Sea Kayaking Walker Bay South Africa

Walker Bay Adventures Guide Riaan – Launching and Landing Area

A special joy of South Africa is its extraordinary coastline. Experiencing it from a kayak is the best, but winter swells are often prohibitive. For about a week Walker Bay wasn’t safe for kayakers. This morning there was minimal swell and conditions were clear, crisp, and calm, so I joined a sea kayaking adventure.

Walker Bay – Xplorio

Our group of four explored the Hermanus coast and went a short distance out to sea. The day trip was uneventful in terms of whale sightings but a rich experience basking in the natural beauty of the area. During the peaceful outing we saw interesting plankton, entertaining Cape Fur Seals, Cormorants, Oystercatchers, and other marine life against a backdrop of misty Overberg Mountains and surf splashing on sea cliffs.

Located in Hermanus Old Harbour, Walker Bay Adventures is an ecologically friendly company. They leave little impact on the environment and participate in conservation, including litter cleanup in the Bay.

Walter Bay Adventures Kayak Launch Area

We used double sit-on-top self-bailing sea kayaks. They’re easy to maneuver for any level of kayaking experience and work well in Walker Bay. Your feet and legs get wet when launching and landing, but the experience is so pleasant it’s inconsequential. The small group included a couple visiting from Germany on their way up the Garden Route, and I shared a kayak with our happy, well-qualified guide, Riaan.

Walker Bay Adventures

Area Map – winesofelgin.co.za

The adventure was thoroughly enjoyable!

Whale Watching Walker Bay South Africa

Humpback Whale – Rhino Africa Christopher Michael

Humpback Whales, Bryde’s Whales, and Southern Right Whales – we saw them all during a three-hour whale watching adventure yesterday! It’s early for whale season (June to December) on the Cape Whale Coast, so I was hopeful but not overly optimistic. Previously cancelled due to sea swells, The Southern Right Charters trip resulted in a surprise jackpot – multiple, breathtaking whale sightings!!

After an on-land briefing, about seventy-five passengers boarded catamaran Miroshca. We departed Hermanus New Harbor at 3 pm for a sunset tour. Miroshca had been out on Walker Bay several times that day, and returning passengers were ecstatic after seeing three whale species that frequent Walker Bay!

Fishing Boat New Harbor Hermanus

Safety and Conservation

Environmentally sensitive Southern Right Charters promotes the conservation and safety of whales and marine life. They operate under the ethos of “Observing NOT Disturbing”. Whale watching boats aren’t permitted to approach whales closer than 160 feet, but the “naturally curious creatures” often come near the boat. When they do, it’s absolute magic!

Whale Watching Boat Miroshca – Southern Right Charters

Guides, Videographer, Drone

Well-trained guides and whale specialists helped via a PA system. They spotted and identified whales and provided commentary interpreting the behavior of marine life encountered. There was considerable swell in the Bay, but nothing that Miroshca couldn’t handle – not so sure about the passengers. It’s difficult holding on, watching whales, and taking photos all at the same time.

Hermanus Whale Watching – Southern Right Charters

A videographer captured the best footage from our trip. I tried watching and taking photos from several vantage points and preferred the upper deck. My photos are disappointing, but I got a distant shot of a Southern Right breaching and one or two other photos were moderately decent.

Southern Right Whale – Ivanhoe Sea Safaris

The guides used a drone to spot nearby whales from above. Videographer footage combined with drone photos were converted to a souvenir USB. The USB also has excerpts from two documentaries – Hermanus and Surrounds and The Whale Season.

Seabirds and Seals

We saw nimble Cormorants, deep-diving Gannets, graceful, acrobatic Sooty Shearwaters, and playful Cape Fur Seals. Fur Seals are endemic to Southern Africa. Hundreds were in the colony that followed our boat. Expressive creatures, their loud racket left no doubt they were present!

Cape Gannet Courtship – Bruce Robinson

Cormorants are avid fishers. They live along the coast and spend much of their time at sea. They breed in large numbers on nearby Dyer Island. Dyer Island Conservation Trust provides “unique conservation and research programmes in the local marine ecosystem”. I hope to visit the island while in the area.

Cape Fur Seals

We approached a mass of Cormorants huddled together floating on the seawater. From a distance, they looked like a bunch of seaweed. As the boat got closer, they suddenly took off in mass flight!

Humpback, Bryde’s, Southern Right

Humpback Mother and Calf

The first whale we saw was a Humpback with her young calf – the guide estimated it at three to five days old. It was tiny and seemed to be playing with its mother. The baby flipped over and the mother breached, but I wasn’t quick enough to get photos. Our guide said it’s unusual to see a Humpback calf in Walker Bay this early in winter. The calf’s color was white – this can occur at birth but changes to black within months.

Southern Right Breach

Cape Cormorant – BirdGuides

Humpbacks pass through Walker Bay on their way north. They migrate to warmer water near the equator to mate and have their calves. Male Humpbacks are known for their “complex songs, sometimes lasting 10 to 20 minutes and repeated for hours”.

Sooty Shearwater – HBW Alive

Bryde’s Whale – hermanusonline.mobi

Bryde’s

Next, we encountered several playful Bryde’s whales – pronounced “brutus”. Intelligent creatures, they knew the boat wasn’t “of the sea” but were curious and played cat and mouse with Miroshca. They came close to the sides and front of the boat, disappeared, and returned again later. Sometimes viewing is better from the lower deck. It was hard to see them from my perch on top.

