Have a whale of a time whale watching in Hermanus
The gentle beasts of the great deep know how to put on a show
The seaside town of Hermanus is wedged between mountain and sea, complemented by fine restaurants, art galleries and shops. It’s no wonder that whales pack their sunscreen and beach towels, bound for the sheltered bays and coves of Walker Bay. Visitors, who appear to have forgotten the fate of Jonah and Pinocchio, flock to see these majestic creatures breech and crash in the ocean spray.
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.
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: the longest flippers of any mammal, up to one third of the body length.
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: they have very large heads.
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.
A cliff path that spans 12km, from one side of town to the other, provides benches to watch whales that often cruise within 20m of the coves. Gearings Point offers a panoramic view of the bay, while a telescope at the Old Harbour makes it possible to spot Southern Right whales at close range.
The Whale Crier
When Southern Right whales come to the warm waters of Hermanus to mate and calve; it is the job of The Whale Crier, to alert shore-based whale watchers to the whereabouts of whales, by blowing a coded message, via a horn made of kelp. A sandwich board around his neck informs visitors how they may interpret codes. For updates on whale whereabouts, call +27 (0)83 212 1074, or the whale watching hotline on +27 (0)28 312 2629.
AERIAL WHALE WATCHING:
“The biggest advantage of aerial whale watching is that you are able to see the whole whale, as well as its calf,” says owner of African Wings, Evan Austin, “If a mother lies on her back with her stomach on the surface, the calf will try repeatedly to slide up on her stomach, where it will lie between her pectoral fins for a stroke.”
On your private, 30-minute flight (max. 3 passengers); you’ll see whales playing, mating and breaching, unaware of human presence. African Wings have been known to spot up to 198 whales, during one 30 minute flight over Walker Bay.
+27 (0)28 312 2701
BOAT-BASED WHALE WATCHING:
Hermanus Whale Cruises
“The best way to view whales is by boat,” enthuses manager, Phillipus May, “you interact with them and are far better informed of their behaviour, which makes for an exhilarating experience.” Your two hour cruise includes cool drinks and snacks, as well as hotel transfers.
245 Westcliff Road | New Harbour | Hermanus | Western Cape | +27 (0)28 313 2722
Southern Right Charters
“Observing, not disturbing” is the motto of the ‘Miroscha’ – a luxury catamaran, built with passenger safety in mind. Four different viewing levels and outside walking areas provide an opportunity to get up close with curious whales that swim right up to the vessel.
+27 (0)82 353 0550
TIME TO GET WHALE-EDUCATED:
The Whale Museum
Noel Ashton uses paintings and scientific illustrations to tell the fascinating story of underwater lives of Southern Right Whales. His daily show, at the Whale Museum, is sponsored by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
The Whale Museum | Behind Market Place | Hermanus | Western Cape | +27 (0)28 312 1475
The Hermanus Whale Festival
Thousands of enthusiastic visitors come to Hermanus, every September, for the annual whale festival, which marks the return of the Southern Right whales to the waters of Walker Bay. There’s live music, art exhibitions, colourful stalls and food stands.
Main Road | Hermanus | Western Cape | +27 (0)21 313 0928
Directions to Hermanus
Drive to Hermanus via the R44 Coastal road; it’s one of South Africa’s most beautiful scenic drives and many international car adverts are shot here.
Why not rent a convertible for the drive?Source: http://www.capetownmagazine.com