Whale-watching in Hermanus
From June to November, Walker Bay—which is already teeming with local marine life—becomes a sanctuary for our annual visitors, the Southern Right whales.
Hermanus, home of The Marine, has widely been recognised as one of the best places for land-based whale-watching, and has in fact been named by The World Wide Fund for Nature as one of the top destinations across the globe for this.
Our team enjoys the prescence of these gentle giants, from vantage points throughout the hotel, as well as in the town and surrounding areas.
We have gathered information from these knowledgeable whale-watchers to advise you on the best spots to spy the denizens of the deep, behaviours to look out for, as well as some tips on how to prepare.
How to prepare
1. Get an early start, regardless of the weather or sea conditions.
2. Once you have arrived at a viewpoint, find a bench or rock and spend at least five minutes looking at the ocean. This allows the eyes to acclimatise to the conditions.
3. Have a pair of binoculars with you and always scan the ocean from left to right.
4. Check the weather for the day; always take something warm, sunblock a hat, water and a camera.
*These tips as told to us by renowned local marine and wildlife photographer, Dave de Beer
How to spot
1. Foamy white patches out at sea are your clue, these can be indicative of waves breaking over the bodies of whales.
2. As the whale rolls, its fins often protrude out of the water, keep your eyes peeled for this action.
3. Look out for the V-shaped blow as whales expels water and inhales air.
4. Any kind of large splash could indicate a whale in action, even if you see it out of the corner of your eye, train your eye towards the source as these mammals are known to breach between 3 and 5 times in succession.
Behaviours to look out for
1. Breaching: this is something truly spectacular to see. The Southern Rights leap out of the water, sometimes with a twirling motion, and then land on their sides or backs.
2. Spyhopping: a way to describe this motion is that the whale peers out from the ocean to see what’s happening on the surface. It raises itself partially out of the water and holds its head in position for a couple of minutes, while it surveys the scence.
3. Tail extension: this is the literal opposite to spyhopping, instead of its head, the whale slowly raises its tail in the air.
4. Logging: This is what is known as resting surface behaviour and is quite common in Southern Rights. It’s called logging as the whale lies stationery in the water, just like a log.
5. Lobtailing: similair to the tail extension pose, the difference is that the whale slams its tail hard and fast onto the surface of the water in order to make a loud slapping noise.
The best spots
Overlooking the vast blue disc of Walker Bay—guests can watch whales from the comfort of their own suites or even bath, or along the cliff path that meanders directly in front of the hotel. Not staying at the hotel? That’s no problem, visitors are very much welcome and can watch the whales with a cocktail, glass of wine or a high tea spread in The Sun Lounge.
Right in the centre of town, there are viewing terraces as well as a telescope to use; though you likely won’t need it as the whales often come as close as to the breakwater.
The New Harbour
Spot Southern Rights from the harbour wall on Westcliff Road, along the cliffs in the working harbour or from the restaurant and bar built into the rocks.
Dreunkrans or ‘Thundering Cliff’
Also situated on Westcliff Road is Fick’s Pool, located 100 metres from here is Thundering Cliff, offering spectacular views.
Park your car in a gravel area to the right of the old Harbour for both east and west views of the bay. There are great views along the fishermen’s paths leading to the rocks at the point too.
Head here for a relaxing experience watching the whales in the bay between Mossel River and Voëlklip.
Kwaaiwater or ‘Fierce Water’
There’s plenty to see at Kwaaiwater: one of the most popular areas there are several viewing points are accessible by vehicle.
Did you know? Hermanus is the only place in the world that has its own whale crier. Listen out for the sound of the kelp horn, as he spots whales in Walker Bay. Find out more.