The quaint seaside town of Hermanus may have humble origins, but is now known as one of the 12 best whale watching spots in the world, rated by the World Wildlife Fund. (WWF) A romantic fishing village with sheltered bays and mystical coves, each season draws visitors from worldwide, gathering to witness the majestic calving whales.
Whale watching Hermanus is a gem of the Western Cape, and has become the heart of whale watching excursions in Africa. Complimented by nearby wine estates, fine restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and spectacular scenes, Hermanus is top choice for a winter getaway in the Cape.
When to visit:
- The best time to visit Hermanus is between July and November for whale sightings
- The densest populations of whales are found in the area in September, October, and November
- Calving takes place in August and September
- Males arrive in October when the population peaks
- The Hermanus whale festival takes place each year to celebrate the season, usually in September or October.
Where to spot them:
Whales can be spotted from land, sea and air. The local establishments are filled with information and local insights into the best places to spot them. The rocky shorelines, beaches, and coves of Hermanus and Walker Bay offer spectacular vantage points and panoramic views of the bay. On land, spot them from the beaches, or from one of many locations with unobscured views of the ocean.
Get up close to these huge mammals on a whale watching boat tour, which offers a more interactive whale watching Hermanus experience. For the adventurous, you may like to try a guided sea kayaking trip, sure to get the adrenaline pumping as you paddle around these gentle giants. For a bird’s eye view, a 30 minute charter flight reveals exciting and heart-warming interactions between the whales and their calves.
Types of Whales:
- Southern Right whale – The most common and distinguishable by callosities (calluses) on its head. These beautiful mammals often swim close to shore, offering spectacular displays for spectators.
- Humpback whale – A very distinctive body shape, with long pectoral fins and a knobby head. Curious creatures, these whales will often approach whale watching boats for a closer look.
- Bryde’s whale – Year round residents, these whales are medium-sized, dark grey in colour with a white underbelly.
Orcas and dolphins also frolic in the area, although sightings are occasional only.
Top 6 Places to Stay
- Harbour House Hotel – Ideally located above the old village harbour, pristine seaside accommodation with an air of tranquility and panoramic views.
- Birkenhead House – A 5 star luxury guest house perched on a cliff top overlooking the Indian ocean, with Voёlklip Beach stretching out alongside you.
- Grootbos Private Nature Reserve – 5 Star reserve perched on the fynbos and forest clad hills, overlooking the whale-watching haven of Walker Bay.
- The Marine Hotel – 5 Star luxury cliff top hotel offering guests a unique opportunity to experience the finest land-based whale watching in the world.
- Mosaic Private Sanctuary – Nestled below the majestic Maanskynkop Mountains and overlooking Hermanus Lagoon, onto the glistening cobalt blue ocean.
- Arabella Hotel and Spa – Luxury and old world charm, this 5 star golf estate is nestled in the Kogelberg reserve along the spectacular shoreline.
Top 5 Fine Food and Wine
The picturesque whale coast is dotted with private wine estates and fine restaurants, offering a host of delights for the discerning pallet. Here are our top 5 selections.
- Hamilton Russell Vineyards – One of the most southerly wine Estates in Africa and one of the closest to the sea, Hamilton Russell is set in a beautiful valley , just behind the old fishing village of Hermanus. The Estate specializes in producing highly individual, terroir driven Pinot noir and Chardonnay
- Bouchard Finlayson – Established in 1989, Bouchard Finlayson is a boutique winery dedicated to the making of Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines of outstanding quality, from the picturesque wine ward of Walker Bay.
- Creation Wines – Creation strives to reward the wine lover with wines of rare balance, elegance, distinction and finesse, from the beautiful Walker Bay Wine Region. Discover the subtle secrets of flavour and texture with a delightful wine and canapé tasting.
- Ataraxia Wines – Founded in 2004, the landscape in which Ataraxia is situated, called The Skyfields, is unique, lying on the most elevated section of the Hemel-en-Aarde area (Heaven on Earth). The vineyards are planted on some of the most spectacular terroirs South Africa has to offer.
- Newton Johnson – Newton Johnson Vineyards is a family owned, specialist wine producer. The chic signature restaurant, Heaven, boasts well known chef Eric Bulpitt at the helm. Try the tasting room and some deliciously inventive dishes.
Top 8 Activities and Excursions
- Sea kayaking and whale watching boat trips
- Golfing at Arabella
- Diving and snorkeling off the coast
- Surfing, swimming, sailing and kite surfing at beautiful beaches and Klein River lagoon
- Hiking and biking in nearby mountain reserves
- Forest paintball and treetop canopy tours
- Skydiving, paragliding, and abseiling for the adventurous
- Shark cage diving in neighboring Gansbaai
Greatest Africa was founded in the magnificent greater Cape area, and offer a treasure trove of local insight and first hand knowledge of the finest establishments. Cape wine experts who also offer exclusive private wine tours, contact Greatest Africa to book your personalized whale watching Hermanus getaway.