Western Cape Tourist Attractions Whale Watching in Walker Bay
The waters between Hermanus and Pearly Beach attract hundreds of whales annually to the shallow waters of this coastline, also known as the whale coast. Daily sightings of these giant beasts of the sea, certainly in August and September, are practically guaranteed earning Walker Bay a firm place on the WWF's list of top 12 whale viewing locations in the world.
Where? Cape Overberg Region, Western Cape
When? Open daily.
Walker Bay – heart of the whale coast. Its low cliffs give whale watchers some of the best vantage points from which to view southern rights without having to go out to sea. And there can be as many as 70 whales at a time in the bay. As a result Walker Bay is a marine protected area where little to no boating or fishing is allowed, bar boat-based whale watching craft with permits. The shores between Hermanus and De Kelders are protected by the Walker Bay Nature Reserve.
Hermanus: Hermanus, a two hour drive over the mountains from Cape Town, markets itself as the whale capital of the world and arguably has some of the best landbased whale watching on the planet. You have only to stand on the boulders of the cliff at the Old Harbour wall that give one a wonderful position overlooking the whales, or head off along the twelve kilometre Cliff Path, to get close enough for an eye-to-eye encounter.
Hermanus really is where you can count on getting close enough to whales to feel as though you can touch them whilst still on land, during August and September. The seaside town is popular as a result and you'll have to weigh up whether or not a bit of shoulder jostling is worth the encounter.
The town celebrates the southern right whales' mating season, near the end of September, with a Whale Festival. But they also hold a mini festival, known as the 'Kalfiefees' (calf festival) in August, to welcome the first whales into the bay. Look out for the world's only whale crier - something of a town crier but for whales - whose role it is to let you know where and when the whales are in the bay. He has a long kelp horn so you won't have to try too hard before you hear him.
Gansbaai: The fishing town of Gansbaai is famed as the Big 2 Town. Both the great white shark and the southern right whale visit these shores in great numbers. Because Gansbaai and De Kelders lie so close to one another they have divided whale watching between them in an orderly fashion. De Kelders' numerous beach rock formations and cliffs allow excellent shore-based whale spotting, whilst Gansbaai's claim to fame is boat-based whale watching, in season, and shark cage diving all year round.
Shark cage diving is Gansbaai's major attraction. Just off the headland lies Dyer Island, home to thousands of African penguins and a 20 hectare nature reserve. Between it and Geyser Rock runs a shallow channel known as 'shark alley'. Boat-based whale watching tours depart from Kleinbaai, a little fishing village just east of Gansbaai that also functions as the launching pad for local fishermen who set off to fish around Dyer Island daily.
You can drive from Kleinbaai along the headland to Danger Point where there is a lighthouse. This peninsula that extends out into the Atlantic Ocean for 8km is particularly popular with hikers, and a tidal pool and the odd rock pool are worth knowing about.
De Kelders, just across the bay from Hermanus, regards itself as the scenic portal to Gansbaai - its cliff vantage points overlooking Walker Bay Nature Reserve give the whale capital a run for its money. Named after the Drup Kelders (dripping cellars), a series of large and small caves that penetrate the cliffs of De Kelders, some containing freshwater mineral water pools filled by water that 'drips' in from a freshwater fountain, De Kelders is largely a residential area.
Take the 7km trail from Gansbaai harbour to Die Plaat, one of the last remnants of truly unspoilt beach, for incredible scenery and yet more whales.