CLOSE SEA ENCOUNTERS: Ocean Odyssey offers a whale of a time

BY CANDRA NEILSON - AUGUST 4, 2014

Even if you are not among the lucky people that have sailed on a sunset cruise through the famous Knysna Heads with Steff, Captain of the dazzling Peroni Yacht, you will be excited to hear that he recently acquired the Ocean Odyssey and is now offering dolphin and whale watching tours as well as a variety of other ocean-bound expeditions.

Ocean Odyssey Whale & Dolphin Watching is also the only boat with a whale watching permit – making it the only boat that has permission to approach within 50 metres of the whales, in the Knysna area.

At least 37 species of whales and dolphins can be found in the waters off the Southern coast of South Africa. Still, the area is most famous for encounters with Southern Right whales, Humpback whales, the occasional killer whales (especially from mid-May to about October/November when whales can be spotted on 95% of cruises) and several coastal dolphin species which can be on 80% of the Odyssey’s cruises – any time of the year.

Sharks, African penguins, Cape fur seals, various pelagic birds including, Shy Albatross, and black Oystercatcher birds and a variety of other marine life can also be easily spotted.

Having been on one of Steff’s sunset yacht cruises before, I was excited when I discovered that the Ocean Odyssey departs the magnificent Knysna lagoon daily. The boat is big, comfortable and moderately dry – even out at sea. Boarding is easy and people in wheelchairs can also be easily accommodated. The weather permitting, you could never watch the gentle giants on a more pleasant vessel.

Although I was actually in Knysna for other business with a work colleague, we decided to join Steff and his assistant, Donovan, as well as a couple of other excited marine safari enthusiasts at their Thesen Island harbor. After a quick safety briefing, we stepped aboard and set off.

There probably is no marine safari guide in the Knysna area who is as successful at spotting whales as Steff. This is partly thanks to their whale-spotter positioned high on top of the Knysna Heads viewpoint – high up from the obscuring waves, who will sits and scans the Ocean for any whale activity, and is able to guide the vessels to their location with ease!

Although it was a normal winter day, we had lots of fun. Besides the unparalleled feeling of being out at sea, we managed to watch a lot of humpbacks blowing, breaching and lobtailing among other various astonishing physical behaviour and acrobatic displays from the giant mammals.

Together with the ever-present Albatross, we also spotted several dolphin species frolicking in the waves. Soon, we came across a group of seals - a personal highlight for me as I had never seen them in the wild before.

I am sure they were probably just as curious about us as we were about them. One mom and pup accompanied us for a while and kept sticking their heads out of the water and observed us.

From out at sea, I had a new appreciation of the various historical and geological attractions that dotted the coastline. One of them was the Noetzie Castles, which are located at the base of the cliffs on Noetzie Beach. The first one was built in 1922 out of natural stone!

Steff then navigated past the Heads and showed us the Needle Caves, which he said can be entered when the sea is flat.

When our marine safari finally ended and we motored back into the harbour, my colleague and I - the only South Africans on the Ocean Odyssey on that tour, had made new friends from Europe – a most wonderful Dutch family and three Germans. Thanks to our new mobile app for Android and iOS, our new friends will be this article in Utrecht in the Netherlands and Germany.

I enjoyed our tour so much that I would do it over and over again and can recommend it to anyone looking for fun family activities in Knysna! Whether you see whales or not, it is definitely one of the most exciting adventures you will always remember.

If you are fascinated about marine life or just want to experience the sea? Then book your safari on the Ocean Odyssey by calling 082 852 9402 or emailing [email protected].