Have a Whale of a Time in Hermanus
Watch the world’s gentle giants of the deep frolic in waters of Walker Bay
Wedged between the mountain and the sea, the quaint hamlet of Hermanus has been rated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as one of the twelve best whale watching locations in the world, and it is often regarded as the heart of the whale route.
This story-book fishing village along the southern coast is, arguably, one of the Western Cape’s most breathtaking destinations and is complemented by a range of fine restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and more. It’s no wonder that pods of whales pack their sunscreen and beach towels, bound for the sheltered bays and coves of Walker Bay.
TYPES OF WHALES:
Southern Right whale
This whale is distinguished by callosities (calluses) on its head, a broad back without a dorsal fin and a long, arching mouth that begins above the eye. These mammals often swim close to the shore: if the looming shadow of a big fish at your hotel window leaves you cowering under the duvet, it’s probably real.
Interesting fact: an adult female can weigh up to 80 tonnes. Male Southern Right Whales have, what are arguably, the largest testicles in the animal kingdom: each weighing about 500kg.
Best time to spot them: July – November.
The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with long pectoral fins and a knobby head. Curious about their environment, they will approach whale watching boats closely, often sunbathing near the boat for a while. They pass through Hermanus on their way to a scuba diving holiday in St Lucia.
Interesting fact: Male Humpback whales produce complex songs, sometimes lasting 10 to 20 minutes long. These songs are often repeated for hours at a time, and while scientists have not yet figured out the tune’s porpoise (ahem, purpose) some believe it is related to mating rituals.
Best time to spot them: May – December.
Bryde’s whales are named after the Norwegian consul to South Africa, John Bryde, who helped set up the first whaling station in Durban. They are medium-sized, dark grey in colour with a white underbelly.
Interesting fact: Bryde’s Whales can reach depths of up to 300m while diving and can stay submerged up to a maximum of 20 minutes!
Best time to spot them: all year round.
You can also spot: orcas, although sightings are occasional.
LAND BASED WHALE WATCHING:
“While sunbathing at a local beach, I can sometimes spot up to five or six whales, just behind the last set of waves,” says a Hermanus Tourism representative.
As Mzansi’s capital of whale spotting, Hermanus offers residents and visitors alike a number of vantage points to spot these deep sea divers. Whether you’re sunbathing along the beach, perched atop the 12-km cliff with its panoramic view or simply waking to an unobscured view of the ocean, chances are high of spotting a giant tail or a breaching whale. Gearings Point is a popular spot that offers a panoramic view of the bay; viewing terraces at the Old Harbour make it possible to spot Southern Right whales; and spotters can also catch a glimpse of breaching whales at Dreunkrans, Windsor Bay, De Gang, Siever's Point, Kwaaiwater as well as Voëlklip and Grotto beaches.