A visit to South Africa usually means climbing Table Mountain and a visit to the Cape of Good Hope. But if whale watching in Hermanus isn’t on your itinerary, it’s definitely one to add now.
Nothing beats the sight of a gargantuan whale frolicking amid the waves, mere metres away from your boat. Hermanus is under a two-hour drive from Cape Town, making it ideal for a day trip or even a longer stay. Here’s what you need to know before planning your whale watching excursion.
The seaside town of Hermanus lies around a 90-minute drive southeast of Cape Town. It’s widely known as the whale watching capital of South Africa, thanks to the pods of Southern Right whales that make their way to its waters to calve and mate every year.
When to go:
Whale watching season in Hermanus runs from June to December. Occasionally, cetaceans are spotted as late as early January.
Who to book with:
Several operators run boat-based whale watching tours in Hermanus. The most popular outfit is Southern Right Charters, which prides itself on its ethos of environmental sensitivity (its motto is “observing, not disturbing”). It runs three tours daily, weather permitting.
Alternatively, try Hermanus Whale Watchers, a smaller outfit that runs up to four tours daily, weather permitting.
A trip typically costs around ZAR800 (S$78) for adults and around ZAR400 (S$39) for children; prices vary slightly between tour operators.
What to expect:
Each trip lasts around two hours on average, depending on the locations of the whales. Passengers will board a catamaran with a specialist guide and support crew; they’ll then be given a safety briefing before travelling out to sea.
Do slap on some sunscreen and pop the necessary pills if you’re prone to seasickness. Should you feel peckish midway through the trip, you’ll be glad to know that light refreshments are usually provided in the form of crisps and bottled water.
Sightings will vary – besides Southern Right Whales, you may even glimpse other whale species, Cape Fur seals, bottlenose dolphins and assorted birdlife. Of course, the highlight is undoubtedly seeing the gentle giants breaching and lobtailing playfully amid the waves, putting on a magnificent show for all to see.