South Africa is fast growing as one of the most popular whale watching destinations in the world. Each year, these gentle giants migrate from their feeding ground in Antarctica to the Cape’s shoreline to mate and calve their offspring.
There are many locations along the 900-kilometer-long Cape Whale Route where you can spot these majestic animals frolicking in the water, but the heart of the whale route lies in Hermanus.
This quaint fishing village that lies wedged between the mountain and the sea has been listed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as one of the top whale watching destinations in the world.
Just a two-hour drive from Cape Town, Hermanus is the perfect location to observe these beautiful animals breaching, blowing and fluking in the water. Beyond whale season, Hermanus is a fabulous day trip for travellers and locals looking to explore outside of the city for a few hours.
Different Types of Whales to See in Hermanus
While Southern right whales are the most common whale to frequent the Hermanus area, there are other species that can be found, as well as plenty of other fascinating marine life.
Southern right whales
Southern right whales are most common to visit Walker Bay during whale watching season. They are distinguished by their callosities, thickened patches of white skin, often seen on the head or mouth. Southern right whales are massive mammals and they can grow up to 15 meters in length. These mammals are known for their slow swimming speeds and often swim close to the shore. Southern right whales tend to start arriving during the month of May and will generally remain in the Cape until November.
Also seen during the whaling period, the humpback whales are curious creatures, and will often approach a whale watching boat very closely. They can also be seen interacting and sunbathing with Southern right whales very close to the shore.
Bryde’s whale is the only species of whale that can be spotted in Hermanus throughout the year. Distinguished by their long, sleek, and dark grey bodies, these whales can be tricky to spot because they dive down beneath the ocean for long periods of time only to resurface briefly.
The Best Time for Whale Watching in Hermanus
The best time to spot any of these whales is between the months of June and November. Here, the whales can be spotted from land, however, sightings are far better during a guided boat ride into Walker Bay.
Whale watching season can vary from year to year depending on the number of whales that are present in the Cape, however, they are most likely to be seen during Spring (September, October and November).
Hermanus is the mating and breeding grounds for the southern right whale during the winter and spring months (from June to November). With this, you may catch a glimpse of a whale calf frolicking in the water.
Where to Watch Whales in Hermanus
Hermanus is the self-proclaimed whale watching capital of South Africa and rightfully so. With its many vantage points dedicated to land and sea-based whale watching, as well as the Old Harbour museum dedicated to the whaling industry, it is easy to see why Hermanus is one of the best whale watching sites in the world.
Great sites for land-based viewings include the terraces of both the Old Harbour and Gearing Point which has a panoramic view of the bay. There is also a 12-kilometer-long whale watching cliff path with helpful signage which you can walk along and view the whales within meters of the shores.
There is also an option to go on a guided whale watching boat ride into Walker Bay, one of the most popular calving spot for southern right whales. As well as gaining incredible sightings and photographic opportunities of the whales from a closer perspective, the guide will also share a world of knowledge, helping you gain a deeper insight into the lives of these magnificent beings.
Offered in season, roughly between the months of June to November, the Hermanus Whale Watching Experience offers guests the opportunity to observe the Southern right whales in the natural habitat and maybe get a chance to see a baby whale.
The Hermanus Whale Festival
Each year, the Hermanus Whale Festival celebrates the return of the
Each year, the Hermanus Whale Festival celebrates the return of the Southern right whale to the shores of Walker Bay for calving and mating season. Thousands of visitors, both residents and travellers, come to the small town to welcome the whales to the shores of the Western Cape and celebrate the marine world.
This year, the Hermanus Whale Festival takes place from 27 to 29 September and is packed with a number of exciting marine-themed activities. The festival is a free event, where visitors can enjoy live music and entertainment, food stalls and adventure activities and of course land, boat and even air-based whale watching. The festival highlights the importance of conserving and protecting our unique aquatic resource.
Find out more about the 2019 Hermanus Whale Festival here.
Things to know about the Hermanus Whale Festival
There is no best time of day to see the whales since the whales are active throughout the entire day. Boat and air trips are usually offered several times each day. The best way to choose a time is by looking at the weather forecast.
It is recommended that you book in advance since you may well find boats fully booked if you just decide to take a trip on the say.
Although Hermanus is one of the world’s prime whale-watching destinations in the world, there is no guarantee of seeing whales. However, during the peak whale watching season, it is uncommon for boats to be unable to locate whales.
We hope that you enjoyed reading this post and that it’s given you great ideas for where you can view whales this season!