Cape Whale Coast Hope Spot
The Cape Whale Coast Hope Spot stretches 200kms from Rooi Els to Quoin Point and is recognized for its incredibly vibrant and visible whale visits.
It’s unique in its combination of rich and abundant biodiversity, spectacular scenery and cultural heritage. Much of the area is already protected: Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve (the heart of the Cape Floristic Kingdom), the Stony Point Penguin Colony at Betty’s Bay (one of only two mainland penguin colonies in South Africa), the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area, the Bot/Kleinmond and Klein river estuaries, the Walker Bay Whale Sanctuary Marine Protected Area, the Dyer Island Nature Reserve complex, as well as a network of conservation stewardship sites. It’s home to the marine Big 5: whales, dolphins, sharks, seals and African penguins.
African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) has a donkey-like bray, which is why it’s also known as the jackass penguin. It’s endangered and is found in only a few areas along South Africa’s coast: Betty’s Bay (part of the Cape Whale Hope Spot), Simon’s Town (part of the False Bay Hope Spot), Algoa Bay (part of the Algoa Bay Hope Spot).
Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) is a baleen whale and it’s massive – it can weigh up to 80 tonnes and is distinguishable by many things: a massive head that is almost a third of its body, a long mouth that begins above the eye, many callosities on its head, no dorsal fin, a broad almost triangular tail. Did you know they’re susceptible to sunburn? For this reason, they shy away from exposure on bright, sunny days.
Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) can reach up to six metres – the female is bigger than the male. Although many studies are ongoing, there is still some mystery surrounding facts about this impressive creature – it’s thought they grow as old as 70 years, that the males take over 20 years to reach sexual maturity, while the females take over 30. This low reproduction rate is what makes them more rare. They are listed as vulnerable.
how to engage with the cape whale coast hope spot
hike in hermanus
All along the coast of this town is a prettily set out path about 12 kilometre long. It’s for free and is well used by locals. From here you’ll see plenty of action. Further along, Die Kelders is also a prime viewing site. You could also do the Fernkloof Nature Walk; the reserve offers 60kms of trails. www.fernkloof.org.za
kayak with whales and into the bay
It’s a remarkable experience being on the water in the presence of a whale, because you’re at the same level and hear only the sounds of the sea and its life. Walker Bay Adventures do regular trips (it’s weather dependent). walkerbayadventures.co.za
Watch whales from a boat
In Hermanus, there are three certified operators. Areas of operation have been carefully chosen so as not to interfere with the natural habitat and behaviours of the whales. Try Southern Right Charters (southernrightcharters.co.za), Hermanus Whale Watchers (hermanuswhalewatchers.co.za), and Hermanus Whale Cruises (Hermanus-whale-cruises. co.za) In Kleinbaai, which is close to Dyer Island, where the great white shark regularly cruises, Dyer Island Cruises takes people out to the island, where chances of seeing a shark are strong. whalewatchsa.com
Watch whales from the air
Seeing whales from a bird’s eye view allows you to get a sense of their full environmental context and is a remarkable experience. There are two operators in the area. African Wins departs from Stanford airstrip and takes one to three people. Africanwings.co.za Overberg Aviation flies from Heidehof Airstrip or Grootbos, and can take up to five people. Overbergaviation.com Both offer trips from 30 minutes.
Beaches to explore
Part of a nature reserve and stretches kilometres, from Klein River to Gansbaai. It’s a blue flag beach and the sea is wonderfully clear, and in season there are lifeguards (and a bar). There are also sheltered nooks in which you can snorkel, and coastal caves to explore. Plus there’s plenty of birdlife. capenature.co.za
The old harbour
Beach in the centre of Hermanus has a small sandy patch that goes down to a stunning snorkeling area that is very biodiverse.
For more information, follow Cape Whale Coast Hope Spot on Facebook (there’s a lot to do in this area, and the group is pretty good at responding to queries) and visit hermanustourism.info.