Whale Watching Season in Hermanus (2023)

Last updated: January 7, 2022

Whale Watching Season in Hermanus (1)


Hermanus - the whale watching capital of South Africa

Hermanus is a pretty coastal town in the Indian Ocean surrounded by mountains. Hermanus is the whale watching capitalSouth AfricaAround 100 right whales congregate in the city's Walker Bay from August to November each year. Because everything revolves around the whales, Hermanus hosts a three-day event every yearWalfestin September. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has named Hermanus Whale Watch one of the top places in the world for land whale watching.

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Hermanus, South Africa's whale watching capital

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On our way to Hermanus we pass vineyards and rapeseed fields

We've just finished drivinggarden routeand the approach to Hermanus is really cute too. Dozens of vineyards border valleys and colorful canola fields that look like canolafields next to our house inAngliaduring summer.Unfortunately we had terrible weather during our stay! It was cold, windy and very wet, but that didn't dampen our spirits or our enjoyment.

Main Event – ​​Whale Watching in Hermanus!

Southern right whales spend the summer feeding on plankton in the frigid waters of Antarctica. In winter they migrate to the slightly warmer waters of the South Atlantic to mate and give birth to calves. An estimated 2,000 right whales visit South African waters each year.

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(Video) Intense Whale Watching in Hermanus South Africa

The Southern Right Whale in Hermanus emerges from the water

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A whale showing "sailing behavior". The tail can be 5 meters in diameter

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In this picture you can see almost two holes

We had never been whale watching before and thought it was great! Watching giant whales lift their bodies out of the water and then fall again and again is awe-inspiring. When they come out of the water, they put on an acrobatic show on the big water (not Seaworld style!). However, we learned patience and constantly scanned the bay, breathing in awe when someone spotted a whale in the distance and a sigh from us when we realized we had missed it!

Whale watching runs from July to late October, so we timed our visit perfectly for September. Hermanus is considered the best place in the world for land-based whale watching. We especially enjoyed watching the whales swim straight into Walker Bay as they are much closer to the edge of the cliff and you can really see all the details. Humpback whales also migrate here but I don't think we saw them. However, photographing whales is really difficult. To get the best results, you need a zoom lens. Just take lots of quick shots if your camera is capable.

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Whale Watching Season in Hermanus

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Watching these huge and gentle giants is fascinating

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Other behavioral characteristics of "sailing"

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I tried the Legendary Tail Shot but failed!

(Video) Whale Watching season in Hermanus, South Africa -2019

Right whales have been hunted almost to extinction. Fortunately, they are now a protected species when commercial fishing ceased in 1935. The good news is that their numbers are increasing at 7% each year and there are currently an estimated 14,000 living in the southern hemisphere. However, they still face threats from pollution, entanglement in nets, and collisions with ships. A complete contrast to the Northern Hemisphere, where the North Atlantic Right Whale is critically endangered with just 300 animals left.

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Southern Right Whale in Walker Bay

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People gather on one of the viewing platforms at the edge of the cliff

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Lots of art and sculptures on the main promenade.

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We enjoyed watching the power of the waves alongside the old port

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We've seen dozens of these guys - Rock Dassies on a cliff

Behavior of the Southern Right Whale

Whales exhibit four distinct behavioral patterns about which little is known.

(Video) South Africa | Whale Watching Hermanus | Cape Town Activities | South Africa Part-3 | Savvy Fernweh

  • violation– When the whale jumps out of the water and lands on its back. This repetitive behavior is believed to be to get rid of, or possibly communicate with, parasites and wall lice. Phil thought they were just doing it for fun!
  • Praise"If their tails are repeatedly slapped against the water, this behavior may be a type of communication commonly seen between mothers and calves."
  • Sail– If the tail is kept above water for a while. This can be a form of temperature control.
  • spy jumps"When their head comes out of the water." Maybe they're just curious about their surroundings.

A few quick facts about whales:

  • They are characterized by thickenings on the head
  • They feature 2 holes that produce a distinctive V-shaped shot up to 3 meters high
  • They give birth every 3 years and the young are 5 to 6 meters tall.
  • Females can weigh up to 80 tons
  • Males weigh an average of 40 tons and have the largest testicles in the animal kingdom!
  • You can dive to a depth of 300 meters.
  • The average length is 13.9 meters - that's 10 elephants back to back.
  • They live more than 50 years, the exact numbers are unknown.
  • Unlike most whales, they do not have a dorsal fin.
  • They are named after hunters who thought they were the "right" whales to kill because they swim and swim the slowest of all whales when they die.

