Whale Watching in Hermanus, South Africa
Whale Watching in Hermanus
Hermanus is probably best known for the Southern Right Whales that frequent Walker Bay every year, but they are not the only species of whale that can be seen here. You can also see Bryde’s Whales and Humpback Whales. Still…it’s the Southern Rights that steal the show during Whale Season in Hermanus!
Hermanus is internationally known as the the best place in the world to do ‘land-based’ whale-watching, but you can also enjoy boat-based whale-watching in Hermanus – a great family activity and a close up encounter with whales you will never forget!
As Hermanus is the Mecca for whale watching during the southern hemispheres winter months. The whale watching season runs from June till early December. It has been recorded that Walker Bay has played host to over a 100 whales at a time. Southern Right Whales migrate to the bay and use their time here to mate and calve. Visitors can witness them breaching, spy hopping and sailing with their tails, a very special event to witness!
The residents of Hermanus are passionate about their Southern Right Whales. A large area of Walker Bay has been declared a Whale Sanctuary, and from 1 July to 30 November each year, no boats or crafts of any kind are allowed in the Walker Bay Whale Sanctuary Marine Protected Area.
Southern Right Whales are easily distinguished from others by the callosities (white growths) on their heads, a broad back without a dorsal fin, and a long arching mouth that begins above the eye.
Bryde’s Whales are resident off the South African coast all year round. The Bryde’s Whale can easily be told apart from the Southern Right Whale by the sharp, hooked dorsal fin located far down its back. Unlike the Southern Right Whale, their tail fluke never breaks the surface. They are shy and elusive, and are much faster swimmers than the Southern Right Whale, often seen chasing and feeding on shoals of small fish, such as anchovy, pilchard and squid.
Humpback Whales pass by on their way to their breeding grounds just off the coast of Mozambique. They have proportionally the longest flippers of all whales, a small dorsal fin which is positioned on a small hump far down their back and a fluked tail with wavy trailing edges.
During the whale watching season visitors can hear the call of Hermanus’s Whale Crier, the only one in the world. The Whale Crier walks through town announcing the arrival of the whales and where whales are in the bay by blowing through a dried piece of twisted kelp.
Land-based Whale Watching
The height advantage of the cliffs, stretching from Westcliff to Kwaaiwater, offer fantastic land-based whale watching conditions. The whales are often found close to the shoreline, nursing their calves and displaying a variety of natural whale behaviour. If you are a guest of a hotel well positioned on the coast you even have the opportunity of watching them from your bed.
The best Land Based Whale Watching in the World!
One can also explore the coastline on a guided sea kayaking trip. Trips leave from the historical Old Harbour, in the Marine Reserve and by law are not allowed to come within 300m of a whale. If whales decide to come close to the kayaks they must move away from them.
Boat-based Whale Watching
There are also a number of Whale Watching Charters operating from the Hermanus New Harbour. These Charter companies offer you the chance to get closer to the whales and see a larger variety of marine life than is possible from land.
Permits for boat-based whale watching have been issued to a limited number of applicants in various ‘concession areas’ along the South African coastline. Walker Bay falls within the boundaries of two such areas and permit holders adhere to a strict code of conduct.
Other marine life that may also be seen be seen off Hermanus includes Cape Fur Seals, Cape Gannets, Cormorants, African Penguins, Common Dolphins and Bottlenose Dolphins.
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