Also known as the Whale Nursery of South Africa, with the largest concentration of Southern Right whales who return here annually between July and November to mate and calve, Witsand is the most popular destination in Hessequa when it comes to viewing these giants of the ocean. In 2013 there were 82 calves born, and a total of 185 whales counted by means of an aerial survey in San Sebastian Bay. No licenses are given for boat based whale watching in order to preserve the ecosystem, and various lookout points are situated on the shore. They can also easily be spotted from the shore in the coastal towns of Jongensfontein, Stilbaai and Gouritsmond.
The Southern Right Whale, which you are most like to see, can grow up to 18 metres and the adults weighs on average 41 oookg. It’s stocky body is black, with the occasional white markings along the back and underside. It has neither dorsal fin nor any ridge along the back. They normally produce one young after a gestation period of 12 months; it measures five to six metres at birth and they are born tail first. It was judged as the ‘right’ whale to catch because it is rich in oil and floats when killed. Today however, it’s simply the ‘right’ whale to see as they come so close to shore, and they’ve been listed as international protected species since 1935. The whale can easily be recognised by its V-shaped ‘blow’ and the callosities on or around its huge head which are outgrowths of tough skin and form different patterns on each individual whale.
travel tips and planning info
HOW TO GET THERE
Witsand is located 40 minutes drive from Heidelberg. Follow the signs from the N2. From there you can travel on the lesser know gravel road to village of Vermaaklikheid, which will lead you along the Blombos road to Jongesfontein and Stilbaai. From here you can drive further west past Rein’s Private Nature Reserve to the coastal town of Gouritsmond.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best months of the year for whale watching and are between July and November.
TOURS TO DO
In all the coastal towns kayaking is popular on their respective river mouths as well as on the sea. Pili Pili Adventure Centre in Witsand offers a range of water related activities.
Public transport is limited around these areas and if you’re not travelling with a tour operator vehicles can be rented from either Cape Town or George.
WHERE TO STAY
Camping is popular in the coastal towns with well-maintained caravan parks situated right by the various Blue Flag status beaches. Luxury guest houses and various self catering options are also available.
NOT TO MISS
Crossing the Breede River en route to Witsand on the hand-operated pontoon ferry at Malgas, the last one of its kind in South Africa.