Whales have arrived!
Although we are still experiencing certain levels of lockdown as we navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, it is so good to see nature taking centre stage the past few months with some amazing animal sightings a lot closer to home than one would have expected.
We have also just received our first snow of the winter which funnily enough coincided with the return of the migratory Southern Right Whales to our shores from Antarctica. Maybe it was nature’s way of welcoming these giants back, waving the white flag so to speak that all is still fine along our South African shores for these gentle giants to come and safely calve in our sheltered bays.
Did you know?
Although the Southern Right Whales are spotted along most of our South African coastline, Hermanus is considered one of the best land-based whale-watching destinations in the world.
Whale-watching in Hermanus
Hermanus, along the beautiful shores of Walker Bay, is the official whale-watching capital of Africa. Surrounded by majestic mountains and indigenous fynbos, it is the heart of the whale coast and offers the best land-based whale-watching in the world.
The annual Whale Festival, usually held in September, is highly popular and attracts over 100, 000 visitors. Created to raise awareness and to help protect marine life, the Hermanus Whale Festival is the only enviro-arts festival in South Africa. Although the festival draws top South African musicians, crafters and sports celebrities, the whales are always the star attractions of the event and cause thousands of visitors to return to Hermanus year after year.
In addition to breathtaking whale watching from the cliffs and the boats, Hermanus offers many natural attractions such as mountain walks and bird watching, as well as great surfing spots and plenty of excellent accommodation available.
The art of whale-watching
When looking to sight a Southern Right Whale, the easiest method is to scan the ocean surface for their v-shaped blow or spout – a tall, smoky plume lasting a few seconds. This is the whale breathing out just as it surfaces and one can also confirm this species by their lack of a dorsal fin. If you see a whale thrust high out of the water and fall back with a great splash, you were lucky enough to see a whale breaching.
Averaging around 15 metres in length and up to 60 tonnes in weight, individual whales can be identified year after year by the callosities pattern on their heads, kind of like their fingerprint. In fact, they have strong maternal connections with the locations and gene pools they are born into with females usually returning to their birth spots to calve.
Other activities in Hermanus
If you’re drawn to Hermanus for its whale sightings, there are plenty of reasons for you to stay and explore this quaint, pretty town. For the adventurous types, you can go mountain biking or abseiling, enjoy sea cruises to Dyer and Geyser Islands to see sharks, penguins and seals, take the plunge and go scuba diving, kick up some dirt while quad biking and take in the landscape while horse riding.
For the less adventurous, the smooth bays and tranquil lagoons offer lovely kayaking opportunities or a gentle boat cruise from nearby Stanford if you’re a bird lover. Fernkloof Nature Reserve is popular among hiking and photography enthusiasts, and golfers will be thrilled to discover an award-winning course at the Arabella Country Estate.
There are also many markets, such as the Fernkloof Farmers’ Market, Hermanuspietersfontein Boeremark and Lemm’s Corner Craft Market every Saturday and the Onrus Market once a month.
Wine & Craft Beer Tasting!
The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley behind Hermanus has become famous in its own right with fantastic award-winning wines being produced year after year. This valley is best known for its elegant, cool-climate wines made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, although the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon also contribute to the valley’s many awards. Estates such as Creation, Newton Johnson, Bouchard Finlayson, Southern Right and many more are waiting to be enjoyed over a slow lunch or dinner.
For craft beer lovers, the nearby Hemel & Aarde Microbrewery and Hermanus Brewery offer award-winning lagers and ales, along with the more established Birkenhead Brewery in Stanford, just east of Hermanus.
Want to discover the beautiful whales of Hermanus?
The Southern Right Whales have arrived so contact us to book a Private Hermanus Whale & Wine tour or possibly we can customise a multi-day tour to this area and include so many more highlights.
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