Hermanus Whale Watching

One of the best places in the world to spot whales

Hermanus in South Africa is one of the best places to spot whales. They come here annually in June to rest. You can see them from the coast, or head out on a boat tour.

Southern Right Whales are the main species of whales visiting the shores of Hermanus. A whale watching tour is the best way to see them, but 

See whales from the Hermanus coast

A whale breaches in Hermanus. ©Corno van den Berg

The town is famous for it, but in fact, you can spot whales all along the coast. And you can see them any time of year, but there are certain peak times to spot them. Humpback whales are mostly spotted between June and August, while the southern right whale is most seen from early October when they go looking for a mate. Bryde's whales are found in Walker Bay all year, but are more shy.

Stop along the coast, scan across the water and you’ll soon notice them. The season ends in December when the animals move on.

Whale safari by boat in Walker Bay

If you’d like to see whales up close, you can book a whale safari in Hermanus, and the best place for it is Walker Bay, east of Hermanus. When a whale is spotted, the boat will head in its direction and turn of its engines. Then the animals are free to choose whether they will get closer or not. Usually, there is one, or maybe two, curious enough to come to check out those funny creatures on their boat. Listen to the guide’s instructions, many of them are marine biologists. They often know when an animal is about to breach, or you might be able to see a tail. Very helpful when you’re trying to take photos or videos. Also notice the background, which is often made up of dunes or woods, and will make a great backdrop for your footage.

A humpback jumping out of the water at Hermanus. ©Corno van den Berg

Kayaking with whales

It’s the ultimate way to meet the Walker Bay whales. You’ll paddle out into the bay, where lots of humpbacks like to hang out. A guide will take you close to the animals and it’s up to the whales to decide whether they’ll approach you to say hello. This area of Hermanus is famous for its many options of animal interactions, who are often quite calm and curious to meet you.

See the Big Marine Five of Africa

Besides the usual Big Five of safari animals, there is also a Big Marine Five. And the region that Hermanus is located in, Gansbaai, is a perfect place to spot them. The five animals are whales, sharks, dolphins, penguins and fur seals. There are different kinds of whales included in this, either the humpback or southern right whale. There are special boat tours where you can go and spot all five of them, and there’s a good chance you will see them all.

Whale watching at Hermanus, South Africa ©Corno van den Berg

Meet the Hermanus Whale Crier

Hermanus has the only whale crier in the world and has had one since 1992. He only works in peak season. He walks around the village and plays his trumpet when a whale is spotted, and using a kind of Morse code he indicates where you can spot him, so it’s quite convenient for tourists. He is a colourful character who’s happy to be in your photos.

Hermanus Whale Festival

This annual festival is quite well known. It goes for several days and celebrates the whales that pass the village along the coast. There is live music, cooking classes and much more. Of course, there are lectures on the animals and you can spot whales from the coast. Do be warned that it gets very busy around this time, so if you want to book a hotel you have to do so well in advance.

See whales and sharks from a microlight

A flight above the sea is more than impressive here. It’s the best way that you’ll be able to see how many whales are swimming around during the mating season. You can head out in a Cessna, or you get take a microlight if the weather permits. It’s a unique way to take in the entire landscape with the sea, the dunes, the beach, and much more. The pilot will help you spot the whales and point out the young, which are remarkably pale in colour. And keep an eye out for great white sharks, who like to swim in the waves. Their silhouette can be easily spotted against the white foam of the waves. You can take off from Hermanus, but some lodges have private landing strips where you can be picked up.

Best time to visit Hermanus

You can visit the region at any time of year, but there are peak times when you can see many kinds of animals.

  • Humpback: June to August
  • Southern right whale: October to early December
  • Bryde’s whale: all year
  • African penguin: all year
  • Common bottlenose dolphins: all year

Please note

The water can be very rough during a whale safari. There are plenty of big waves, especially thanks to the arctic winds that blow here. You need sea legs for these tours, and if you tend to get motion sickness, it’s best to take some medication beforehand.

The small planes that do tourist flights often encounter turbulence due to the wind as well, and because the planes will circle above the whales, you’ll also feel that in your stomach. It’s recommended you take a tablet against motion sickness before you go so that you can really enjoy this experience rather than having illness spoil your trip.

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