The southern right whales migrate from the bitterly cold waters of Antarctica to the warmer shores of southern Africa during their breeding and calving season from June – October. The favourable climatic conditions, secluded bays and relatively calm seas make for ideal places to calve. During these months, the coastal areas of Cape Town, Plettenberg Bay, Hermanus, the Overberg region and the Garden Route become a playground for whale pods.
Locals and visitors are rewarded with sightings of these colossal sea giants engaging in a myriad of behaviours from calving, to breeching and displaying of flukes.
A haven for whales is the Walker Bay coastline which weaves its way past the rocky shores and cascading cliffs of Hermanus, a bustling seaside town centred around whale watching. The whales come very close to the rocky cliffs and outcrops, which have deep waters below. Whale sightings are up-close and personal – you can even see the white markings on top of the whale’s head. These markings are actually a combination of calcified skin patches and colonies of barnacles/lice.
Hermanus is home to beach-themed restaurants, guest houses, hotels, Saturday markets and art galleries. The theme of the town? You guessed it – whales! So passionate about the whale migration that the town decided to set up an annual whale festival held in September.
Visit this time of year and you’ll see a local “whale crier” blowing his handcrafted horn when a whale is spotted. When you hear the siren, look out over the ocean for a glimpse of the most splendid creatures. With the migration, you’ll notice a colourful display of marine life including dolphins, Bryde’s whales and even humpback whales.
Easily recognisable by its rotund appearance and lack of dorsal fin, this whale was believed to be the slowest and calmest, making it the ideal target for the unscrupulous hunter. It was known as the “right” whale to hunt, so the name stuck.
Head to Hermanus for whale watching, the perfect place to observe pods of whales nursing their young, playing, courting and generally enjoying their natural aquatic environment. In fact, why not combine whale watching in Hermanus with a land based safari to Kruger? The best of sea and bush!
In the meantime, here are a few of our favourite places to stay while whale watching.
Birkenhead House is fit for royalty and certainly spares no expense at being the best of the best. Views are nothing short of spectacular – even from your bathtub! There are 11 stylish suites which offer a modern twist on seaside living. Opulant, elite mixed with coastal living and a laid back atmosphere is the order of the day at Birkenhead House!
The Marine Hotel is the grand old lady of Hermanus. Ideally situated on a cliff top, the Marine is one the oldest and grandest hotels in the area. There are 40 individually decorate suites, all with fine attention to detail. Champagne on the balcony at sunset while overlooking the ocean filled with marine life – sound like a good idea? We think so!
Grootbos offers five star accommodation in the middle of the Fynbos laden bushveld. With expansive views of both mountain and sea, this intimate hideaway is perfect for guests seeking a slice of natural wonder. There are three accommodation options for the discerning guests. One can stay in the Forest Lodge, the Garden Lodge or the Villa. Surrounded by ancient milkwood trees and true Cape Coastal vegetation, Grootbos really is a hidden gem.