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This is what they look like

Hermanus whaling cruises

There are numerous companies in the port offering whale watching cruises. Catamarans and tour boats bring you up close to the whales without disturbing them. But unfortunately the weather was so bad for us that the tide was too dangerous so every boat trip during our stay was canceled 🙁 We noticed that some cruises have photos and videos for sale right after the trip - we found that one was brilliant idea for the people who don't have a camera or just want to enjoy the trip.

The center of Hermanus

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The center of Hermanus

The center of Hermanus is quite small so you can walk east. There are many charming art galleries, pavement cafes and 3 museums. Our favorite time was having lunch in one of the cafes and still watching the whales breach, magical!

Accommodation in Hermanus

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What a view! Garth observed the whales with a monocular at our hotel

Due to an overbooking error at our intended hotel we had to spend the night on Voelklip beach in a deluxe suite at the Hermanus Beachfront Cottage, what a result! It was amazing waking up to an uninterrupted view of the sea! Talk about time in Hermanus!

Fernkloof nature reserve

We also took a trip to Fernkloof nature reserve which has great views of Hermanus and the bay. There are various hiking trails and the mountains are covered in fynbos (native South African vegetation). Garth was battling fibromyalgia - horrible leg pain so we had to stop even though the hiking here isn't that strenuous.

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Fernkloof nature reserve

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Great views of Hermanus and the bay even on a miserable day

(Video) Whale Watching in South Africa - Southern Right Charters

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Phil on one of the Fernkloof Nature Reserve trails

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Different types of fynbos flowers

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Our favorite was this one - Pincushion Protea

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These baboons are so cheeky, so watch out!

As we exited the parking lot it was so much fun watching these cheeky baboons stealing food from people's cars! The guards soon came out to see what all the fuss was about. It was so much fun! It reminded us of observing Barbary macaquesGibraltardo exactly the same.

More activities and attractions of Hermanus

  • Path to Hermanus cliff"Would you like a nice walk?" This trail stretches 7.5 miles along the coast. There are many benches for whale watching. It is also wheelchair accessible.
  • Morska Wielka 5You've probably heard of the so-calledThe Big Five on Safari, but Hermanus is a great place to see the marine Big 5 – whales, great white sharks, dolphins, penguins and seals.
  • Diving with a great white shark– Not far from Hermanus is Gansbaai, where adventure seekers can stroll in reinforced cages to get up close and personal with great whites! (hmm, no thanks!)
  • Betty's Bay-Pinguine– 30 minutes from Hermanus there is a colony of African penguins, similar to Boulders in Cape Town.

Hermanus Practical information and useful advice

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Phila in Gartha at Hermanus at RPA

Phil and Garth's top 5 Hermanus tips

  • Tip #1: Take a long walk along the cliff path to see the whales from different angles.
  • Tipp #2: Cycling on the cliff paths is prohibited.
  • Tipp #3: During the whale festival in Hermanus in September, accommodation is crowded and expensive.
  • Tipp #4: Are you serious about photographing whales? Go early in the morning when the light is best.
  • Tipp #5: Don't forget to pack your binoculars because you will need them.

How we did it

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(Video) Whale watching in Hermanus, Cape Town, South Africa

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Are there whales in Hermanus right now? ›

Whale season in Hermanus

Bryde's whales are present all year round. Out of season trips – January to May cruises to Danger Point to see the resident Brides whales, Marine Big 5 tours, sunset cruises, bird-watching cruises.

What is the best time to see whales in Hermanus? ›

Winter (May to September)

The Whale Season of Hermanus occurs during winter when the mighty whales of the ocean migrate to this part of the marine world. The sight of these magnificent creatures gliding through the coastal waters of Hermanus makes winter the best season of the year to explore this city.

What month is whale watching in Hermanus? ›

"The best time to see Southern Right Whales in Hermanus is between July and November." While the whale sightings during the months of July and August vary each year, you're almost guaranteed to see whales in September, October and even November.

Where am I guaranteed to see a whale? ›

Monterey Bay, California

Enjoy year-round whale-watching in Monterey Bay. Running alongside California's central coast, the bay sees humpback and blue whales from April to December, and gray whales from December to April. The coast also attracts killer whales, who hunt gray whales during their migration north.

