Hermanus Whale Festival, South Africa

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The festival has grown from humble origins to become a pretty impressive whale-watching jamboree

You need only be in Hermanus (pictured above by Jon Mountjoy) for five minutes to realise why affluent Capetonians have made this small ocean town in South Africa their weekend bolthole of choice.

The beaches here are quite simply gorgeous. The ever-so-slightly off-white sands have all but uninterrupted views of the Western Cape’s Walker Bay. Immediately behind are gorgeous whitewashed weekend holiday houses, built in the local style, with lush green gardens wrapped around them. And beyond them in the far distance are the undulating hills of the Babilonstoring Nature Reserve. Being in such a beautiful spot, Hermanus has that rare ability to make you feel calm and uplifted all at the same time.

As it’s situated near Africa’s southernmost point (Cape Agulhas is no more than a two-hour drive away) Hermanus enjoys a front-row seat for the biannual migration of the endangered southern right whale. The town rightly deserves its reputation for being one of the best places in the world to see whales in the wild.

The best time to view them is in September (spring is well under way at this time in the Southern Hemisphere). There have been occasions when well over 50 whales have crammed in to Walker Bay.

Naturally, with so many whales near the shoreline there are plenty of opportunities to see them breach (spectacularly rise head first out of the water), lobtail (splash their tails) and simply sail along. All you have to do is listen out for the distinctive sound made by the kelp horn blown by Hermanus’ very own Whale Crier (it’s the only place in the world that has one) – each blast signalling a sighting in the bay.

The world's only Whale Crier, Hermanus
Hermanus is the only place in the world that has a Whale Crier. Here’s a past holder of the position. Photo by snappybex

To use a South African phrase, things became “hectic” in the 90s when thousands of people started turning up each year to watch the whales. So the town decided to formalise things with its own whale festival.

A southern right whale mid-breach, Hermanus, South Africa
A southern right whale mid-breach. Photo by cornstaruk

The festival has grown from humble origins to become a pretty impressive whale-watching jamboree. There’s an educational marquee where you can learn about the southern right whale and the international efforts to help protect the species. Alongside there’s a food emporium stuffed with fresh seafood and local wines.

This year’s festival takes place from September 28 to October 1.

Hermanus, South Africa at sunset
Hermanus at sunset. Photo by ZoeShuttleworth

Read our other posts about whale watching:

Whale watching in Brazil. Yup, Brazil!

Mark 30 years of the whaling ban by watching whales in New England

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

Hermanus Whale Festival, South Africa was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (631 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to momondo.com.