. See the iconic African wildlife in its natural environment. Enjoy the scenery along
What’s Included: While on the tour you’ll stay at beautiful chalets, lodges, and 4-star guest houses. Meals and wine tasting are provided, as are pick-up/drop-off at your Cape Town accommodation.
* Not wheelchair accessible
7. Hermanus – Wine and Whales – Full Day Private Tour
⭐️ New Tour!
This trip offers something different. See the whales from shore, by boat, or by kayak. Kayaking is an amazing way to see these giant mammals.
There will also be some time to explore Stanford and Hermanus, and lunch overlooking whales (and maybe their babies!).
You also get to hike through Fernkloof Park, suitable for all fitness levels. Wander through the local markets, and take a stroll along the cliffs or the beach/ or both!
You’ll also have the opportunity to visit Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. The valley is home to what is considered to be the most exciting wine region in the country. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful one.
Shark-cage diving is also offered as an activity!
All of these activities are optional, so you can pick and choose what you’d like to do. This tour is priced per private group, up to 6 people.
* Wheelchair accessible
BONUS: Whale Watching from Gansbaai
⭐️ Rating: 5 out 5 (185 reviews) | Expert Guide
If this all sounds amazing, but you’ll be staying in Gansbaai instead of Hermanus, you’re in luck! This highly-rated tour takes you to the cliffs of De Keldar to see the iconic Southern Right Whales.
Along the way, you might also see dolphins, penguins, or even sharks!
* Wheelchair accessible
Whale Watching in Hermanus: Tips & FAQ
What kinds of whales can be seen in Hermanus’ waters?
Southern Right Whales are the stars of the show in these waters. However, you might also see the seasonal Humpback Whales that visit from the cooler waters of the Antarctic Ocean.
Byrde’s Whales live here year-round. An adult Bryde’s Whale is around 44 feet long – about the same size as Humpbacks. In fact, they’re closely related to the Humpback Whale.
What’s the best month to go whale watching in Hermanus?
There are 3 types of whales that swim around Hermanus, and a couple of them are seasonal visitors. Here is whale watching season in Hermanus, South Africa in a nutshell:
Byrde’s Whales can be seen in Hermanus all year long. The other 2 species of whales that Hermanus plays host to, though, are seasonal visitors.
Humpback Whales typically come to town in June and July, and sometimes stick around as late as August. Southern Right Whales, on the other hand, are in town for an annual 6 month visit.
Early June marks the arrival of the Southern Right Whale. They remain until late November, or if we’re lucky, early December. These are the whales most people come to see!
What kinds of behaviour can I see the whales exhibit?
There are a few different types of behaviour that you might see in the Southern Right Whales.
- These whales have been known to frolic and play with other marine animals, such as dolphins and seals.
- You might see a Southern Right Whale perform a tail lift. They are able to hold their tails above water for quite a long time by dropping their heads down and “treading water” with their pectoral fins.
They tend to do this because they need a rest. Or they might want a chance to gaze around and get the lay of the land. They can also “sail” this way when the tail catches the wind.
- Breaching is a frequently seen behaviour in whales. Generally, when a whale jumps above the water and twists their body around, it’s to get a look at what’s going on above the surface.
Or they may be ridding themselves of parasites, or are simply feeling playful.
- Sky hopping is a Southern Right Whale behaviour in which they will raise their head and eyes above the water. This gives them the chance to see what’s going on above water.
- Pec slapping is also a common whale behaviour. A way for them to communicate, the whale will roll on his side, raise a giant pectoral (side) fin, and flap it down on the surface of the water.
- Lobtailing is a similar action, but is done with the tail. It might also be done with communication in mind, or the whale might be feeling playful.
He might also be lobtailing to cool off or to drive off a predator.
What time of day are you most likely to see a whale?
There is no difference in whale activity in this area according to the time of day. Your whale watching tour in Hermanus should be planned with regard to the weather and your overall plans.
If one of your goals is to take great photos of the whales, you might consider avoiding the strong sun of midday. Midmorning or mid to mate afternoon or evening might give you a greater chance of success.
How much can I expect to spend to go whale watching in Hermanus?
If you’re staying right in Hermanus and are just after a basic 2-hour cruise, you will pay in the neighbourhood of US$65.
The price increases, of course, if you’re staying farther away, and are getting pick-up/drop-off from the tour operator.
Additional activities aside from whale watching will also raise the price of your tour. For example, the all-inclusive 3-day safari/whale watch tour above costs, at this time, US$455.
Is there any chance of seeing sharks as well as whales?
Very little. Sharks are fairly rare in the Hermanus area. If you’re keen to see some sharks, take a look at Shark Diving in South Africa. You’ll find info on cage diving along the South African coast.
A great shark viewing trip is this one in nearby Kleinbaai.
What if my whale watching is cancelled for some reason?
If there is inclement weather and your tour has to be cancelled, you will receive a refund. Try to book your tour early in your stay, so you have time to reschedule.
Do I need to be on a boat to see whales?
Absolutely not! Hermanus is a fantastic place for land-based whale watching. Seiver’s Point is one of the most popular. Old Harbour has viewing terraces that also offer gorgeous views over Walker Bay. There are whale information boards here, too.
