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Knysna Whale Watching - Close Encounter (June - Nov)


Activity Description

Ocean Odyssey is Knysna’s only official whale watching permit holder in the area. Our Close Encounter Whale Watching Tours offers a unique experience for passengers as we traverse the Garden Route coastline in search of our migratory giants – Humpback & Southern Right Whales – annually from June to November.

With a maximum capacity of 25 passengers per tour, expect an intimate and personalised experience aboard our vessel which is accompanied by our skilled skipper and nature site guide. The tour departs from Thesen Island marina and cruises through the diverse Knysna estuary up to the impressive, rugged headlands. Passing through the Knysna Heads is an experience on its own! Once we skilfully manoeuvre our way through the headlands, we enter the vast Indian ocean where all the fun begins!

Keep your eyes peeled for the tell-tale signs of whales – their distinctive blow, a large body jumping out of the ocean and/or a big white splash! But you aren’t the only ones looking, our eagle eye spotter located at elevated viewpoints on the headlands is keeping a close eye on the coastline and communicating any activity to our crew and directing the vessel to sightings – this helps increase chances of sightings as this is marine life in their natural environment!

Approaching our gentle giants is done with incredible skill and respect. Our permit allows us to approach whales up to 50 meters, but it’s not uncommon to encounter curious whales that approach the vessel, and, in this instance, we remain stationery and observe their beauty until they move along. Whales are not the only marine life that can be experienced on this tour, our coastline is teeming with three species of dolphins – Bottlenose, Common and Humpback dolphin, Cape Fur seals, Brydes Whales (Non-migratory whale) African penguins, pelagic birdlife and from time to time depending on water clarity you may sight a shark or two! Whilst sighting the array of marine life that can be experienced, we also highlight the beauty of our unique coastline – the caves, and coves, cliffs and beaches – the magnificent natural scenery perfectly compliments the experience!

The duration of the activity is 1.5-2 hours and is sea and weather conditions permitting! We highly recommend booking this for the first day you are in the area, in the event of poor conditions we can reschedule you to the next best ocean-going day.


Duration2 hours
WhenFrom 1st June until the 30th November annually
WhereOcean Odyssey Charters & Retail store TH 22, Long street Thesen Harbour Town Thesen Island Knysna GPS Coming from George: Exit George Airport and turn right on the R404. Follow the R404 until you have reached the interchange of the N2, and turn left to join the N2. Remain on the N2 for 65.8km (52 minutes approximately). Once you have entered Knysna on the N2 turn right at the 3rd set of traffic lights onto Waterfront Drive. Follow the road until the second set of traffic lights, and turn right into Long Street. Travel down Long Street, over the little white bridge, and into Thesen Island. Follow the road and at the stop street, carry on straight. Just before you reach the traffic circle at the end of Long St our shop – Ocean Odyssey - is located on the left-hand side (Opposite The Time Machine and next to Diana Loon Boutique). Parking is available and free. Coming from Port Elizbeth (P.E.) / Plettenberg Bay: Join the N2 highway from P.E./Plettenberg Bay and follow the road until you enter Knysna. At the third set of traffic lights on the N2, turn left into Waterfront Drive and follow the road until the next set of traffic lights, turn left into Long Street, Travel down Long Street, over the little white bridge, and into Thesen Island. Follow the road and at the stop street, carry on straight. Just before you reach the traffic circle at the end of Long St our shop – Ocean Odyssey - is located on the left-hand side (Opposite The Time Machine and next to Diana Loon Boutique). Parking is available and free. GUESTS WILL CHECK IN 30 MINUTES PRIOR TO DEPARTURE AT OUR RECEPTION, WHERE THEY ARE REQUIRED TO SIGN THE INDEMNITY FORM.
WeatherAll trips through the Knysna Heads and out to sea are dependent on weather and sea conditions. Only the skipper is able to make a decision whether the cruise can depart. This decision is made according to wind direction and speed, sea swell and tide. This decision can only be made on the day of the cruise.
What to WearWarm jacket Flat comfortable shoes Dress warmly
Things to BringSunblock, sunhats, warm top, or jumper. Don’t forget your camera. A sense of adventure and the holiday spirit is essential
Guests or SpectatorsOnly paid guests onboard All guests participating are required to complete the indemnity form at check-in All guests are required to wear life jackets


Minimum Age3 years
Minimum Height0.0 m
Maximum Height0.0 m
Fitness LevelNo Fitness Requirement
QualificationsNot Applicable
Maximum Weight0.0 kg
CertificationNone Required
Experience LevelNo Experience Requirement

Inclusions and Exclusions


Bottled Still Water
Life Jacket

ExclusionsFood and other beverages (Besides bottled water) is not allowed on this tour.


All passengers are required to complete our indemnity form.
Ready to be kitted out with lifejackets and present for our pre-departure briefing.
• Minimum of 4 passengers is required to proceed.
• Please dress warmly, it’s always cooler on the ocean than on land
• Children welcome (Min age 3 years old), Skipper will advise parent of young children if they feel conditions maybe uncomfortable for them – please contact our offices.
• Food and beverages are NOT permitted on board – water is available and is included in the tour

Customer Reviews

We had a great time whale watching in Knysna. We saw a couple of whales further in the distance to start with, and as we were getting towards the end of our allocated time I was starting to get doubtful we would see any whales up close. However the spotter on the cliffs was excellent and alerted the skipper to a group of whales. The skipper took us directly to the spot and we followed them for a good amount of time. We went over our allocated time as we only spotted them towards the end, and we were very grateful to the skipper who allowed us to watch them for 20mins or so. It was an amazing experience and well worth the money. - Jana

We actually have done this trip 3 times and each time we were very happy and confident that the team knew as well as they could what was going on under the water. They are competent and enjoy what they do and seem to get real pleasure from some of the sights. Each visit was really enjoyable and different every time. All the staff are happy and knowledgeable even the counter staff who are a delight. This was one of the highlights of our trips to South Africa and a must do activity. - Christine

It was a fun boat ride! We got quite close to some humpback whales and saw them jump, same with dolphins. Also, awesome panoramic views of the coastline. Couldn't have asked for more! The team was really nice and took good care of everyone (including myself, who got a little sea sick). Would recommend for sure! - Felician

We had a great time with Ocean Odyssey whale watching from Knysna, we saw a number of humpback whales, seals, hammerhead shark, as well as some gorgeous coastline! The waves are very large, and they were great for providing water and sea sickness items! Very knowledgeable guide and skipper who gave a great trip! - Holly

What a fabulous trip. We were recommended to go with Ocean Odyssey by Kanonkop House Hotel (another Knysna gem) where we stayed and were so glad we did. The crew were all great providing commentary and being very sensitive to the marine life and not intruding on them. They allowed the whales to slowly approach the boat when the motor was silent/switched off. The amount of migrating Humpback Whales we saw exceeded our expectations - for the full 1h 30mins we were barely without a sighting. The family's put on a great display lobbing in and out of the water and cresting their tails as they slowly made their way along the coast. At the end of the cruise we got a treat, and were taken into the mouths of the sea-caves and also spotted dolphin and seals before a bit of a thrill ride back into the Knysna Heads - a great experience not to be missed. I 100% recommend this company. - Christina

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