During the winter months, one of the best day trips from Cape Town is to the Cape Overberg coast with Hermanus at its centre. Known for some of the best land-based whale watching in the world, Walker Bay in Hermanus has low cliffs that provide excellent vantage points from which to get close to whales – often they swim within metres of the shore.

It is worth taking the spectacular coastal route to Hermanus, from Gordon’s Bay along Clarence Drive to Rooiels and Betty’s Bay, and onward to Kleinmond. From there, the road veers inland for a while, before passing the beautiful Bot River Lagoon and turn-offs to smaller coastal resorts, such as Onrus, before arriving in Hermanus. Along the way, it’s possible to see whales at the old whaling slipway at Stony Point near Betty’s Bay, off the coast at Kleinmond, Onrus and De Kelders.

Between July and November each year, southern right whales migrate along the coast from the cold South Atlantic Ocean to the warmer waters off the Western Cape to calve and nurse their young. Humpback whales migrate through the region between May and December.

A quick guide to the two species of whale, and how to tell them apart:

  • Southern Right Whales (Eubalaena australis) are easily identified as they are predominantly black (sometimes with white patches on the back or belly) and have a double or V-shaped blow and no dorsal fin.
  • Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have long flippers (almost one third of the body length), a blunt dorsal fin and display characteristic arching of the back during surfacing. In contrast to the black upper body, the flippers are white.

Decoding whale behaviour:

  • Breaching – when the whale thrusts its whole body out of the water in massive, graceful leaps
  • Spy hopping – when the whale lifts its head vertically above the water and appear to observe what’s happening on the surface
  • Blowing – the hollow, echoing sound made when air is expelled from the lungs through the blowhole, accompanied by a spout of water vapour.

The array of coastal villages and Cape South Coast wine region offers great restaurants and wine tastings for a perfect day trip.

What is your favourite day trip destination?

Picture: Pinterest

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