Walker Bay & Hermanus offer the best whale viewing from land in the world. A cliff path stretching from one side of the town to the other in Hermanus, hugs the coastline for about 12 km –giving whale watchers unlimited opportunities to study these gentle giants in the coves below or lolling just beyond the breakers.
From the path or from rocky outcrops just off the path, whale watchers can get within 20m of whales cruising in the coves. Benches all along the cliff path provide comfortable resting and watching spots. Start at Gearing’s Point which gives a panoramic view over the bay and walk to the telescope situated alongside at the Old Harbour to survey the entire bay and the whales and dolphins at close range. Next to the telescope is an information plaque which provides additional information on the whales.
The whale seen most frequently in the Walker Bay area is the Southern Right Whale, but other species do make an appearance occasionally. The whales start arriving in May in order to calve and to mate in the shallow water.
Peak time for whales at any one time is October, but many can still be seen in November, tailing off in December. Humpbacks migrate through the region between May and December each year, while Bryde’s whales are found slightly further offshore all year round. Occasional sightings of Killer Whales have been made.
Dolphin species which may be seen in the region include the endemic Heaviside’s, Bottlenose and Common dolphins.
The first Whale Crier in the world is not only a major attraction but keeps visitors informed as to where the whales can be seen when he does his rounds every day. The sound of his kelp horn has become a characteristic of the charm of this seaside resort during the whale season.
Walker Bay is one of the favoured bays for Southern Right Whales to calve and mate and between September and November, sightings are practically guaranteed on a daily basis.
A limited number of permits have been issued for legal boat-based whale watching at Hermanus, Gansbaai and Kleinbaai. The industry is carefully regulated and experienced operators are allocated areas.
Groups of passengers are taken out to the whales in a ski-boat for 1-2 hours keeping 50 meters away but avoiding cow-and-calf pairs (which usually move away of their own accord). Some whales are inquisitive and may surface 3-4 meters of the boat, providing an unforgettable close-up encounter.
While on these trips huge schools of dolphins, seals as well as many types of sea birds are often encountered.