Each year, the Overberg coastline, and particularly the relatively sheltered waters of Walker Bay and Hermanus, play host to one of nature’s most profound spectacles: the birthing and mating seasons of those impressive watery behemoths known as Southern Right Whales.
Crossing the mighty ocean, travelling all the way from the icy expanse of the Antarctic, these great marine beasts pilot a path to the warmer Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa to give birth and nurse their young, and then seek new breeding partners, before returning once again to the Antarctic reaches. This pilgrimage is an annual occurrence and a profound example of the unerring navigational intelligence of these massive creatures – the whales return season after season to the very same birthing sites of their ancestors, to calve, and then mate, repeating an ancient cycle of nature…
A similar pilgrimage is made each year, by visitors who flock to the area to witness the unrivalled spectacle of breaching and fluking whales who sport in the waters, often incredibly close to the shoreline. The passionate pursuit of whale watching finds its greatest home in the Overberg region, which is rated by fans as one of the finest places to view this species of whale in the world. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) agrees, having recognized Hermanus as one of the 12 best whale watching destinations on the planet.
Typically, whale season lasts for approximately seven months and runs from June to December each year. The calves are born first, “clinging” to the protective bulk of their mothers, and the males arrive only later, in October, increasing the population of whales in the area. There are reports of whales lingering as late as January.
There is no finer place to engage in whale watching than atop the famed seaside Cliff Path of Hermanus. At the apex of this prime location, is the legendary Marine Hotel, which has occupied the high promontory that juts into the sea ever since 1902. It has been part of Hermanus’s history almost since the very beginning, and, after a temporary closure required by the Coronavirus lockdown, it has re-opened its doors to guests now that inter-provincial leisure travel is permitted once again.
“We’re naturally thrilled to be welcoming visitors to our luxury Hermanus hotel,” comments The Liz McGrath Collection CEO Jacqui Elliot. “It’s been worth waiting for the return of our guests, as lockdown has allowed us to refresh our offering, our menus and our accommodation packages, to renew our purpose, and to re-enthuse our ever-committed staff, and importantly, to put all the necessary health and safety protocols in place. We’re ready to create fantastic holiday memories for those who stay with us!”
The Marine’s site is so prominent and so advantageous, that it allows guests to sight whales from the comfort of sea-facing rooms, and many an epic photograph has been captured in this way. Whales have been known to frolic as close as five metres from the shore. The hotel even installed an old-fashioned “Whale Bell” in 2019 – with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication by the Executive Mayor of Overstrand, Dudley Coetzee – that guests can ring to signal a sighting.
The Marine, along with its sister hotel The Plettenberg in Plettenberg Bay, is a member of Small Luxury Hotels – the only two hotels in the country to have been accepted into this prestigious international programme. Accordingly, The Marine offers a superlative guest experience that includes five-star accommodation and acclaimed cuisine using hyper-local ingredients sourced from the Overberg.
With many South Africans keen to explore their own country, rather than travel abroad, Hermanus and its renowned whale season are one for the Bucket List, allowing locals to feel like VIPs in their own backyard, especially when a stay at Hermanus’s pinnacle hospitality property is involved!
For reservations for whale season, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.