From June to October, southern right whales migrate to the coast of southern Africa, and in the city of Hermanus, they get so close that you can watch them from the shore. With that in mind, we took a short road trip from Cape Town to Hermanus for a night with no other objective than whale watching.
We drove through Betty’s Bay and stumbled upon a national botanic garden before landing in Hermanus, which has come to be known as the African “mecca” for whale watching during the season. They even have a whale festival the first weekend in October.
Honestly, we didn’t know what we’d see. We brought along a couple of binoculars and hoped someone would tell us where to look.
But, they didn’t have to. The place we stayed was up the street from Hermanus’s cliff walk, which is a long trail that follows the Hermanus shoreline. We’d barely started it when we saw a whale. And then quickly, another. And another. They were everywhere. And close, too. We forgot our “real” camera, so we didn’t get any good pictures, but it was still an incredible experience. Southern right whales are gargantuan—averaging around 50 feet long and weighing about 50 tons. With that kind of size, it’s easy to see them spouting water or waving or flipping a tail.
The next day, we decided to drive a little more east and check out the Walker Bay Nature Reserve, which spans five coastal areas between Hermanus and Cape Agulhas. We heard there were caves to explore and another long shoreline for whale watching. Surprisingly, even though the water was much calmer that day, we only saw a handful of whales compared to the day before.
The Walker Bay Nature Reserve has to be one of the most beautiful places we’ve been. The first place you come to is Klipgat Cave, which housed both middle and late stone-aged people, the latter known as the Khoikhoi. The cave is expansive and has lots of little places to find sweeping views of the ocean.
Beyond the cave is a terrific, empty trail with jaw-dropping cliff views and long, beautiful beaches. The water is crystal blue-green and absolutely freezing.
I think one the things we’ve come to love most about South Africa is that you can stumble upon some of the most impressively beautiful landscape, and you often have it all to yourself!