Hermanus is the whale watching capital of the world and one of the few places where you can sit and watch migrating whales breach and play from the clifftops. This colourful harbour town sits on the edge of Walker Bay, within a dramatic landscape of rocky cliffs and windswept beaches. Nestled in the heart of a marine wonderland, do not miss out on the chance to see these majestic giants.
The stunning two-hour drive from Cape Town to Hermanus is one of our favourite journeys. The coast road hugs the ocean, as you wind your way through penguin colonies, wild and windy beaches and glassy lagoons. Do ensure you stop off at some of the many viewpoints, to really digest and appreciate this ruggedly handsome coastline. Hermanus itself is a bustling, fishing town, brimming with restaurants, bars, hotels and shops and was once an exclusive retreat for the residents of Cape Town. But today, the town attracts visitors from all over the world, who come to watch the whales.
From June to November, enormous herds of migrating southern right whales arrive in the waters around Hermanus from Antarctica, to escape the frozen winter storms. They are heading for the deep sheltered waters of Walker Bay, which are the perfect haven for mating, calving and rearing their young. The shelving shoreline allows the whales to swim close to the coast, making Hermanus one of the world’s top destinations for land-based whale watching.
Hundreds make the journey and the sight of them surging through the water, exercising their power in the waves, breaching and dancing is one of the most exhilarating and humbling displays we’ve ever seen. The town even has a whale crier (possibly the only one in the world), who heralds the arrival of each whale in the bay with a kelp horn. For those who wish to get even closer and feel the spray and splash of the whales on their skin, we can arrange a boat trip, where you could also see great white shark and colonies of fun loving Cape seals. In fact, it is possible to tick off the Marine Big Five here – whale, shark, penguin, seal and dolphin. We’d also recommend a scenic flight in a light aircraft for an aerial perspective, for a chance to see the scale of the migration and appreciate the size of these giant mammals.
Aside from whale watching there are many other activities to experience in Hermanus. Trust us, shark cave diving is an experience like no other, allowing you to get up close to the ocean’s number one predator. Or, why not try mountain biking or hiking along the coastal trails and clifftops? For those who prefer a slower pace, we’d recommend a table at a shoreline restaurant, with a glass of high quality wine, a plate of freshly grilled seafood and a view of the bay.
If your stay happens to be in September you will also be able to attend the annual Whale Festival, which combines whale watching with a wealth of live music, children’s entertainment, craft stalls, street parades, as well as lively food and drink markets. The festival has a strong eco-marine focus and promotes the importance of wildlife conservation.