What is the current situation of whales? ›

Several factors contribute to whales' current endangered status, such as overfishing, pollution, dam/bridge construction, private/commercial boating, and commercial whaling. Still, commercial whaling has significantly affected the endangered status of today's whale populations.

Is whale watching in Hermanus worth it? ›

The whales migrate from the Antarctic around June for mating and breeding. The area has been recognised by the World Wildlife Fund and Whale Watching Hermanus is one of the 12 best places whale watching destinations in the world. What is this? This region of South africa is also ridiculously beautiful!

What months are whales most active? ›

Summer Whale Watching (June, July, August):

The Summer months are the best months to witness the world's largest animal…the BLUE WHALE! Southern California is the best place in the world to look for a Blue Whale as they seek the nutritious krill that allows them to grow to their epic size.

What time of year are whales most active? ›

Whales are mostly active at night but have been known to be more active during the day during certain hours, seasons, and activities. In the summer months, whales are less active at night due to their prey being more accessible during the day. Whales are never diurnal, but they can be crepuscular.

Is whale watching better in the morning or afternoon? ›

But first, we stress that there's no “best” time of day to go whale watching. Whales are out and about doing their thing day and night, so whether you go out in the morning, afternoon or evening you'll always have a great chance of seeing whales and other marine wildlife.

What season is best to watch whales? ›

In the spring, when migrating whales pass through, you've got a good shot at spotting humpbacks, Sei, and the two largest species of whale: fin and blue. Peak season is April through September, but visit in April and May for the best chance of spotting a big blue.

What is the best hour to watch whales? ›

One of the reasons that the morning time is the best time of day for whale watching has to do with weather and ocean conditions. The wind is a key player when it comes to smooth seas, and morning trips often have less wind.

What month do whales come out? ›

In Northern California, your best time to spot gray whales and orcas is December to May. For humpbacks, visit May through November, and for blue whales, the largest animal on Earth, plan your stay sometime between July and October.

What are the chances of seeing a whale while whale watching? ›

There's a 95% chance you'll see a whale any month of the year. Generally, humpback whales are observed feeding in the bay March through December and Gray whales are seen migrating December through May. Blue whale sightings vary each year but your best bet is July and August.

What are the chances of seeing a whale? ›

One of the most exciting things about seeing a wild whale is simply encountering an animal which still teeters on the brink of extinction. It is estimated that less than 1% of people living on planet Earth will see a whale in their lifetime. Therefore, any time you see a whale, even one whale, you are truly privileged.

Where are the most whale sightings? ›

The best destinations in the world for whale watching
  • Baja California Sur, Mexico. ...
  • Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa. ...
  • Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada. ...
  • St Lawrence Marine Park, Saguenay, Quebec, Canada. ...
  • St. ...
  • Mirissa, Sri Lanka. ...
  • Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand. ...
  • North Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA.

Which country kills the most whales? ›

Which Countries Still Hunt Whales? The countries where commercial whale hunting continues are Japan, Norway, and Iceland. Norway kills the most whales of the three countries.

What are 4 current major threats to whales? ›

Introduction. Threats to whales include commercial whaling, pollution, ozone depletion, global warming an whale watching.

How many whales are in the ocean right now? ›

There are over 1.5 million whales worldwide, although some species like the blue whale are endangered.

Do you tip on a whale watching tour? ›

Although not required, a gratuity for your guide is a great way to show your appreciation for their outstanding service. Guiding is a hospitality industry comparable to that of a server at a restaurant. 10% – 20% gratuity is a good general rule, depending on how amazing your guide was.

How many whales visit Hermanus? ›

Facts and Information on Southern Right Whales

When aerial surveys of Walker Bay start in July every year, there are about 50 whales in the bay. This increases to 200 at peak whale watching season in September and October.

Can you swim in the sea in Hermanus? ›

The area in and outside of Hermanus is dotted with excellent beaches suited to swimming, angling, surfing and other activities, with varying facilities but all well maintained.

What time of day do whales sleep? ›

All animals within the animal kingdom go through a repeated 24-hour cycle called the circadian cycle. Unlike most dolphins who often hunt for their prey at night, most whales can often sleep throughout the night.

How long before whales come up for air? ›

On average, larger whales will surface for air about every 10-15 minutes. Smaller whales usually won't stay underwater for more than 5-minutes.

