Plettenberg Bay, the paradise of dolphins, whales and sharks
Why Plettenberg Bay?
Simply because I saw a beautiful picture in GEO magazine, which explained that dolphins were following sardines in June-July and that we would see plenty of them in South Africa. Some people know my love for dolphins. I traveled all over Australia to feed wild dolphins at Moreton Island, watching them for hours and hours. I love it when they come up to the surface to breathe, it’s so cute the noise they make.
There are several dolphin watching towns, but Plettenberg Bay is the town with the most activities nearby for tourists (bungee jumping, kayaking, diving, elephants etc.). Moreover, the bus ride from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay allows you to admire the most beautiful beaches of the Garden Route.
So one fine morning in June, we leave Cape Town for an 11h drive to Plettenberg Bay (did I tell you I LOVE dolphins?). Meeting at 7:15 am in front of our hotel in Cape Town. An old crowded bus stops in front of us. JB gives me a “why did you do this to me?” look. Fortunately, it isn’t OUR bus. Ours arrives 10 minutes later, 20 empty seats. Finally, the road only lasts 9 hours (-2h compared to what is planned). Indeed, the bus stops only to pick up and drop off the backpackers having booked. Otherwise, it traces by taking the highway. The landscapes remain exceptional, it looks like the central massif with ostriches and monkeys in addition, with some passages that have nothing to envy to the walk of the English.
Thanks to the backpackers who come down earlier than us, we get a small but sensational glimpse of Mossel Bay (and a small restaurant overlooking the bay, JB tells me that the boss has the head of a senior executive who gave up everything to come here), Wilderness (the Knowe Inn is a true haven of peace with hammocks and horseback rides) and Knysna (does the strike of the French team come to mind?).
Arrived at Plettenberg Bay at 4:15 pm, we aren’t even tired. We notice that this is maybe the first time in our life that we aren’t pressed for time and that’s what helps us to find the 9h drive extremely pleasant and fast.
The hotel is simply superb and well located, 50m from the beach. Well equipped with spacious and private bathroom.
We are enjoying the most magical sunset since the beginning of our trip, with the pastel colored sky changing shades every two seconds. The water is good in spite of the fact that we are in winter. A brave swimmer dives into the water while the children play on the sand. We witness there a real postcard scene.
We then have dinner at Moby Dick’s Grill overlooking the ocean. Usually, I don’t like fish but the grilled hake from the restaurant made me change my mind. The oysters are super fresh. Jb him, is entitled to an assortment of seafood just as delicious.
The next day, we leave for a 2h boat trip with Ocean Safaris. We see closely a whale swimming along the coast spotted this morning by other boats. Contrary to what I thought (I watch too much Disney), when the whale is breathing, it isn’t visible for miles. It’s very discreet. We then witness an attempted attack of a white shark with baby seals. Victory to the adult seals that were able to hunt the shark by swimming 20 next to the shark. Again contrary to the movies, the shark isn’t on the surface with its fin clearly visible but at a depth of 3m. A second shark is spotted running directly towards another boat. The water being transparent and with our excellent guides, we follow all this without any concern, with live commentaries like a rugby match.
Being very motivated, I’m at the top of the boat (where it shakes the most) to see better. I’m lucky to have one of the two guides who is also at the top to give directions to the captain. At one point, between the seals, the two white sharks, we see 3 shadows passing by, he shows them to me and says “humpback dolphins”, dolphins that are rather shy and very difficult to see.
On the way back, I see a fan-shaped flipper on the surface and show it to the guides. The boat stops dead and the guides tell us that it is a sunfish (harlequin), one of the rarest fish in the world. So, if we didn’t see dolphins swimming with the Titanic style boat, we were treated to a nice show and animals that are usually very difficult to spot.
Having learned our 2 days of road on purpose to come and see the dolphins, the guide proposes us to come back the next day to do another tour for free (really too nice). But finally, he informs us the same morning that no dolphin has been seen by the other boats today. We decide not to abuse his kindness and leave Pletttenberg Bay for Cape Town as planned at 12 am, without regrets.
How to get there
We chose to go there by Baz Bus from Cape Town, mainly because this bus drops us directly in front of the door of our youth hostel (which is also part of the Baz Bus program) and especially because it has a good reputation (on time, safe and comfortable), very important when you have a very precise agenda.
We have chosen 7 day passes Cape Town – Port Elizabeth, hop-on hop-off. Theoretically, we can stop anywhere, get back on the bus at any time. But in reality, there is only one bus per day, hence the very limited interest of this formula.
Intercape that rides during the day (very important to admire the landscapes) and half the price. However, expect to be late and be dropped off at service stations
Greyhound, which runs at night, with more or less delay, also sometimes drops off at gas stations, half the price of Baz Bus.
The plane from Johannesburg or Cape Town, a little more expensive (R3000 round trip) than the bus (R2400) but saves a considerable amount of time
- Transportation: Baz Bus Pass 7 days (cheaper than round trip) R2470/person or 140€
- Dolphin/whale/seal tour: R700/person or 42€ with Ocean Safaris -> excellent service, with a lot of patience, I recommend
- Hotel : Plett Beachfrond Accommodation R774/private room is 45€/night, breakfast included -> I highly recommend, the hotel is very well located, 1mn walk from the beach, the service is excellent and the Wifi is of quality
- Laundry made by the hotel: R4 per item -> R84 for us, clothes washed and dried in only 2 hours
- Food: 7 to 8€/person/meal
Total: 528€ for 3 days, 2 adults, transportation included from Cape Town
These expenses can be greatly reduced if
(1) Bazbus is replaced by car rental or by using other bus companies such as Intercape or Greyhound
(2) if one departs from Port Elizabeth instead of Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay
(2) if you take the “dolphin” tour at R400 instead of the whale watching tour at R700
- Baz Bus: Be careful with the timetables, the bus leaves only 5 days a week, you have to look carefully at the calendar, in both directions. We could have missed our plane because I had not seen that the bus did not circulate from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town on Monday. Fortunately, I realized it by sending an email to Baz Bus before booking the hotels
- Baz Bus : if you want to go even further (Durban for example), you can’t do Cape Town – Durban non-stop, you must absolutely stop one night in Port Elizabeth
- Contrary to popular belief, Baz Bus does not stop in cities where there are no reservations. It often happens in low season that the bus arrives 1 hour earlier than the scheduled pick-up time. So unless it’s the first stop, if the bus is supposed to pick you up at 10am, be ready at 9am (the bus will wait for you because it’s his fault that it’s early, but the driver will not hesitate to pressure you by calling you on the phone)
- You are more likely to see the whales between May and July. The sight of whales/dolphins isn’t guaranteed but the seals have taken up residence there, there are more than 6000 there, it is sure that you will see them
- Hotel: Plett Beachfrond Accommodation http://www.plettbeachfrontaccommodation.co.za, to be booked on the website or by booking (it’s the same price). I highly recommend, the hotel is very well located, 1mn walk from the beach, the service is excellent and the Wifi is of quality
- All activities in Plettenberg Bay (and other cities, from Cape Town to Durban): http: //www.bazbus.com/towns.html
- Tour to see dolphins and whales: http: //www.oceansafaris.co.za
- Baz Bus travel pass: http: //www.bazbus.com/ticketoptions.html#2 After purchasing the passes, seat reservations must be made either by email ([email protected]) or via a hotel/hostel in the Bazbus network