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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 21 March, 2024
Expert travel writer: Richard Holmes

When the southern right whales make their annual migration from icy Antarctic waters to mate and calve in the temperate seas off South Africa, Hermanus is the place to be. With its steep cliffs and plentiful vantage points, this somewhat-trendy holiday town offers some of the most accessible land-based whale watching in the world.

A cliff-top trail meanders through town, offering up a number of easy-to-access viewpoints. The wonderful thing about whale season is the luck of the draw: pick your spot, take out your binoculars and scan the seas. If you’re lucky, the blubbery tourists will be breaching, lob-tailing and spy hopping off the cliffs, barely 100m away.

Alternatively, take a boat tour for close-up views. Boat-based whale-watching tours depart from the New Harbour. They’re not cheap, but you’re all but assured of incredible sightings. You can also kayak out to see them. Walker Bay Adventures will take you out into Walker Bay in sea kayaks.

Whales are there in season, but dolphins and seals are present all year round. If you time it for late September/early October, you’ll catch the Hermanus Whale Festival. The climax of the season is a celebration of cetaceans, complete with live music, kids’ entertainment and a tempting range of food stalls.

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: Any

Getting there & doing it

Hermanus is a leisurely two-hour drive from Cape Town along some of the most scenic roads the Cape has to offer, so don’t hurry.

In town, the best whale-watching is from the 10km cliff-top path that runs from the New Harbour to the (blue flag-rated) Grotto Beach. Bientang’s Cave – a casual seafront eatery – offers fresh seafood straight off the barbecue, and the chance to spot whales from your table.

When to do it

The season for whale watching – and the time to come to Hermanus – is July to October. Visit in late September/early October for the Hermanus Whale Festival.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Marine Big 5 Safari with transport from Hermanus

Hermanus

Marine Big 5 Safari with transport from Hermanus
We operate from Gansbaai around the world-famous Dyer Island where you might be so fortunate to see the Marine Big 5 – the Southern Right Whale/Humpback/Bryde’s Whales, various shark species, the Cape fur seal (around 60 000 on Geyser Rock), the endangered African Penguin and various visiting dolphin species. The area is also home to a wide variety of seabirds.

Price: Z2,400

Min age: 0

Rating 4.81 / 5 [48 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Hermanus Whale Watching Shared Boat Trip and Private Wine Tour from Cape Town

Cape Town

Hermanus Whale Watching Shared Boat Trip and Private Wine Tour from Cape Town
Embark on one of the best whale watching boat trips from Cape Town to Hermanus and see the Southern Right Whales up close. Benefit from private transfers on our whale watching boat trip in Hermanus, as well as a stop for wine tasting in the Hemel-en-Aarde Winelands thereafter. You will be transported in a private vehicle with personal guided interaction on your way to Hermanus, but when you arrive, you will join others in the boat. Enjoy the whale watching boat trips near Cape Town by spotting the southern right whales in Hermanus and visit anyone of the 15 wine estates found in the Hermanus route.

Price: Z3,040

Min age: 2

Rating 4.65 / 5 [29 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Hermanus Whale Watching Boat Trip with Shared Transfers from Cape Town

Cape Town

Hermanus Whale Watching Boat Trip with Shared Transfers from Cape Town
Embark on a whale watching shared boat trip with hotel pick-up and drop off. Receive shared transfers to and from Hermanus, the whale watching Capital of South Africa. Observe Southern Right Whales in their natural environment. Benefit from the opportunity of close encounters with these ocean giants. Please note that whale watching boat entry tickets are excluded and payable on the day of the tour.

Price: Z1,500

Min age: 5

Rating 4.4 / 5 [10 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Cape Town

Western Cape, South Africa

Aerial view of the whole city at dusk

A vibrant, multicultural city with dramatic scenery, adrenaline adventure galore, Africa’s best art scene, golden beaches world-class wine regions and outstanding gastronomy. All in the shadows of the mighty Table Mountain.

Round-ups

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Round-ups that include this experience

humpback whale breaching on pacific ocean background with tourist boat behind

Ranging from the mere 2.5m dwarf sperm whale to the whopping 30m blue whale, these ocean giants beguile and amaze with their size, grace and dignity. Here’s our round-up some of the best places in the world to see them.