It’s June, and that’s one of the most exciting months of the year here on the Garden Route because it means that whale season is well under way.Time to book my next whale-watching tour for sure.
To dispel a myth first, though: although we talk about our whale season as running from about June to September, this is really only the season for migratory whales – particularly southern right whales – because, in fact, you can (and often do) see many other species of whales and dolphins in the waters of the Southern Cape throughout the year. Besides southern rights, researchers in Mossel Bay, for instance, have recorded killer whales, Bryde’s whales (which are seen mostly in summer, from about October to March), humpback whales, humpback dolphins, long-beaked common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and rare vagrants like pygmy sperm whales (the scientists recorded two specimens in 2011).
Land-based whale watching in Knysna
Here’s a hint: The Heads.
The Knysna Heads is one of the world’s most spectacular portals to the sea. It’s an (ahem) heady place of great beauty and mysterious energy that’s attracted travellers – both human and animal – throughout the centuries.
And it attracts me – often – because looking out for whales and dolphins is one of my favourite ways of doing very little.
Won’t you join me? Take a drive (or cycle) southwards on George Rex Drive, past Leisure Isle on your left and the Woodbourne Caravan Park on your left, and take the next road to the right – there’s a sign to Coney Glen – and then, when you’re almost at the top of the Eastern Head, follow the signs to the viewpoint, where you’ll find a large parking area.
Now walk along the paved path to the little observation hut (actually a communications post in emergency situations for the NSRI’s Knysna Station 12) – and next to it: my favourite bench.
This is where I like to sit, and let my eyes drift over the Indian Ocean.
And if you’d been there with me last Tuesday, you’ll have seen them too: a pod of killer whales.
As I said – rare, but not unexpected.
Boat-based whale watching in the Garden Route
Whales and dolphins love the Garden Route Coast for its broad, protected, relatively shallow half-heart bays (thusly named because each one is shaped like, well, half a heart). And while land-based whale-watching and land-based dolphin-watching can certainly deliver the goods, it’s also worth going to sea with a licensed guide because their training and experience will really add to your experience of the ocean.
Personally, and even though I live here in Knysna, I like to go to sea at least once in every whale season. I’ve booked this year’s trip with Ev and Steph Pepler’s Ocean Odyssey – which runs from Thesen Harbour Town – but if you’d rather go whale watching in Mossel Bay, try Romonza Boat Trips, and if you’re in Plettenberg Bay, there’s Ocean Blue Adventures.
Won’t you let me know how it went?
(All images on this post were supplied by Ocean Odyssey)