112km west of Cape Town in South Africa lays one of the world’s best whale watching sites, Hermanus. Backed by mountains and fringed with rocky cliffs, Hermanus sits on a protective inlet at the furthest point of Walker Bay.
Hermanus was once a quiet, quaint little fishing village. Traces of this by-gone era are still only just visible around the harbour. On the whole, Hermanus has established itself as a modern town on its whale-generated income, providing the people with shopping malls, supermarkets and a range of art and craft stores. Hermanus also has a range of good beaches and swimming activities for all ages.
Hermanus sits on an inlet which attracts scores of calving whales since it slips down into Danger Point peninsula. The southern right whales appear sometime around July. They are named so because they are the ‘right’ ones to kill due to their high oil and bone produces, as well as the fact that they float when dead. Southern right whales are easily recognised by their black skin with light brown callosities. Each whale has a distinctive pattern on their heads and snouts, allowing scientists to easily keep track of them.
The female whales come to Hermanus to give birth and look after their calves for up to three months. July to October is the best time to come and watch them. You may not actually see the females and their young before they head out back to colder waters, but you may see the males.
People come from all over the world to watch whales. Usually what you see is the blow or spout of the whale; where a tall plume disperses. This is actually the whale breathing out before he or she breaks the surface of the water. If you are really lucky, then you may actually see whales breaching. This is when they surface and fall back into the water with a gigantic splash that captivates their audience.
The best vantage points to watch whales in Hermanus are the cliffs. These concrete cliffs circle from New Harbour to Grotto Beach. Gearing’s Point, Die Gang and Bientang’s Cave are three of the most popular points.
Hermanus may be known for its great whale watching points, but do not be fooled into thinking that this is the only attraction here. In the town itself, the Market Square is the busiest place, with restaurants, flea markets and shops. South of there is the Old Harbour Museum. Expect colourful displays, lots of fishing tackle and sharks’ jaws. For a photogenic spot, head outside where colourful 18th and 19th century fishing boats make for a scenic background.
Beach lovers will need to head east to Mossel River. There are several good choices to sample. These include the isolated Langbaai with a cove located underneath for good swimming opportunities; Voëlklip, beneath Eighth Avenue, has a picnic area complete with cafe and grassed terraces; Kammabaai has fantastic surfing opportunities; and Grotto Beach, 1km further east, is a 12km stretch of gorgeous soft white sand that reaches all the way down to
North of the town are several wineries to visit, where you can sample the local wines. Then head east of Hermanus to the charming hamlet of Stanford, where you can bask in an historic atmosphere. Quieter than Hermanus, it offers the chance for sightseeing and excellent meals.
South of Hermanus is the town of De Kelders. Not many people realise, but De Kelders is actually a much better place for whale watching than Hermanus itself. Go inland a little to locate the upscale Grootbos Nature Reserve where the locales believe this is the ultimate whale-watching location. You can also come here to learn about fynbos.
Go further south to come to Gansbaai. This means ‘goose bay’ in Afrikaan. A small fishing town, it is now more famous for its shark-cage diving. Golf lovers will enjoy the world class golf facilities at the Hermanus Golf Club and Arabella Golf Estate where other sports are available.
Unsurprisingly, accommodation in Hermanus can be on the pricy side. If there is a few of you, then a cheaper option may be to rent an apartment or an entire house. You can do this through Hermanus Accommodation Centre (www.hermanusaccom.co.za). For those who need to stick to a budget, choose somewhere set back a little and book well in advance.
Hermanus is a small town whose annual beautiful visitors give it a big personality. Charming and peaceful, this small town will leave you gasping with delight as you uncover new natural beauty spots, stunning landscapes, indigenous wildlife and encounters with the welcoming locales. No matter what you age is, both children and adults will fall in love Hermanus.