Hermanus, once a small fishing village, is today considered to be the best land-based whale watching spot in the world. Curious Brydes whales, Humpback whales, Southern Right whales, Orca and dolphins can all be seen in Walker Bay, from the many vantage points along the coast.
The appropriately named “Cape Whale Route” is roughly 559 kilometers of picture-perfect coastline that takes you from Cape Town to the seaside town of Hermanus. On your way, you’ll see charming towns like Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond.
The route offers some of the best land-based whale watching spots on the planet, but it doesn’t stop there. With the deep blue Atlantic Ocean on one side and mountainous terrain covered in local Fynbos vegetation on the other, it is an idyllic experience worth building into any itinerary.
When to go:
During the winter and spring months (from June to November), Southern Right Whales migrate from the Antarctic.
If you want to have a whale of a time, Hermanus hosts its annual Whale Festival, which attracts over 150,000 people and when the Southern Right Whales arrive in large numbers to breed, give birth and play in the sea. This year it will 29th Sept to 1st Oct, 2017.
What you’ll see:
Southern Right Whales
- Southern Rights are also given their name due to the fact that they were seen as the “right whales” to hunt in because they move slowly and aren’t able to dive for long periods of time. Because of their slow movements, the number of Right Whales have been depleted drastically, with only 3000 or so left.
- Now an endangered species and protected under strict international laws, the Southern Right Whale is now recovering at a birth rate of between 7% and 10% each year, thankfully meaning their numbers double every decade.
- Southern Right Whales have unique double blow holes, causing a V-shaped spray.
- It is distinguished by the calluses on its head, a broad back without a dorsal fin and a long, arching mouth that begins above the eye.
- These whales often swim close to the shore so you might not have to search to hard to find one!
- You can spot them either when waves break on their massive bodies or when they slap their tail on the surface in preparation to dive.
- These playful whales often jump out the water and can do so up to 3-5 times in a row.
- Bryde’s whales are seen all year long in Hermanus.
- They reach approximately the same length as the Humpback whales but are a bit slimmer, usually not weighing more than 15 tons.
- These whales are shy and are don’t usually stay in one place for too long.
- Humpback Whales can be seen in Hermanus from June to September as they travel towards their breeding grounds towards the Indian Ocean of South Africa.
- As the name suggests, these whales are named for the hump they have on their backs.
- Humpback whales are easily recognizable by their long flippers, humped back with a dorsal fin, and the distinctive white markings on the underside of their tails. Their flippers can sometimes be as long as a third of their body length, explaining why they are so acrobatic.
- They grow between 12m to 16m in length and on an average weight of 40 tons.
What to bring:
- Binoculars to see them up close from shore
- A camera to catch them in action
- Comfortable shoes for walking on the cliffs
Where to spot whales from shore:
When arriving in the quaint seaside town of Hermanus, get orientated by taking a stroll through the bustling streets, admiring the many boutique stores, art galleries and small cafes. Then take the cliff paths along the coastline for some proper whale watching. There are benches dotted sporadically along these cliff paths where you can take a seat looking out over Walker Bay and admire the view and soak it all in. It’s from these vantage points where the whales can be seen.
Some good spots along the cliff paths include:
- The Old Harbour (in town)
- Gearing’s Point (may seem a bit touristy but it’s definitely one of the best spots)
- Kraal Rock
- Sievers Punt
Best cliff patch viewpoints for whale watching in Hermanus- Explore Sideways
There’s even something called the Whale Crier!
When whales migrate to beautiful Hermanus to mate and calve it is the job of The Whale Crier (the only one in the world!) to alert shore-based whale watchers to the whereabouts of whales, by blowing a message, via a horn made of kelp. For updates on whale whereabouts, call +27 (0)78 1159214, or the whale watching hotline on +27 (0) 28 312 2629.
Other things to do, see, taste and try in Hermanus
You’ll quickly discover that this fishing village is more than just a sleepy whale watching town. There is a slew of incredible art galleries, adventure activities, local arts and crafts, and not to mention an incredible cool climate wine valley right next door! Enjoy hiking, quad biking, parasailing, horse riding or wine tasting, just to name a few.
If you enjoy wine, you’ll love a full day private tour with a specialist wine guide where you will spend an exceptional day exploring the boutique wine producers of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Known for its award winning cool climate Pinot and Chardonnays, this region is a delight to true wine connoisseurs that want to discover the diverse appeal of South African wines.