Marine Big Five in Plett

Written by AmakayaBP

We are so fortunate in Plettenberg Bay to not only have the Big 5 of Game Viewing, but also the Big Five of Marine Animals! If you are backpacking or visiting the Garden Route, stop in Plett and get some land and marine Big Five sightings in! There are a number of factors influencing this little bay along the south-western tip of South Africa.

Firstly, the Southern Cape coast is affected by the merging of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, making for plentiful and diverse marine life (great for scuba diving), from the tiniest plankton to the largest ocean predators. The whales of the Southern Oceans spend their summer months off the coast of Antarctica, but move north for the winter to shelter in the warmer waters of South Africa, to mate and breed.

Here’s a quick summary of the Marine Big 5 that you might get to see in Plettenberg Bay:



Is there anything better for the soul than strolling along a beach watching the dolphins playfully surfing the breakers. Dolphins are commonly sighted in the waters off Plett and species include Bottlenose Dolphins, rare Humpback Dolphins and Common Dolphins. The Bottlenose and Humpback are often seen close to shore, but the Commons are more often seen in the open ocean. It’s not unheard of for scuba divers, surfers or snorkelers to be approached by dolphins whilst in the water.

For close encounters, we would recommend booking a whale & dolphin watching safari, or fishing charter, but early morning and afternoons are great for seeing them from the shore too. You might get lucky on a Robberg Hike and see the entire Big 5 in one place!

Southern Right Whale:

During our winter months, many of these whales call Plettenberg Bay their home. So called by the whale hunters of old as the “right” kind of whale to hunt for its blubber – it’s easily identified by the lack of dorsal fin and white callosities on its head and is super playful. Watching a baby Southern Right whale breaching is a pure joy you won’t soon forget. The Southern Right whales grow to about 15m in length and weigh in at about 47 tons! There are many great view spots in Plett to enjoy land-based whale watching or hop onto a boat based whale tour to get a little closer to the gentle giants of Plettenberg Bay.


Humpback Whale

Plettenberg Bay is known as one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Once you have seen a gigantic whale sailing elegantly through the air or playfully slapping its flipper or tail on the water, you can truly understand the size, grace and majesty of the world’s largest animal. The Humpback Whale is gregarious and active: breaching, spy-hopping and tail slapping and their whalesong has been known to last around 20 minutes! Again, if you would like to see whales, either a whale watching excursion or land-based viewing is the way to go.



It’s the ocean, there are sharks – right? Right. Although, there is no commercial operation to see those magnificent of all sharks – the Great White and they are seldom spotted, although sometimes seen hanging around the seal colony on Robberg. Plettenberg Bay is home to other shark species that you might get to see. If you head out on a whale-watching or charter fishing boat, you may see Hammerhead sharks on the surface. If you choose to go scuba diving, you might encounter the Ragged-Tooth Shark, Pyjama Shyshark or, on the furthest reefs, perhaps a Mako Shark. We recommend a scuba dive if you are a shark lover. [photo courtesty of Pro Dive South Africa]


The Cape Fur Seal, which makes its home on Robberg Peninsula in Plettenberg Bay (“Robberg” literally meaning “Seal Mountain”), is playful, social and surprisingly delightful to encounter.  A hike on Robberg will bring you over the top of the colony to watch the seals darting through the water, and a whale watching trip will often stop at the colony for a visit. For those looking for a more interactive experience, you can snorkel or scuba dive with these oceanic ballerinas! The large males are frightfully verbal and the juveniles love to tease divers and chase bubbles.


On an end note, as these are all animals living in the wild, there are no guarantees of sightings (except the seals) but we could think of few better ways to explore the marine world of Plettenberg Bay than chasing the Marine Big 5! If you would like more information, or would like us to arrange a package for you, please contact Amakaya Backpackers on