When Ted was a kid, he thought whales were the big white things rolling up onto the beach.
You know, waves.
He learned better after a childhood obsession with Free Willy (filmed on the Oregon coast, by the way), but fast forward three decades later and he’d still never seen a whale in the wild.
Our two and a half month visit to South Africa changed that. (The seeing a whale in the wild bit. Not necessarily the Free Willy obsession.)
Continuing this week’s theme of wildlife tourism in South Africa, whale-watching (and watching-Ted-whale-watching) made for fantastic memories during our time in the southern hemisphere. Too, I’m happy to report that no animals were harmed in the making of this feature…
The Hermanus Whale Crier plays his kelp horn to signal a Southern Right Whale sighting
Each year between June and November, a good number of the 10,000 migratory Southern Right whales in the southern hemisphere come up from the polar regions of the planet to mate and calve and dance in the waves off the South African coastline. And oodles of visitors with cameras in hand come to take part in the fun.
Visit One: June, 2012
Our new friends and hosts in Stellenbosh, Nils and Maureen, took us to the coastal town of Hermanus, South Africa on a Saturday afternoon drive.
At home in Oregon, gray whales frolic off our shores. In Hermanus, southern right whales roam, placing the quaint town renown for its inviting habitat and frequent shoreline sightings among the top whale watching spots in the world.
The southern whites’ name bears a sad tale: in earlier times, they were the “right” whales to be hunted, “easy to catch and easy to kill,” slow swimming with enormous amounts of blubber that caused them to float when dead; an easy day’s work for men on the sea. Over-hunting led to a dramatic drop in population and an eventual 1937 ban on whaling. Since that time, the population has returned to a thriving number, and businesses and tourism built around whale sighting have replaced fishermen’s ships.
Nils and Maureen ready to spot whales.
Ted on a mission.
Where were they?
And then he saw something. Wait. Was it, or wasn’t it?
Indeed it was.
Ted’s first whale sighting.
He was all grins…
…and we even got a little wave back from the good-natured creature.
All of that was mid-July (winter, remember). Fast forward a few months, and we were heading toward a return to Cape Town from Mossel Bay on our grand road trip.
Guess where we went?
Visit Two: September, 2012
Back for more!
Whales and waves and crowds of people, and in September springtime, we saw flowers and butterflies, too; picnic blankets and binoculars, cameras and coffees, children with parents, friends in groups, and we two Oregonians quite happy for a sunny day.
And (ever creatures of habit, on our own mini-migration cycle) we popped back in to Just Pure, the cute little bistro Nils and Maureen introduced us to that first winter day.
Hot drinks worthy of Bipartisan Cafe loyalists’ stamp of approval.
Broccoli blue cheese soup and fresh toasted whole wheat bread for a cool day at the coast.
Hermanus, South Africa in Springtime
WHAT TO KNOW
Hermanus, South Africa
When to go for whales: Southern right spotting season runs June to December
Where to stay: Until our friend Maureen opens her Bed & Breakfast (someday, right Maureen?), check out our friend Angie’s top recommendations for lodging in Hermanus.
Where to grab a delicious hot beverage: We stand by the honey bourbon roobios tea and the almost-Portland-quality cappuccino served up at Just Pure’s Bistro.
Ocean View (Corner of Marine Drive & Park Lane)
Western Cape, South Africa
And for the Pacific Northwesterners: If a trip to South Africa isn’t in the immediate future (hey, even if it is!), check out this list of 24 spots for viewing the 400 or so gray whales that feed along the coast of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
This post is part of our twoOregonians Tour the Cape series featuring quintessential and offbeat South African experiences, one-of-a-kind accommodations and beautiful B&Bs, respectful wildlife programs, social service projects, and landscape photography from the South African Cape. As always, all opinions, photos, and stories are our own; many thanks to our kind hosts and partners along the way. It was our pleasure to experience such genuine kindness and hospitality!