West Coast Whales - The Heart of Hermanus
January 1, 1970
by Joshua Marran
I live in South Africa. A beautiful country. A country of diversity and wonder. It has been said that South Africa has parts of all the world within its borders. There is something for everyone. I have had the privilege of travelling all over my country and have found a gem of a location that quickly became one of my favourite destinations.
This tiny town is found on the west coast of South Africa and the southern part of the Western Cape. It is a very popular tourist attraction – international and otherwise. It has also become one of the most favored towns in South Africa to retire in. I don’t blame them!
Hermanus is filled with ‘city life’; It has plenty of luxury living facilities available such as hotels, resorts and holiday homes; It has beautiful beaches, a climate that was made for your golden years, mountains and wildlife!
Hermanus is located 115km from the famous Mother City — Cape Town. The two freeways that connect these serene paradises are the N2 and the R43. Those of you are like me would prefer taking the R43 as it is the ‘coastal route’ and the scenery is breathtaking. This route also takes you through the other towns, some of which include Gansbaai – if you’re into diving with Great White Sharks.
What’s the weather like?
I think the weather is wonderful…But, I’m a little bias! According to Hermanus Weather, the climate is classified as warm-summer Mediterranean. The very objective Wikipedia also says that Hermanus receives about 520mm of rain per year, mainly in the form of frontal precipitation. It’s the Cape, so the wind is almost always present.
Most often, the weather has been very mild, but it can be very cold or very hot, without warning, some days. Remember, when you start packing your suitcases – diversify!
Beach Bum or Mountain Man
Unlike other coastal destinations I have visited, your pleasures are not limited to sand-filled underwear and surfing. In Hermanus, you hear the waves crash in front of you, and you also experience the presence of a majestic mountain behind you. You get to choose!
Hermanus has two beaches that are its own:
Grotto is the largest beach in Hermanus and according to the International Environment, Safety and Management criteria, it is a ‘Blue Flag’ beach.
Voelklip is also a ‘Blue Flag’ beach.
If you love hiking and being in the mountains, you will love entering the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. With some of the best views of the coastline and the widest variety of trails – you should give it a go, even if you don’t like hiking.
The entire town can be seen from up there as it is established at the foot of this mountain.
I love hiking so I enjoyed the variety of brief (yet energising) trails for my weary days and the advanced – made for the pro – trails that are no joke. My point is – there is something for everyone.
When the weather is bad, you can get in touch with your creative side by visiting the abundance of art and historic attractions.
In the heart of the town, you can find one of my favourite art galleries – Fisherman’s Gallery. Local artists enjoy an overflow of inspiration in Hermanus and this is the ideal place to see the talent Hermanus nurtures.
I stumbled upon the Hermanus Wine Route, which as surprising as it may seem, isn’t mentioned a lot… So let’s keep it a secret!
This hidden treasure is found in the Hemel en Aarde Valley. It consists of some of the top wine estates in South Africa, including Hamilton-Russel Vineyards and Bouchard Finlayson. When you are close to the Cape you have to go prepared – you cannot miss the wine this place has to offer. I make sure I don’t!
West Coast Whales
I remember the first moment I sat at a restaurant in the city square. The square is on a cliff side, watching over the pier that stretches into the bay area. While I was sitting there gazing over the deep blue, my eyes caught a glimpse of the most beautiful creature I have ever seen – the Southern Right Whale. I was never the same again…
From up in a restaurant I could see every single detail of this majestic sea creature. I have never experienced anything quite like it since.
This is the pride and joy of Hermanus. The Heart of Hermanus.
The whales were once hunted in Betty’s Bay, which is another fishing village not far from Hermanus, but thankfully they are now a protected species that make their appearance from around June till December.
The best time to be there is at the end of September around the 24th. Hermanus hosts the famous Whale Festival during this time. During this time it is believed that the whales perceive the festival has started and that it’s held in their honor and they make a special appearance for all the visitors to enjoy. It’s a festival that is not to be missed!
There is and always will be something special about Hermanus, no matter what season you visit, but being there when the whales arrive makes it paradise. These whales are so close to the shore that you can see the mothers and their albino children resting close to Grotto beach, or even kayak close to them (if you’re the adventurous type).
These awesome creatures have become a part of the Hermanus culture.
A tradition that has been carried on since August 1992 is the Whale Crier at Gearing’s Point. The Whale Crier would sound his kelp horn each time a whale is spotted. It is a beautiful moment you definitely want to be a part of.
I trust that this short overview of my favourite place on earth has been somewhat of an inspiration for everyone who reads it. I believe there are plenty of people who just added the word Hermanus to their bucket lists!
I look forward to seeing you there…