If you’d like a spot that you can drive to, Voëlklip and Grotto Beaches are both vehicle-accessible whale watching spots. Check out the map below.
Will I be safe if I go whale watching in Hermanus?
All tour boats are equipped with all of the necessary safety equipment, and you’ll receive a short safety briefing before you head out.
As well, all COVID precautions are taken, including social distancing, masking in public areas, and the availability of hand sanitizer to guests.
Be sure to wear shoes with non-slip treads and look out for water on the ground/floor.
Are whale sightings guaranteed?
Unfortunately, tour companies can not guarantee animal sightings. However, some may offer some form of compensation if no marine life is seen.
If this is a concern for you, be sure to check with the company before you embark on the tour.
What to bring when whale watching in Hermanus?
• If you’ll be taking a boat tour, be sure to take some non-drowsy Dramamine if you have trouble if seasickness. If you’re not sure, take some just in case. Or try a seasickness patch.
• Even in the sun, it may be cool on the boat. A windbreaker is a good idea.
• Non-slip shoes are a necessity, as is sunscreen.
• A cap, or better, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses will keep the sun out of your eyes so you don’t miss a thing.
• A camera! Or even better, a GoPro. They’re a fantastic way to make sure you capture everything, without having to be stuck behind a camera. This one is waterproof and comes with 4 extra batteries.
🏥 Don’t forget Travel Insurance. You planned for it and you paid for it. Protect your vacation. SafetyWing always has my back!
Where to Stay While Whale Watching in Hermanus
🏘 I recommend browsing through VRBO for an excellent selection of apartments, beach cottages, and houses. You’ll find options for all budgets and you can filter for whatever amenities you’d like. Pets? Laundry? The choice is yours.
🏩 Another great option is Booking.com. They also have a terrific selection of houses and apartments, and they offer hotels as well (room service!). Filter for your desired amenities and location.
🏡 Budget travellers can hop on over to Hostelworld. You can find your dream spot at an unbelievable price. Check out the reviews on this Surf Hostel in Hermanus.
➤ These are all excellent options to find your ideal accommodation if you’ll be staying in Cape Town, Gansbaai, or anywhere else in Africa!
More to do While in Hermanus
✷ If you’re lucky enough to be in Hermanus at the end of September, you get to enjoy the Hermanus Whale Festival! Watch the parade and take advantage of the markets to see the work of local artists.
The Festival is a tribute to the whales and focuses on their protection. The Festival is an enormously popular event – if you’d like to be there, book your accommodations and activities early!
✷ South Africa is known across the globe for their wines. Take the opportunity to wander through the ‘Heaven and Earth’ valley and taste what this stunning area has to offer with the Wine Walk Overberg.
✷ Take a walk through the Fernkloof Reserve with a private guide. Pick the route that suits you best, and explore the small animals, 1600 species of plants, and spot some whales in Walker Bay on a Fernkloof Guided Walk.
✷ If looking for a little more adventure, check out the countryside on an ATV. Ride through world-renowned vineyards and guess which movie you’ve seen the area in! Bring your camera and do some whale watching, too.
✷ Take a wine tour of a selection of local wineries. Learn about the diversity of wines produces in this picturesque area on the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Wine Tour.
✷ Take a breathtaking hike in the Klienrivier Mountains. Keep an eye out for wildlife in the area, and enjoy the panoramic views on the Mountain Hike from Hermanus.
How to Get to Hermanus
The nearest airport to Hermanus is in Cape Town, about 1 hour and 45 minutes away.
I recommend renting a car and cruising down the stunning Garden Route to make the trip. I always use Discovery Cars to find the best deal.
Having your own car is the best way to be able to get to see everything there is to see on your own schedule.
But if you’d like to just sit back and enjoy the view, you have the option of taking the bus or the train from Cape Town to Hermanus.
Another great choice is to hire a taxi for the trip. It’s less expensive than you might think, and you get the vehicle to yourself.
Or maybe you’d prefer to stay in Cape Town and make a day trip to Hermanus, but don’t fancy the drive. Take advantage of one of the tours above. They’ll get you there and back, and you just get to enjoy.
Getting around Hermanus: taxi and Uber are quick and easy choices for getting around Hermanus.
Summing It Up: Whale Watching in Hermanus in 2022
Hermanus is a gorgeous part of South Africa. Add whales in there and it’s definitely a can’t-miss destination. With so many options for whale watching, you really can’t go wrong.
I encourage you to see as much of South Africa as you can while you’re here! It’s an unbelievably stunning place, and there are activities, sights, and ways to get around for everybody.
Have a look at 14 Reasons to Visit South Africa for some incentive to spend as much time here as you can. And if you need help planning your trip, I’ve got you covered there too.
Read more about South Africa:
➵ How Many Cities are in Beautiful South Africa
➵ 30 Photos to Inspire You to Visit South Africa
➵ The Best Dive Sites in South Africa
➵ Snowfall in Cape Town: Does it Really Happen?
➵ Find Your Dream Destination in Africa