Where do whales go in bad weather? ›

Slow-moving fish and turtles and shellfish beds are often decimated by the rough undercurrents and rapid changes in water temperature and salinity wrought by a hurricane. Sharks, whales, and other large animals swiftly move to calmer waters, however, and, generally speaking, are not overly affected by hurricanes.

How often do whales pee? ›

Whales pee a lot.

As you would expect of an animal of whale size, they pee a lot. In fact, according to the Canadian Journal of Zoology a fin whale can pee as much as 257 gallons PER DAY!

When were the most whales killed? ›

Whaling in the United States hit its peak in the mid-1800s. New technologies, including gun-loaded harpoons and steamships, made whalers around the world more efficient. The American whaling fleet, based on the East Coast, operated hundreds of ships in the South Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Should I eat before whale watching? ›

Eat breakfast – Do not sail on empty stomach. A non-greasy meal such as oatmeal, toast, or a little yogurt is fine. Try an over-the-counter medication such as Bonine or Dramamine. It is recommended to take at least 1-2 hours before you get on the boat.

Is whale watching better in sun or rain? ›

Sunshine Makes it Easier to See

If the sun is bright and shining, this is an excellent opportunity to go whale watching. When you go out on the water during a clear day, you can see for miles. You can even spot that notched whale tail far in the distance if you have clear visibility.

Is whale watching better in the rain? ›

Dont let a cloudy or rainy day keep you from going out whale watching. Sometimes a cloudy day is the best whale watching weather. The whales don't care if it is raining and you will often find that there are fewer other tours around.

Does whale watching get cold? ›

It is usually colder out on the water than it is inland or even on the shore. You will want to wear several layers to keep yourself warm during your trip. To be safe, expect the temperature to be 20-30°F (11-16°C) colder on the water.

Do whales like cold or warm? ›

Whales are warm blooded marine mammals that can tolerate cold water temperatures. Whales use blubber as an insulation layer to help maintain the energy and warmth when they dive to cool depths or travel to cold waters such as in Alaska.

Are you more likely to see whales in the morning? ›

Morning is the best time of day for whale watching in California. Weather is the key component to ideal whale watching conditions. Typically, there is less wind in the morning making for calmer seas, which is most enjoyable for both marine life and boat tours.

What is too windy for whale watching? ›

Strong southerly winds are not good for Whale Watching... anything about 12-15knts will make conditions uncomfortable. WESTERLY WINDS: Westerly winds are awesome for Whale Watching... offshore winds flatten the seas and you can see whales for miles !!

What do whales do at night? ›

Whales will usually stay in place as they sleep near the surface. As they rest, they are switching which hemisphere of the brain is awake. This resting behavior is often called 'logging' because they resemble a log floating at the water's surface.

Are whales active in November? ›

November through March is also a great time to spot humpback whales, which can usually be spotted in clusters of ten. October through December is also a prime time to spot minke whales. Another common sighting during these months are also dolphins and sea lions which you don't want to miss!

When whales come out of water? ›

Breaching is when most or all of the whale's body leaves the water. Humpback whales can use their powerful fluke (or tail fin) to launch themselves out of the water. And while many other whale species breach, humpback whales seem to breach more frequently.

Do you see sharks while whale watching? ›

We often encounter sharks while looking for whales and they are always a huge hit (especially with the kids).

Should I bring binoculars whale watching? ›

In Summary. When heading out on your whale watching experience, whether watching from the shore or a boat, take a pair of binoculars. You will be in awe of these wonderful and majestic creatures. Seeing them up close will be even more spectacular.

How far is safe for whale watching? ›

When watching marine mammals by boat: Remain at least 100 yards from whales and at least 50 yards away from dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions. Federal law has specific distance requirements for some species. Keep 100 yards away from humpback whales in Hawaiian and Alaskan waters.

Is it safe to swim next to a whale? ›

Although huge by size, humpback whales are one of the most gentle animals in the world. It is safe to swim with whales, but do listen to the instructions of your guide. Be respectful to the whales by keeping your distance and not touching them.

How close do whales get to shore? ›

They sometimes come within 50 feet of the shore.

What is the most common whale to see? ›

HUMPBACK WHALES: Common (seen on 75-99% of trips)

They range in size anywhere from 35 up to 60 feet in length when fully grown (males are usually slightly smaller than females).

Which part of the world has the most whales? ›

Victoria, Southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The place with the highest year round whale sightings success percentage at over 95% success rate is the waters surrounding the city of Victoria on the southern end of Vancouver Island, Canada.

