There are many places where whales, dolphins, whale sharks, stingrays etc. can be seen by a guided boat tour, a snorkel trip or even from the costal line.
Sea Lion colony, doubles in size in summer, pupping early July, mating a couple of weeks later.
The season for basking sharks usually starts in May and last until October. Actually, the best time is mid-May until mid-July. However, there is no guarantee to spot these sharks. In 2017 the best time was April until the beginning of May. In 2018 the first sighting of two sharks was at the end of April. In recent years, fewer basking sharks were spotted. In 2019 two basking sharks were already seen on March 12 which is pretty early.
Very important are good weather conditions, a sunny day and calm wind to spot them on the surface of the sea and for snorkeling with them as well. Book your trip at short notice. First, check if basking sharks are already around the coast.
What Else to Spot
- common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins
- minke whales (very shy)
- pilot whales
- leatherback turtles
- sometimes sunfish
- blue sharks; season starts end of June, more reliable to spot them but not predictable
- seals from mid-May until October
Check out the recent sightings for SW England
Where to Stay
There are many lovely B&B's in Penzance to choose from. Don't come here in a rush and for the basking sharks only. There is so much more like Kynance Cove, St. Michaels Mount, Minack Theatre and the hanging gardens to mention just a view. Our absolutely favorite B&B is the Marine Lodge. The view alone is worth to stay here. The Marine Lodge is spotlessly clean with wonderful owners. You couldn't wish for better.
Whale watching tours are offered from April to October. The duration of the orca whale watching trips in the morning during summer is roughly 3 hours. All other trips are approximately 2 hours long. The years 2018 and 2019 were different; fewer orca sightings. Instead, more sperm whales were spotted in May and June. Very unusual orcas were spotted again in October. Therefore, we can give you an idea of what you may see and when, but marine life is not predictable and guaranteed. It's always worth a try. We recommend booking at least two trips at different times of the day. One thing is guaranteed; YOU get addicted to it.
Tarifa is the capital city of wind. From time to time the Levante is too strong that neither fisher boats nor whale-watching boats can leave the harbour. In 2018 July was perfect with almost none wind, but instead, in August the boats couldn't leave the harbour for 17 days. Whereas in 2019 the Levante occurred less often and more exciting whale watching trips were possible. If there is too much fog in the morning whale watching trips are also cancelled. Book your trip in advance and confirm a day before.
Dolphins and Pilot Whales
Dolphins and Pilot Whales can be seen throughout the year. Pilot whales are night active diving deep for hunting their prey like squid. At daytime, they rest on the surface of the sea.
Orcas follow the tuna migration into the Mediterranean Sea and out. They come for the tuna in June and can be spotted until August. The tuna is too fast for them to catch with 90 km/h and orcas are clever. They only appear when the fishermen are out in the sea, and they try to catch their tuna from the hook. Tours are offered in July and August in the morning and last for about 3 hours all other whale watching tours last around 2 hours. In 2018 the orcas were spotted from the end of June until mid-July only. Instead, 2016 was an outstanding year for orcas. The big surprise there were sightings in October in 2018 which is unusual. Therefore, we can give you an idea when you might spot them, but wildlife is not predictable and guaranteed.
They can be spotted from April to August. They appear at the surface for about 8 minutes to breathe before diving again. 2018 and 2019 were exceptional years with plenty of sightings in 2018 in May and June for 12 days and 2019 from mid-September for eleven days.
They cross the Strait and can sometimes be spotted. In 2016 firmm had 27 sightings in one whale watching season. In 2019 they were already spotted on the first whale watching tour at the beginning of April.
The summer is the busiest time like elsewhere in Europe. Prices for hotels and apartments are on the highest level, and advanced booking is essential. Most of the rental houses are offered from Saturday to Saturday. Spring, September, and October are less busy and less expensive. However, the orca season runs from July to August only.
Where to Stay in Tarifa
It depends on what you like to experience in this region. If you just come for one day for whale watching it doesn't make sense to stay here. We spend a whole week in this area. Therefore, we'd chosen one of the many rental flats. Bookmark the link for the best-rated apartments around Tarifa. Don't miss the gorgeous Bolonia Beach and Dune. The dune is one of the largest shifting dunes in Europe.
From June to November Southern Right Whales visit the shore, and it is one of the most important nurseries from July to October.
