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South Africa’s Whale Coast could be considered as the area stretching from Betty’s Bay in the north to Gansbaai in the south on this section of the Western Cape Province coastline known as the Overberg (over the mountain). Both Betty’s Bay and Walker Bay are marine protected areas renowned for prime land-based whale watching. Southern Right, Bryde’s and Humpback whales congregate in the bays mostly during calving season, however, whales are generally spotted here throughout the year.
Towns along the whale coast are positioned up against high coastal mountains mostly incorporated into nature reserves. One, the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, is recognised by UNESCO as an ecosystem of international importance.
The Whale Coast is much more than whale watching, the area has a number of attractions in this most scenic part of the world, ideal for a few days’ layover.
Top 10 reasons to visit the Cape Whale Coast
1. Hermanus is the whale watching capital of the world, take a boat ride from the new harbour for up close views of the whales in the bay. The period between July and November is the best time to view these leviathans of the sea.
2. The Stony Point penguin colony in Betty’s Bay is an important breeding ground for the endangered African penguin. The marine birds have taken over an old whaling station and Stony Point is probably the only penguin nature reserve worldwide.
3. The town of Hermanus is a lively holiday resort town with chic sidewalk cafés and restaurants along the esplanade, a 12km cliff walk and excellent shopping facilities.
4. For the adventurous, licenced boat operators in Gansbaai offer shark cage diving. Sightings of the great white shark are practically guaranteed.
5. The Walker Bay area has an established wine route extending from the small town of Bot River via Hermanus and into the Hemel en Aarde (Heaven and Earth) valley. Some of South Africa’s best wines are produced in this region.
6. The Arabella Estate is where the country club set meet. The estate has a fine hotel, an award-winning spa, 18-hole golf course and winery. Arabella is located along a magnificent stretch of Bot River lagoon.
7. Enjoy a relaxing walk through the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens at the centre of pristine coastal fynbos. The garden has waterfalls and rock pools to be explored higher up in the gorge.
8. Pick up a unique keepsake at Harbour Road, Kleinmond’s lifestyle centre on the waterfront. The centre has a number of restaurants, local artwork and boutique shops. A market is held here every Sunday.
9. Visit Klipgat Cave at De Kelders village where significant Stone Age discoveries were made and the cave used for centuries as a shelter. A spring is located nearby.
10. Access to the Whale Coast is along Clarence Drive, one of the world’s great coastal drives. Stop regularly for photos and possible sightings of whales and dolphin schools.
The Cape Town International Airport is approximately 80km from the whale coast, depending on where you are located. The airport has several car rental agencies and two are based in Hermanus to hire a vehicle, otherwise book your rental online. Shuttle service companies operate out of the airport, Gansbaai and Hermanus.
Did you know?
Wild horses inhabit the Rooisand Nature Reserve at the Bot River mouth. They are believed to be descendants of horses used during the South African War and then abandoned in the area. Surprisingly, the herd has taken to the wetlands habitat in the reserve, their adaptations include wider hooves and thick coats grown during winter.
The African Black Oystercatcher with its bright red beak and eyes is frequently seen along the Whale Coast. These birds are endangered as they lay eggs directly on sandy beaches, often damaged by human traffic.