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A beginner's guide to ... whale watching in Walker Bay

Despite being up to 10 times the size of a fully grown elephant, it can still require some skill to spot Hermanus’ southern right whales. With this in mind, here are some top tips to help you to prepare and make the most of your whale-watching experience in South Africa’s Western Cape.

Travel in season

Southern right whale watching season is between June and December each year, with the peak period running between late August and October.

Book a minimum three-night stay

This will allow for a full day to explore the cliff path and the additional option to self-drive via Cape Point and the penguin colony at Boulders Beach en route from Cape Town. Also, if the weather is bad on your first day, you still have a spare day to do the whale watching on the boat. Essentially, there’s a lot to see in the area and it’s so beautiful and relaxed that it’s a shame to stay just two nights.

Upgrade to a sea-view room

If you only ever upgrade to a sea view once, then Hermanus is the place to do so. If you’re reasonably lucky it’ll turn out to be a whale-view room!

Pre-book your boat trip for your first full day

Not only will this mean you are guaranteed a space, it’ll give you the opportunity to re-book for the next day in the event your trip is cancelled due to poor weather. This is especially true between June and August when the weather is less predictable.

Remember your reading glasses

If you need them, pack them whenever there’s a chance you’ll spot a whale. Whale watching inevitably involves staring out to sea for long periods of time, so avoid going bleary eyed or missing out altogether.

Pack some binoculars

These are ideal for whale watching from your room, on a walk or during your boat excursion. A pair of binoculars will also double up in usefulness if you plan to take a safari later on in your itinerary. Don’t forget to take them with you whenever you leave your room.

Listen for the whale crier

Hermanus has the world’s only (and much celebrated) whale crier who sounds a vuvuzela made of sea kelp when a whale is sighted in the bay.

Keep an eye on Gearings Point

Visible from The Marine, if a crowd gathers then it’s likely to be because something has been spotted. Take a wander over and investigate…

Be prepared for every kind of weather

Must-pack items include sun cream, sunglasses, a windbreaker and hat, all of which can be required on some trips. Sea sickness tablets should be taken before you leave: the water around Walker Bay can be choppy so it’s best to be prepared.

Remember, you don’t have to leave the land

If you’re sea legs are non-existent, Hermanus is one of the best places on earth to watch whales from the land. So if you can’t bear the thought of getting on a boat, book a place on a land-based whale-watching walking tour. Better still, do both!

Look for water fountains

The easiest way to spot a whale is to look for the V-shaped spurt of water from the blow-hole which, in the case of a southern right whale, can reach up to five metres high.

Keep your eyes peeled

As well as southern right whales, other marine life to look out for includes humpback whales, Bryde’s whales, great white sharks, Cape fur seals and African penguins, as well as a variety dolphin species and birdlife.

Visit (or avoid) the Whale Watching Festival

For those that want the full experience, visit during the annual Whale Festival at the end of September which celebrates the return of southern right whales to the coastal waters of South Africa. But if you don’t like crowds, avoid this weekend as over 150,000 people attend each year.

Cox & Kings group tour South Africa: Wine & Wildlife includes a seasonal whale-watching boat trip from Hermanus. Alternatively, if you are interested in private travel, please either call one of our specialist travel consultants or complete our tailor-made request form and one of our experts will get back to you to help you plan an itinerary.