The southern right whales migrate to the coast of South Africa from Antartica during winter and spring. They come to the warmer waters for mating, giving birth in protected lagoons, and feeding. They arrive in June and July and stay until November latest December before migrating back to the colder waters of Antartica. These whales can be spotted in De Hoop, Hermanus and along the Garden Route like in Mosselbay.
This coastal walk from Gansbaai is not much frequented rather still off the beaten track. Here you are able to spot these majestic giants close to the shore while hiking. The return hike is roughly 10 km long and may take 3-4 hours from Gansbaai to De Kelders and to the Klipgat Caves. The caves are accessible at low tide only. Check the tide times first: Tide Times Gansbaai
Kaikoura is a popular tourist destination and the best one in New Zealand for year-round whale and dolphin watching. You encounter resident sperm whales that have a 95 % sighting chance throughout the year. Dusky dolphins, as well as Common and Hector Dolphins, are also spotted year-round. Usually, there are two seasons for whale watching , ut exceptions occur, and you watch an unexpected pod of orcas during the winter. Continue reading our updated 2019/2020 guide to figure out details when to spot the different whale types in Kaikoura and what kind of trips are offered.
2 Whale Watching Seasons | Migrating Whales
Besides the resident sperm whales, which you can spot throughout the year, there are two different whale watching seasons for migrating whales around the Kaikoura Coastline:
- Colder Season: During the colder season from May to October you can spot migrating whales: Southern right whales, humpback whales, pilot whales and sometimes even blue whales. According to experts, the best time to see many species of migrating whales in Kaikoura during the colder season is between June and August.
- Warmer Season: During the summer, usually from November until March, you may spot orcas passing by in pods between 6 - 12 whales. Sometimes you spot blue whales as well. While there are slightly fewer sightings of migrating whales in summer, a whale watching tour during the warmer season is an absolute must-do!
Crowds / Fully Booked Tours
It's a very popular attraction and advisable to book these tours in advance, especially during the peak season in summer. Early morning trips are not always fully booked, but from 10 am onwards the boats fill up pretty fast. However, we would book in advance regardless of the time of day. That being said, book your trip far in advance if you prefer a later tour. One of the best tours is being offered by Whale Watch Kaikoura: Kaikoura Whale Watching Cruise (please book in advance otherwise you run the risk of not getting on the tour when you're there!)
Seal Colony in Kaikoura
Temps are pleasant from November to March, often around 20°C during the day. Nights temps are usually around 10°C. From April to October, the temps are on average above 10°C up to 16 °C. Significant rainfall can happen throughout the year. The wettest months occur from March to August. Due to the forecast, tours can get cancelled. Often the wind increases in the afternoon, and it's pretty rough on the boat. Be prepared if you struggle with sea-sickness.
Types of Whale Watching Trips and Prices
- Boat: A boat trip is common and the cheapest option for whale watching. Price per adult roughly $ 150 and child $ 60. The swell picks up in the afternoon. Sea-sickness remedies are helpful. The best boat tour: Kaikoura Whale Watching Cruise
- Plane: Nowadays 30 and 40 minutes flights by small planes are offered, When they spot a whale, they circle around 150 meters / 500 feet above. It's much shorter, but the planes are not depending on the sea conditions. Boat trips get more often cancelled due to a rough sea. Price per adult between $150 -180. Excellent flight/tour: Kaikoura - 30 Minutes Whale Watching Flight
- Helicopter: Also, helicopter flights are offered at 150 meters height. You can book trips from 30 minutes up to an hour. It's worth it, but also quite expensive depending on the number of people in your group for two adults more than $300 p.p. You'll love the tour (booking via GetYourGuide): Kaikoura - 30 Minutes Whale Watching Helicopter Tour
5 Great Kaikoura Tips
Very tasty Paua Sandwich!
- Paua Sandwich: Have a look for a snack stall close to the fur seal colony and try a Paua Sandwich (see the picture above). Although the black color looks strange, it is tasty and interesting. The Paua shell is famous for its beautiful colors and sold as a souvenir.
- Morning Tour: The sea is calmer in the morning and before the afternoon breeze gets up, it's a good idea to book a morning tour. It doesn't need to be the first one, though.
- Sea Sickness: If you experienced seasickness before, be sure to take a sea-sickness remedy no matter how calm it looks.
- Tour Cancellation: Tours may get cancelled due to harsh weather conditions. Confirm your trip a day before with your tour operator.
- Highway: Highway 1 south of Kaikoura gets closed in poor weather conditions. Check the weather forecast and get in touch with your tour operator.