Where is the best place to see whales in us? ›

16 incredible whale watching trips in the USA
  • Juneau, Alaska. Juneau Whale Watch. ...
  • Maalaea, Maui, Hawaii. PacWhale Eco-Adventures. ...
  • Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, Washington. ...
  • Monterey, California. ...
  • Gloucester, Massachusetts. ...
  • Barnstable, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. ...
  • San Diego, California. ...
  • Waianae, Oahu, Hawaii.

Have whales been spotted in Hermanus? ›

TThe most common whale spotted in Hermanus is the Southern Right Whale. It gets this name from early whalers, who named it the 'right' whale to hunt. Drive to Fick's Pool on Plein St, take the cliff path towards the New Harbour for about 100 metres and arrive at Dreunkrans. Locals love coming here to see the whales.

Are there whales in Cape Town now? ›

The peak season is from July to December, and southern right whales are pretty much guaranteed between August and November. Simon's Town Boat Company is your best bet if you're a little more pressed for time and need to keep things local.

What is the current status of whale hunting? ›

Currently, the countries where commercial whale hunting is still in practice are Japan, Norway, and Iceland. While Iceland announced recently that it would stop its commercial whaling by 2024, there is no end in sight for the same practice in Japan or Norway.

How many whales are left today? ›

There are over 1.5 million whales worldwide, although some species like the blue whale are endangered.

Where is Shamu the whale now? ›

She was sold to SeaWorld San Diego and became a star attraction. Shamu was the fourth orca ever captured, and the second female. She died in August 1971, after about six years of captivity. After her death, the name Shamu continued to be used in SeaWorld "Shamu" shows for different orcas in different SeaWorld parks.

What is the best month to go whale watching? ›

In the spring, when migrating whales pass through, you've got a good shot at spotting humpbacks, Sei, and the two largest species of whale: fin and blue. Peak season is April through September, but visit in April and May for the best chance of spotting a big blue.

What time of day are you most likely to see whales? ›

Whales are generally most active in the morning and late afternoon, making these the best times to spot them. During the morning, whales tend to be more active as they start their day and may feed. As the day progresses and the sun sets, whales become more active as they prepare to rest for the night.

What is the best month to go to Cape Town? ›

December to March is the best time for beaches and sunny weather. If you want to head to the beach, the best time to visit Cape Town is in the summer (December to March). This is when you'll find warm weather, clear skies and long days, creating the perfect mix for sun-seekers.

Can you eat whale meat? ›

Whales have been hunted for meat in Japan since before 800 AD. After World War II, due to damage to Japan's infrastructure, whale meat became an important source of proteins. In modern-day Japan, two cuts of whale meat are usually created: the belly meat and the tail meat.

Why did whale hunting stop? ›

In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling because of the extreme depletion of most of the whale stocks. Contemporary whaling for whale meat is subject to intense debate.

Is the whale population increasing? ›

Sperm whale numbers are continuing to increase in the Pacific, and interactions with fishermen are becoming more frequent. Whales were once regarded as an exploitable resource that could be killed freely for profit. No more.

What percentage of people have seen a whale? ›

One of the most exciting things about seeing a wild whale is simply encountering an animal which still teeters on the brink of extinction. It is estimated that less than 1% of people living on planet Earth will see a whale in their lifetime. Therefore, any time you see a whale, even one whale, you are truly privileged.

Is the whale population declining? ›

They were once abundant but were decimated during the commercial whaling era, when they were hunted for their oil and meat. The whales have been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act more than 50 years but have been slow to recover.

What is the biggest threat to whales? ›

Entanglement. Entanglement represents a significant threat to many marine animals, including humpback whales in Hawai'i. It has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of whales die each year worldwide as a result of entanglements.


1. Land Based Whale Watching in Hermanus!
(Windsor Hotel Hermanus)
2. Whale Watching Hermanus | October 2017
(New Fitter You Ideal Healthy Breakfast)
3. Last days of Whale watching in Hermanus for 2012
(Southern Right Charters Whale Watching)
4. Hermanus for whale watching and the Hemel-en-Aarde valley for great wines (a great day out!)
(Cool Cape Travel)
5. Whale Watching in Hermanus, South Africa -.Patience and Joy: Feast of Whales is impressive!
(Strolling The World)
6. Whale Watching. Hermanus - South Africa
(Southern Right Charters Whale Watching)


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