Ocean Safaris has come a long way from its humble beginnings back in 1997, when owner, Lloyd Chapman would invite sunbathers on the beach to join him for a trip on his small inflatable to go look for whales, dolphins and whatever else they could find.
In 1999, Lloyd merged with another marine activity company to form Ocean Safaris. At this point they started to use twin-hulled ski-boats launched off the beach, allowing for more passengers to be accommodated in greater safety.
In 2000, the company again joined forces, this time with renowned marine mammal specialist, Drs Vic Cockroft and Debbie Young, founders of South Africa’s only private marine mammal research institute, the Centre for Dolphin Studies.
In early 2006, Vic and Debbie opted to focus on their research, although we do still enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with the Centre, its’ students and volunteers who all contribute to the greater understanding of our marine environment.
Ocean Safaris now welcomes passengers at the conveniently located spacious shop, which also serves as an Info Centre and Internet Café, with wheelchair access and toilet facilities.
Ocean Safaris has a long standing relationship with the South African Boat-Based Whale-Watching Association (SABBWWA), which was started in 1998 in an effort to ensure the responsible and sustainable growth of this new eco-activity in the country. As such, Ocean Safaris has played a pivotal role in establishing the guidelines under which all activities of its type are conducted in South Africa.
Some of the regulations to which we adhere include;
Not approaching whales to distances of less than 50 metres. Once at this aproximate distance, we allow the whales to determine the nature and proximity of the encounter. Whales are very curious and tend to swim up to and around the boat.
Not spending more than 20 minutes with a whale, or group of whales, at a time.
No close encounters with mother/calf pairs. This is an extremely sensitive time for both mother and calf and should we find ourselves in close proximity, will move away immediately.
Should you wish to find out more about the national regulations pertaining to whale watching in South Africa, kindly visit www.cometcorp.co.za.
While every appropriate effort is made to ensure a most memorable encounter with the animals, we trust passengers will understand that the welfare of the animals we encounter is at all times of utmost importance. We also ask prospective passengers to take note that we use no technology, such as sonar or satellite transponders to locate the animals we seek.
Using our combined local knowledge and eyes, we endeavour to give passengers as varied a perspective of the bays’ marine life, but cannot guarantee any specific sightings or behaviours.
The safety of our passengers is also of great importance to us. Our Skippers are all trained and accredited by the South African Maritime Safety Association and have completed the required SABBWWA modules, qualifying them to perform their respective tasks aboard.
While we don’t employ qualified marine biologists, our crew are selected for their passion for the environment and a willingness to share their knowledge and experience with the public.
Due to the seasonal occurrence of certain species, Africa's Ocean Safaris offers a choice of two different marine tours, each running for between one and a half and two hours. Please see below for prices and launch times.
Please note that these times are subject to change without notice and trips may have to be cancelled at the very last moment if sea or weather conditions jeopardize safety. Earlier or later trips can be arranged for groups of 6 or more passengers, depending on the season.
Throughout the year, we offer the Discovery Cruise. On this cruise we typically look for dolphins and visit the seal colony on the Robberg Peninsula. Should we encounter any whales on this trip, we will not be able to approach to a distance of less than 300 metres.
The Premium Cruise is primarily conducted in Whale Season (July to November), although you can opt for this cruise at any time throughout the year.
The main difference between this cruise and the Discovery Cruise is that we offer passengers the opportunity to get within a couple of feet of some of the largest (and thankfully most docile) creatures on the planet. As such, the main focus will be finding whales, then dolphins, with a visit to the seal colony if time permits.
Plettenberg Bay is blessed to be one of the easiest places in the country to see whales and we are often with whales within minutes of getting onto the water.
The trip is preceded by a briefing by the guide/skipper at the shop after all passengers have checked in. Please note, that for reasons of safety and comfort, any passengers with neck, back or other injuries that may be exacerbated by bumpiness, or are in either the first or last trimester of pregnancy, will be asked to advise the guide accordingly.
Once all have been equipped with lifejackets and a last visit to the loo, we take a short walk to the boats. There are no harbour facilities in the bay and as such, we have come up with a unique and exciting method of launching our boats… Dolly-Launching. Essentially this entails a boat being loaded onto a trailer on the beach, facing the sea. The trailer is attached to a powerful four-wheel drive launch vehicle. At the Skippers signal, the launch vehicle pushes the boat rapidly down the beach and into the surf. While there is sometime a bit of spray, this is without a
doubt the most exciting way to get to sea.
Each and every trip is different, and as such there is no defined route that we follow in search of cetaceans. This will be decided by the crew in consultation with other vessels in the area, recent sighting and prevailing weather conditions. On one trip we may not venture more than a mile offshore, while the next may see us heading over the horizon in search of passing Humpback Whales.
The trip finale is the exciting beaching of the vessel. This is done by racing in at top speed and sliding up onto the beach, often to the accompaniment of cries of, “More, more, more…”