“Standing on the edge of a craggy rock jutting into the sea, watching whales bounce and breach within metres from the crowds, is par for the course during whale season in Hermanus. The coastal town is a playground for marine mammals, particularly the southern right whales that fill the ocean from June to September with their presence. It’s now July, which means it’s time to head to Hermanus to see these beautiful beasts of the ocean. See you there?”
Widely rumoured to offer the best land-based whale watching in the world, Hermanus has grown in size and stature to become the Western Cape’s favourite coastal hotspot. The small hamlet quickly became a small town that is now sprawled across the slopes of the mountains of the Fernkloof Nature Reserve and the shores of the Walker Bay coastline.
Hermanus is famous for the southern right whales that come right into the bay to mate and calve during the season, which generally starts from June and heads well into September. Southern right whales normally inhabit the icy waters of the sub-Antarctic region and migrate to warmer waters to take up residence during season. In addition to southern right whales, the ocean becomes alive with activity from Bryde’s whales (year-round), and humpback whales (June/July). Bottlenose dolphins are also frequently spotted. During the whale season. holidaymakers are encouraged to look out for the whale crier, an icon of Hermanus! The whale crier is Bravo Sobazile who currently carries the esteemed title. Whenever there’s a whale in the bay, Bravo blows a dried kelp (seaweed) horn alerting the crowd to its presence.
Although a sought-after tourist destination, Hermanus hasn’t lost its quaint seaside charm. Even when the crowds descend upon the area, Hermanus just never feels crowded. Perhaps it’s the influence of the Blue Flag beaches, the looming mountains, and the endless expanse of sapphire seas that provides that feeling of space. Whatever it is, Hermanus remains the “favourite child in the family”. Our top choice of accommodation in Hermanus is the ocean-facing Hermanus Boutique Guest House, which is a luxury guest house situated right across the road from the coastal path and Fick’s pool.
There are plenty of whale watching activities in Hermanus for holidaymakers, each of which provides a unique way of spotting these marine giants.
Our Top 3 Whale Watching Activities in Hermanus
Sea kayaking is an immersive experience that allows kayakers to get close to whales, while in their watery environment. Walker Bay Adventures is our top operator for Hermanus sea kayaking adventures and adheres to the law of maintaining a 300-metre distance from whales. If a whale approaches tourists during a paddle session, the group will be required to move away to maintain a safe distance.
Stable, plastic sea kayaks are used for these adventures, which means tours are easy and comfortable for novice users. Trips are designed to be fun adventures, with each tour taking 2 hours – weather and sea conditions permitting. Kayakers can expect to see pelagic birds, Cape fur seals, whales, and other marine mammals. Each tour is led by an experienced guide. Walker Bay Adventures also regularly conducts ocean clean-ups, making them one of the most eco-aware companies in Hermanus.
Coastal Path Walks
The Hermanus coastal path is a biodiversity walk that stretches for 11 km along the Walker Bay Coast. The path is well-maintained and hugs the entire coastal cliff face. The scenic path is incredible for leisurely walks and a spot of trail running. The path is accessible from many points, each offering a picturesque angle of both ocean and coast. 9 km of the path is wheelchair friendly.
The more undulating sections of the path have wooden stairs with bannisters. Along the walk, there are benches and viewpoints strategically placed to take advantage of the views. These spots are the best places to watch whales in Hermanus. A few of the popular places en route include the old harbour area, Roman Rock, and Gearings Point.
Catamaran Whale Watching Cruises
Southern Right Charters has a purpose-built catamaran designed specifically for viewing marine mammals. Passengers get to sail across Walker Bay in absolute comfort and stability. Both the side and front of the catamaran offer viewing platforms with close-up views of whales, penguins, and even dolphins. The waters of Walker Bay provide a safe haven for whales from June to December, but other marine life can be spotted throughout the year.
Depending on sightings, boat trips can last anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours. On average, a trip is about 2 hours, which includes time spent with the whales. Catamarans are allowed to approach within 50 metres of a whale, but these naturally curious mammals often come close to the catamaran.
Whale watching combined with a catamaran cruise – what could be better?