Why are they here? Southern right whales migrate from Antarctica and congregate in the bays around Cape Town, the Southern Cape and up the West Coast to mate, give birth and wean their calves. 

Head to these places for the best sightings:

  • False Bay: Clarence Drive between Gordon’s Bay and Rooiels
  • Hermanus: The cliff trail between the new harbour and Grotto Beach
  • De Hoop Nature Reserve: Koppie Alleen picnic site and dunes
  • Mossel Bay and surrounds: The Point Hotel or a nearby restaurant like The Kingfisher 
  • Wilderness: Dolphin’s Point on Kaaiman’s Pass
  • Brenton-on-Sea: The Butterfly Blu Restaurant
  • Knysna Heads: The viewpoint on the Eastern Head 
  • Plettenberg Bay: Robberg Peninsula

Know your southern right whale

Get a bigger scale. An adult southern right whale is about as big as a bus and weighs up to 60 tonnes.

You big baby! A calf can weigh up to 1,5 tonnes at birth (as much as 17 average-size adult men) and it will put on about 85 kg per day. 

Stand back Usain Bolt… Or not. Southern right whales like to take their time. Even when they’re migrating they move slower than a human walking at a leisurely pace.

WHALES WITH CALVES 0,6 – 1,5 km/h

NEXT TO THE COAST 1 – 2,8 km/h

MIGRATION 2,8 – 3 km/h


Never enough maternity leave. The reproduction cycle of a female southern right whale is about three years. During the first year she mates in South African waters; in the second year the pregnant cow returns to give birth to one calf. In the third year she takes a well-deserved break. 

Impress your friends with your knowledge of whale behaviour: 
Blowing is when the whale comes up for air and it blows out droplets of condensation; breaching is when the whale launches out of the water, often many times in succession (thought to be a way of communicating, exercising or getting rid of parasites that live on the whale’s skin); lob-tailing is when the whale lifts one of its flukes out of the water and slaps the surface (a way of communicating); spy-hopping is when the whale lifts its head and body out of the water to see what’s going on.

Sources: southafrica.net; whaleroute.com; Southern right whales and other cetaceans in the De Hoop Nature Reserve area, Western Cape, South Africa by Katja Vinding