Plettenberg Bay Whale Heritage Area, South Africa

Nestled in the Garden Route, Plettenberg Bay boasts unparalleled natural beauty and ecological significance. It hugs the Indian Ocean, flanked by Tsitsikamma and Robberg marine protected areas, showcasing its commitment to marine conservation.

The Garden Route Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO gem, highlights its extraordinary biodiversity. The azure waters teem with diverse ocean wildlife, with MPAs acting as crucial nurseries. Bryde’s Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins, and others call this haven home. During the annual, winter whale migration, Southern Right and Humpback Whales grace the scene. The ocean’s apex predator, Killer Whales, regularly visit the bay throughout the year. Robberg peninsula offers a breathtaking view of whales, sharks, seals, and birds. Rich in history, it’s a blend of nature and heritage.

Today, Plettenberg Bay stands as a beacon of conservation, hosting the Plett Ocean Festival and spearheading marine research efforts. It is an internationally  declared Hope Spot – places that are recognised as critical to the health of the ocean. The town’s dedication has earned it numerous sustainable tourism awards, solidifying its status as a responsible destination where nature and stewardship unite, inviting visitors on an extraordinary journey.

One of Ten Whale Heritage Sites Worldwide.

Plettenberg Bay’s Whale Heritage Area begins south of the Robberg Marine Protected Area and extends to the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area. Totaling more than 100 square kilometers, this area is part of an Important Marine Mammal Area and is situated within The Garden Route Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO accreditation.

Why it matters

“Plettenberg Bay is one of the most beautiful and important cetacean sites in the world and we are delighted to welcome the town into the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA). Whale Heritage Site status is a rare distinction, highlighting the significance of sites like Plettenberg Bay where tourists can actively contribute to local conservation efforts and responsibly observe whales and dolphins in their natural habitat.” 

Harry Eckman

CEO World Cetacean Alliance

“Plett is ideally positioned for scientific research and marine tourism activities and the designation of Plett as a Whale Heritage Site further enhances the importance of our bay as a marine research centre of excellence. Being accredited as a Whale Heritage Site helps to bring together different stakeholders from the local community, as well as showcase Plett with well-deserved recognition for its sustainability achievements and ecological importance. This accreditation not only adds value to our local tourism industry but will also help shape the future of cetacean conservation.”

Patty Butterworth

CEO Plett Tourism

“Given the significance of being located on the town’s original whaling station (and which operated from 1834 to the early 20th century), the Beacon Isle Hotel fully supports the accreditation of  Plettenberg Bay as a Whale Heritage Site. This iconic building symbolises the transition from being a whaling station to currently providing world class accommodation to visitors who travel to enjoy our Bahia Formosa, our beaches, the ocean and mountains.”

Barend Olivier

GM Beacon Isle Hotel

“Whale Heritage Site status is set to further elevate marine tourism in Plettenberg Bay, as it provides a clear marker for discerning guests wanting to support sustainable practices in marine culture, heritage and biodiversity.  We are very proud of this accolade and look forward to more guests drawn to Plett as a responsible marine tourism destination.”

Melissa Theron

General Manager, The Plettenberg 

CapeNature is a Western Cape Government entity responsible for managing 112 nature reserves
and wilderness areas in the Western Cape Province of South Africa of which 105 are terrestrial and six are marine
protected areas (MPAs). As custodian of the Western Cape’s terrestrial and marine environments,
CapeNature is tasked with nature conservation and awareness, preserving biodiversity, and providing
facilities for education, research, training, and eco-tourism.
Of particular relevance to our support of Plettenberg Bay as a Whale Heritage
Site, is the pivotal management role CapeNature plays over Robberg. This MPA was established in 1998 and forms an integral part of our conservation efforts
and eco-tourism offering in Plettenberg Bay. We also support local marine scientists in their quest to
better understand the marine system of Plettenberg Bay, of which cetacean research is a key factor.
We also seek to promote sustainable marine and terrestrial tourism to Plettenberg Bay and are
focused on ensuring that local communities derive economic benefits from eco-tourism. Linking the
MPA to whale migration routes and other diverse ecosystems, forms an important part
of our approach to conservation.
WHS accreditation for Plettenberg Bay affords various stakeholders in the town the unique
opportunity for collaboration and we fully support this initiative.
Pierre de Villiers
Senior Manager: Marine and Coasts Operations

“It is a fantastic achievement for Plettenberg Bay to be accredited as one of the very few Whale Heritage Areas globally. The designation acknowledges the town’s significance as a gathering place for massive and gentle ocean creatures, attracting numerous visitors; provides a significant boost to the local economy and recognises the town’s commitment to supporting its rich marine biodiversity and ocean wildlife. The accreditation will attract scores of local and international visitors, significantly bolster the local tourism sector and contribute to economic growth.”

Mireille Wenger

Minister, Tourism and Economic Affairs Western Cape Government