The Big 8

Big 8 Whalewatching, Port Alfred

In a boost for tourism in Port Alfred and along the Sunshine Coast, a whale watching permit has been granted for an operator working out of Port Alfred and Kenton on Sea.

Dive Expert Tours is the only company with both whale watching and sardine run permits in the Eastern Cape, and founders Petra and Rainer Schimpf are excited about being able to offer whale watching trips and tours in the heart of the Sunshine Coast.

Dive Expert Tours has been granted a licence to conduct boat-based whale watching tours from Port Alfred in the East to Bird Island in Algoa Bay.

“We know from following the sardine run all the way from Storms River past Port Alfred that the seas are alive with at least seven species of whale,” says Cumngce Gawe, marketing director for Big 8 Whale Watching.”

In addition, there are several species of dolphin, seals, sunfish, whale sharks, penguins, sharks and large numbers of sea birds to be seen off the coast.

Dive Expert-Tours has been received a “Project of Excellence and Innovation“ award from the Tourism Business Council of South Africa for the pioneering work the company has done in developing the Eastern Cape’s own sardine run tourism industry.

The sardine run experience attracts nature lovers and film crews from around the world, and the Schimpf`s are confident that the Sunshine Coast has what it takes to become a globally recognised base for boat-based whale watching.

“Having all the wonderful game reserves in the area offering the big 5 plus our engagement to offer the additional Big 3 (whales , sharks and dolphins) make it logical to maket the Big 8 to tourism. We have found that our guests want to do more than watch whales and other sea life, and also want to experience nature on land,” says Gawe.

“Our guests will, in fact, mostly stay in partner game reserves and guest houses near our launch site in Port Alfred. There will be daily launches in Port Alfred / Kenton on Sea – weather permitting,” he says.

“Here we have the ‘big eight’ in the sea and land – and if you are lucky you can get close to them all on the same day within less than 30km radius that is unique world wide, adds Schimpf.

“The Sunshine Coast also offers so much history and culture, as well as adventure activities – not to mention the endless beaches.

“In addition, here the whale and dolphin season is 365 days a year. It has to be a winning combination. No other place in South Africa – or the world can offer all that,” he says.

In addition to attracting tourists, the newly opened whale watching route will also raise the profile of the Sunshine Coast.

“Dive Expert Tours” has hosted numerous film crews, from the likes of National Geographic, Discovery, Galatée, Gédéon, ARD, RTL, ZDF and Tesche Production as well as Oscar-nominated producers such as Jacques Cluzaud.

“Many will be back to film along the Sunshine Coast now – and the spin-off is that the area gets exposed to the world, at no cost to the local tourism industry.

Schimpf is himself an award-winning documentary producer and conservationist. For more information contact