Marine Big 5


Where to go to see the Marine Big 5

You might know the Big 5 as the elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo. However, a new breed of ‘big’ is gracing South African shores. The Marine Big 5 includes the southern right whale, humpback dolphin, Cape fur seal, African penguin, and great white shark. Travellers flock to South African shores every year in the hopes of seeing this magnificent group of marine animals in their natural environment. 

Once you’ve travelled to the southernmost tip of the African continent, the Marine Big 5 are at your fingertips. The best places along the coast to spot these ocean dwellers are in the Garden Route and along the aptly named Whale Route.

Southern Right Whale

Between the months of June and November, southern right whales are known to move into cosy bays and close to shorelines to give birth and care for their new-born calves. 

Hermanus is the hub of whale activity during these months as shore-side spectators watch these overwhelmingly-sized mammals put on a spectacular display. Whales playfully blow, breach and lobtail around in the water, creating much excitement for eager onlookers. 

If you’re up for a lengthy adventure, make your way to De Hoop Nature Reserve where a 55km Whale Trail traverses the coastline. The best land-based whale watching in the world can be enjoyed here as you wander along the reserve’s jagged and fynbos-dotted cliffs. 

Humpback Dolphin

The humpback dolphin is one of the country’s most loved marine animals, thanks to its friendly nature and the endearing hump on its back. This water-based relative of Quasimodo has a preference for shallow waters, particularly those around Dyer Island, which provides a prime opportunity for wildlife photographers.  

Cape Fur Seal

The Cape fur seal is endemic to South Africa and a delight to watch thanks to their playful and curious nature. Visitors can even snorkel with them in the waters off Duiker Island or in Plettenberg Bay. A day-trip to Gansbaai takes guests to Geyser Rock where travellers are greeted by a delightful scene of a 60,000-strong seal colony. 

African Penguin

The smallest of the Big 5 is the endangered African penguin. Luckily, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust is dedicated to improving the breeding success of penguins with hopes to reverse their current population decline on Dyer Island. These flightless, aquatic birds can also be spotted on Boulder’s Beach in Simons Town or at Stony Point in Betty’s Bay. 

Great White Shark

Gansbaai is the self-proclaimed great white shark capital of the world. While these creatures may be the most feared of the Marine Big 5, this certainly doesn’t stop people from getting up-close and personal with them. The notorious ‘shark alley’ between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock is just 20 minutes by boat from Gansbaai and a hotspot for shark-cage diving.

Where to stay when seeing the Marine Big 5

If you’re looking for an ideal location while deciding when and where to go, then Grootbos Nature Reserve is the resort to book as you have opportunities to see all of the Marine Big 5 during your stay. It’s only 30 minutes from Hermanus and en-route to the Garden Route. Grootbos has 6,200 acres and 750 different species of fynbos. There are breath-taking views of Walker Bay from the grounds and luxury guest rooms. National Geographic considers Grootbos one of the Unique Lodges of the World thanks to their five-star amenities and eco-resort nature. They are genuine leaders in responsible tourism and one of Rhino Africa’s favourite places.

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