There is nothing more exhilarating than observing whales in their natural environment. It’s an unforgettable experience that will be etched in your mind forever.
Each sighting is unique because the antics of these gentle giants are thrilling and unpredictable. Knysna offers fantastic whale watching opportunities in season, including orcas, humpback, southern right and Bryde’s whales, while dolphins, the whale’s cetacean relative, can be seen all year round in the waters beyond the famous Knysna Heads.
Humpback and southern right whales are sighted from June through until November every year as they migrate up and down the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. They pass by the Knysna Heads in large numbers coming from the cold feeding grounds off Antarctica to the warmer waters of the southern African coastline to mate and calve. As they swim past our coastline, we are able to observe their complex mating courtships and see them blowing, breaching, spyhopping, and slapping their tails against the water. You may be lucky enough to see a mother with her calves (they have been known to congregate in the protective waters of Buffalo Bay for weeks on end), or witness a whale feeding, or the ultimate experience of a “whale hijacking” when a group of curious whales surrounds the boat, swimming underneath the hull and coming up for air, sometimes spraying water all over the guests as they exhale!
Take a trip to see them play
Ocean Odyssey is the only close encounter whale watching permit holder for the greater Knysna area, which extends from the western side of the Robberg Peninsula, to Gericke’s Point in Sedgefield. This allows their boats to get within 50 metres of a whale, something which requires great skill and understanding of the behaviour of these intelligent, aquatic mammals. The skippers of Ocean Odyssey’s Blue Flag accredited boats are well versed in the strict guidelines of the permit set out by the Department of Environmental Affairs and SABBWWA to keep the whales and dolphins, safe. A whale spotter is on board to alert the skipper to sightings.
If it’s not whale season, you can book a marine eco-tour with Ocean Odyssey to explore the coves, caves and bays of the Knysna Heads. It’s a 1,5-hour marine safari and you can expect to see dolphins, seals, penguins and a variety of birds in their natural habitat.
Or enjoy a 45-minute Heads adventure – an educational tour of the marine protected area of the Knysna lagoon and Heads. You could be lucky enough to see a Cape clawless otter or a Cape fur seal. Occasionally you may see a hammerhead shark. The list of birds that is most frequently spotted in the lagoon area include Cape gannet, gulls, African penguin, Cape and white breasted cormorant, terns, and the wandering and yellow-nosed albatross.
If you’re up for an adrenalin rush, Knysna Rib Adventures promises a thrilling high-speed trip across the lagoon and through The Heads in their ridged inflatable power boat. Book a 60-minute Adventure Trip or a 120-minute Eco Adventure Trip. On days when The Heads are not passable, you can join a 30-minute Heads Rush. Keep your binoculars handy for when you spot the prolific marine life of the Knysna lagoon and beyond.