Hermanus Whale Festival – 9 Reasons to Visit

Hermanus, for the last 25 years, has been welcoming thousands of visitors to its shores to celebrate the arrival of the Southern Right Whale in the waters of Walker Bay. Over 100 000 local and international visitors flock to the Whale Festival every September, the only eco-marine festival in South Africa. Hermanus is internationally renowned as one of the land-based whale-watching spot in the world. If you’ve never been to the Whale Festival, here are a few reasons to plan a trip.

1. Breathtaking Scenery

Hermanus Whale Festival - 9 Reasons to Visit - The Jax Blog

Walker Bay, Hermanus

Hermanus Tourism is not paying me to say this, but come on — have you been to Hermanus? It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world with a spectacular coastline and rich in fynbos and birdlife. And it’s no longer the sleepy little fishing town that it used to be. If you haven’t been down this way in years, you’ll be shocked to see how much this town has grown.

2. The Whales!

Hermanus Whale Festival - 9 Reasons to Visit- The Jax Blog

Image: Southern Right Whales

The main reason to visit — the whales, of course! The whale species most prominent in these waters is the Southern Right Whale who migrates down south every year to mate and calf. They spend six months here (July to December) before heading back to the frigid waters of Antarctica for the other six months.

During my stroll along the Cliff Path our annual marine visitors were a tad shy. I did not spot one gentle giant lolling in the water. I live in Hermanus and can do some whale-watching another time, but I do hope that on the other two days of the festival visitors were lucky enough to be treated to some awesome sightings.

To get up close and personal to these gigantic creatures, take a boat trip with Southern Right Charters. Other ways to whale-watch are by kayaking out into the waters or taking a fly-over in a Cessna airplane.

3. The Relaxed Vibe

 9 Reasons to Visit the Hermanus Whale Festival - The Jax Blog

Whale Festival Vendors

Being an event, it is crowded and if like my friend and I, you’re navigating the crowds with a toddler, a pram, and big husky dog, it can be challenging. Despite the busyness, you can still expect a laid-back atmosphere as people amble along on a warm spring day, taking in gorgeous sea and mountain views, and spotting whales.

The famous Whale Crier can be heard blowing his kelp horn. When you hear his call, rush over to where he is because he’s letting you know where the whales are.

Mobile food vendors line the area near Market Square. Not forgetting there are tons of great local restaurants nearby as well, so you won’t run short on food options.

KFM headed out to broadcast live from the Whale Festival and even entertained the crowds when some of the crew enthusiastically broke out dancing. They were really going for it! Nice one KFM.

4. Live Music and Shows

Hermanus Whale Festival - 9 Reasons to Visit - The Jax Blog

KFM Entertaining the crowds

The Coke Music Stand at Gearings Point is where you’ll find the music entertainment.

Watershed kicked off this year’s event followed by several other South African artists including local cultural dance groups from Hermanus, Grabouw, Stanford, and Gansbaai.

Most notably, this year Chris Chameleon made an appearance on stage. Over 20 music and theatre shows were part of the entertainment line-up showcasing both musical and acting talent.

5. Vintage Car Show

Hermanus Whale Festival - 9 Reasons to Visit - The Jax Blog

Vintage Cars (Photo credit kind permission of Hermanus Whale Festival)

Motoring enthusiasts should not miss the Vintage Car Show that takes place on the grounds of Hermanus Primary School. This is a feast for the eyes featuring 250 cars from the 1920s to the 1980s. These beauties take a spin through the town during the annual street parade, a visual treat that stops all passersby in their tracks.

6. Outdoor Sports

For those who love the great outdoors, several activities await tackling. Petzl Wolfpack Trails included 5km, 10km and night trail runs. Swimmers tackled an early morning swim on the Benguela Freedom Swim and Go Rally completed a fun breakfast rally run that saw participants hit the road from Cape Town to Hermanus.

Hermanus Whale Festival - 9 Reasons to Visit- The Jax Blog

Whale crier of Hermanus

7. Arts and Crafts

Hermanus is not only whale capital of South Africa, but can also easily be called the art capital of South Africa. Perhaps it’s the exquisite beauty of the region or the “champagne air” that draws artists to take up residence here. With the sheer number of artists and writers living here, arts and culture take center stage in this town. The craft stalls sell everything from handmade jewelry, clothing, food, and homeware. For serious art collectors, there are dozens of art galleries from the CBD to Onrus to scout for your next acquisition.

8. Township Tours

Township tours have become popular among tourists in South Africa’s cities. Hermanus has jumped onboard and Percy Tours take visitors on a tour of Zwelihle, just minutes out of the CBD. Zwelihle means “beautiful place” and your tour guide will provide insight into township life, cultural facts, traditional healers, and community development projects. You’ll stop in at the Youth Café, Taxi Rank Coffee Shop, and Community Boxing Hall.

9. Learn About Marine Life

For those with a passion for the environment or who are keen to learn more about marine life and other wildlife around Hermanus and surrounds, the Eco-Marine Village is the place to be. Exhibition stands and educational talks were hosted by Dyer Island Conservation Trust, DAFF Fisheries, African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, and Panthera Africa to name a few. The Eco-Marine Film Festival shows interesting videos on whales, the whaling industry, and other marine life. This is also where kids can have fun with kiddies’ activities and treasure hunts.

Hermanus Whale Festival - 9 Reasons to Visit - The Jax Blog

Fun for the kids

Things to Note

 Be prepared for heavier traffic than normal in Hermanus and to search for parking. It is painful. But once you find a spot, you can walk the entire CBD if you want — it’s not that big.

 Bring hats and sunscreen. There is no shade along the route where all the activity takes place, so if you don’t like heat or want to get babies and young kids out of the sun – you’ll have to find shade elsewhere. Also, pack something warm and a rain jacket as the weather in Hermanus is fickle. One minute the sun could be shining and the next it’s bucketing down with rain.

Overall, this is a nice day trip (for those making the 1.5-hour drive from Cape Town) or a great weekend getaway. Next year’s Whale Festival dates are not set yet, but check the website for updates and start planning your trip. Note that the activities listed above were for this year’s festival and may be subject to change for the 2017 festival.


Deevra Norling (2)

With a love for exploring new places trying new foods, Deevra finds the world a fascinating place. She is South African by birth but prefers to see herself as a citizen of the world. Deevra is a freelance writer who has contributed to Career Addict and Huffington Post. For information on her writing services, visit her website or email her.

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