Kayaking with the Whales of Hermanus Bay


On Saturday a group of about 15 Connect-123 volunteers drove to Hermanus for a day of whale watching. Some of us went sea kayaking to get closer to the whales. We left Cape Town early to avoid the high wind forecast for Walker Bay. During my last trip to Hermanus (see July 24th blog) it was windy and overcast and I didn’t see any whales. This time I was hoping Walker Bay would be full of them andSpouting,  wasn’t disappointed!

The kayaks were sit-on-top, self-bailing, and easy to paddle. They certainly enabled us to get closer to the Southern Right Whales. We we were in the Bay for about two hours. Other animals that frequent the area include resident Bryde Whales, Cape Fur Seals, African Penguins, many species of sea birds, Cape Otters, and an occasional pod of Dolphins. It was a sunny day and the sea cliffs and Overberg Mountains in the background added extra beauty to the experience.

Our guides did not recommend bringing cameras on the kayaks but they took photos during the outing and made a DVD available. A weekly air survey indicated about 40 whales (including calves) in the Bay. There are very few killer whales spotted in Walker Bay so it’s a popular and safe place for the migrating Right Whales to have their babies. Some whale behavior pointed out to us included:

• Breaching – a whale leaps out of the water, sometimes twirling around (some think a breach is to remove built-up parasites as they slap against the water on the way back down – others that they are having fun)
• Lobtailing – a whale sticks its tail out of the water, swings it around, and slaps it on the water
• Spouting / Blowing – whales blow water out of two blowholes near the top of their head
• Spyhopping – a whale pokes its head out of the water to take a look around
• Sailing – whales raise their flukes (tails) vertically out of the water and use them as sails

Much to our delight we saw many breaching and lobtailing whales! When a whale breaches it builds up energy and momentum and often does it several times in a row. We were not allowed to get closer than about 800 feet but enjoyed some spectacular sightings from our kayaks! Our bums and feet were soaking wet and the Bay was choppy and cold with some large sea swells, bit it was worth it to see the whales close up. We also saw a few fur seals, penguins, cormorants, and gannets. The cormorants are amazing and dive as deep as 30 feet into the sea chasing their prey.

After kayaking we changed into dry clothes and went to nearby Bientangs Cave restaurant overlooking Walker Bay where we continued to spot whales while eating lunch. Carved into a century-old cave the restaurant extends over the rocks to the edge of the water.

We drove to Hermanus via Sir Lowry’s Pass and went home via the longer winding coastal route through Gordon’s Bay. The coast was glowing in sunshine and spectacular. A perfect ending to a satisfying day full of unique and beautiful memories!

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