whale watching

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Aug 26th, 2004, 09:33 AM
  #1
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whale watching

Is it worth the drive and back in a day from Cape Town to Hermanus to watch whales in early September (end of next week)? Have the whales arrived? If so, is it worthwhile to go on a "boat-based" whale watching trip or is "land-based" viewing just as good? Thank you in advance for any advice. I have been reading this forum since I started planning my trip to South Africa and everyone has been a great help.
ngodeia is offline  
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Aug 26th, 2004, 09:43 AM
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We were in Cape Town last September and there were Southern Right Whales all over the place. We did not go out to Hermanus, but saw a large number of whales just driving around False Bay. They are easily visible from shore.
Having said that, we also encountered a bunch of whales while on a boat trip to Seal Island (in False Bay). Obviously, with a boat, you will be closer to the whales and you're seeing them from a different perpective. If you're really into whales, I would recommend that. One whale actually breached near us. Unfortunately, I missed it, but my wife saw it.
Hopefully Selwyn (who was our guide in Cape Town) will post a reply -- he would have the most experience and knowledge regarding this.
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Aug 26th, 2004, 09:59 AM
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I think its worth it, even if you don't see a lot of whales. We made the trip in 2003 and 2004. In 2003 the whales were 10 - 20 meters off the shore, wonderful! In 2004 they were a long way off, but the drive is still great. You can go there over the mountain pass and return along the beach, a gorgeous drive with all kinds of pull outs to enjoy the scenery. Its only a couple of hours, easy day trip.
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Aug 26th, 2004, 10:15 AM
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Thank you for the advice! We were planning on it anyway, now we're just more persuaded.

P.S. Chris_GA_Atl, judging from your screen name, you are a fellow Atlantan?
ngodeia is offline  
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Aug 26th, 2004, 12:20 PM
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Yes! There appear to be a number of Atlanta people on this forum.
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Aug 28th, 2004, 01:08 AM
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I am supposed to be in Hermanus in late October (around the 25th), and based on Frommers and Lonely Planet, was expecting there to be a lot of whales then. Someone in a different post, however, said that I shouldn't expect to see any that late in the year. Does anybody know if that is truly the case?
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Aug 28th, 2004, 07:01 AM
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>>>>>>Someone in a different post, however, said that I shouldn't expect to see any that late in the year.<<<<<<

Deedle, there isn't a cut and dried answer. The timing of the whale migration varies from year to year. Also, the whales don't migrate en masse. Even when the bulk of them have departed for the Antarctic, there usually are some stragglers who stay behind for a while longer. I've seen the occasional whale as late as December.

What does happen is that, beyond the middle of October, whale sightings decrease. You may see whales but, if you do, the sightings won't be as frequent as they would have been earlier in the season.

Conversely, even during the most active part of the season, you aren't guaranteed a whale sighting on a given day. During a week-long visit to Hermanus one August, for example, I saw whales all over the place during some of my walks, and didn't see any during other walks. Some of the sightings were spectacular, though. In some cases whales were frolicking right in front of the town centre, just a few yards from the shore.

I think Hermanus is worth a visit, with or without whales. It's a cute town, and there is a cliff path along which it is nice to walk and look out to sea. Hermanus has a mixture of rocky shoreline interspersed with sandy beaches, and it's relaxing to watch the waves crashing on the rocks.

After that it's nice to go behind the town and do a walk in the nature reserve. The Fynbos vegetation is unique in the world. This vegetation once covered a much larger area of the Earth's surface but, owing to climatic changes over the millenia, there is only a small pocket in the SW Cape region of South Africa in which it still grows. The Fynbos vegetation includes, but by no means is limited to, the protea, South Africa's national flower.

There are a couple of different ways to get from Hermanus to Cape Town. A pleasant route is the slower one that hugs the coast. It's worth stopping to see the penguin colony at Betty's Bay.
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Aug 28th, 2004, 08:45 AM
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Wonderful mail Judy. I agree wholeheartedly with all that you have said. I was the one who told Deedle that whale sitings in October would be minimalistic however you have really cleared up the whole situation with your great description which I agree with 100%. Must say that in all my years of visiting Hermanus I have never seen whales after October but as you correctly intimate "one never knows". What I do know is that right now the whales are popping out of everywhere in Walker Bay and they are as per normal a great delight to see.

Deedle please take Judy's sound advice which is spot on and make your travel arrangements accordingly. Please dont underestimate Hermanus as a stayover spot and I must mention that Judy's idea of going to visit the Stoney Point penguin colony at Betty's Bay while taking the slow coastline road back to Cape Town is a brilliant one.

Enjoy!

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
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Aug 28th, 2004, 08:08 PM
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Judy and Selwyn,
Thanks for the extremely thorough and helpful responses! We are definitely still going to Hermanus, it was just a question of for how long. We have planned about five days on the Garden Route, starting in Port Elizabeth, and 6-7 in and around Cape Town. I was really hoping to see some whales, which is why we planned two of our five days in Hermanus. Any recommendations on how we might be better able to spend our time in that area during late October / early November?

Thanks again!
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