Cape Fur Seal – Indigo Scuba

Bryde’s whales live in Walker Bay year-round. They’re smaller than Humpbacks and Southern Rights and named after John Bryde, a Norwegian whaler who was consul to South Africa. During the whaling era, Byrde set up whaling ports “to capture whales and sell their baleen, oilblubber, and other parts for money”. In 1912, he financed the first scientific investigation of whales in South African waters.

Southern Rights with Calf

We encountered Southern Rights near the end of the trip. They were playing in the surf close to shore. There were several of them and a calf. One suddenly breached, and it was absolutely stunning!!!

Cape Cormorants – Dyer Island Cruises

Of all the whales, Southern Rights were the friendliest. They’re distinguished by the callosities (calluses) on their head. They came close to the boat as if they wanted to play. One rolled over on its back.

Southern Right Callosities – Southern Right Charters

One explanation for their name is “whalers identifying them as the ‘right’ whale to kill on a hunt due to their plentiful oil and baleen”. During summer, Right Whales feed offshore near Antarctica. In winter, they return to nearshore waters like Walker Bay.

Marine Safaris – WTM Africa

Beloved Southern Rights choose Walker Bay as a favorite spot for mating and calving. They don’t feed during winter. Females produce a “single offspring every three to four years”. The average gestation period from conception to birth is about twelve months. After mating, females return in a year to give birth to their calves.

Southern Right Charters – Tripadvisor

The mother nurses her baby, and is the calf’s sole source of food, training, play, and protection. When born, calves are about 16 feet long and weigh around 2000 lbs. They can grow an inch in length and 130 lbs. in weight per day – “making them double in length and increase five times in weight in a year”! Whale milk is extremely high in fat content, and calves can suckle 160 gallons of milk per day.

Southern Right Whale and Calf – newshub.co.nz

Southern Right calves need from three to six months to get strong enough for the swim back to Antarctica. They stay with their mother for about twelve months, sometimes longer. They’re considered “mature” after 10 years. The average lifespan of Southern Right whales is 100 years!

Hermanus New Harbor

Guide / Whale Specialist

Sea Swell and Seasickness

At sunset we headed back to New Harbor in a heavy swell. During the ride, about half the passengers on board got seasick. Fortunately, I didn’t. It was amazing to see the whales and other marine life so close – beautiful and hard to describe… The swell was way too heavy for kayaks, but I’m scheduled for a kayak trip next week and hoping it’s a go then! Today the wind is ferocious!

On Board Miroshca

Whale Festival – Celebrating Marine Life

Whale Fluke Walker Bay

Last weekend was the 26th Hermanus Whale Festival highlighting efforts to protect whales from extinction. The festival’s “ocean-themed activities emphasized education and environmentally responsible adventures”.

Kayaking with Whales and Dolphins

The people of Hermanus “look after their destination, both from an environmental and conservation perspective”. The festival focused on creating awareness and celebrating the annual return of the beloved Southern Right Whale.

Spouting Southern Right Whale

Festival features included cultural activities, food, quality crafters, and sports events:

  • Music Stage
  • Vintage Car Show
  • Marine-Themed Eco Exhibits
  • Adventure Activities
  • WHALE WATCHING – LAND, SEA, AIR

Whale Twins?

Whale Watchers

An Eco Marine Tent featured local ecotourism operators sharing information and interacting with visitors. The operators have “embarked on a major campaign to change the way people view ocean wildlife on the Cape Whale Coast”.

Breaching Whale with Cormorant Audience

Whale Watching

Hermanus is recognized by the World Wildlife Fund as “one of the 12 best whale watching destinations in the world”.  In honor of the Whale Festival, I booked a boat-based whale watching tour in Walker Bay! Most tour companies I contacted were fully booked for the weekend, but I didn’t give up. Hermanus Whale Watchers managed to squeeze me into a Sunday morning tour!

Their boat, Unathi (“God is with us” in Xhosa), is designed for whale watching with engines that “minimize underwater noise”. Unathi seats 36 people and is smaller than most boats run by other operators. The tour was well worth $60 for 2 hours on the Bay – FANTASTIC experience all about the whales!!! A few people got seasick, but we stayed on the upper deck!

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Getting so close to the whales was an unforgettable experience! The sight of their massive bodies and hearing their beautiful sounds will stay with me!
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Our knowledgeable South African guide, Phillip, wasn’t a marine biologist but has led whale watching tours for over 7 years. As a marine sports enthusiast, Philip enjoys surfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, and sailing.

New Harbour

The whales were aware of our presence. We approached slowly to avoid disturbing them. Philip said he wasn’t sure if whale watching boats irritate the whales – no one knows. It’s possible that they become accustomed to the boats. He thought returning whales recognized certain boats and didn’t seem to mind sharing the sea. Philip knows the whales by their unique markings.

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Facts about South Right Whales show they have an average lifespan of 50 to 100 years. Many of the same whales visit Walker Bay every year.
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The best whale watching is in shallow areas close to the coast where warmer water facilitates mating and is gentler for vulnerable newborn calves. Whales further out to sea dive deeper and stay down longer.

Breach – Barnacles and All

Three species of baleen whale visit South Africa:

Before I Learned to Get Down for Photos

Whale Hunting and Exploitation

I was unaware that a major reason for whale hunting and exploitation by Russians and South Africans was for making munitions. It’s unbelievable that “between 1914 and 1917 over 175,000 whales were killed to make explosives” used during World War I! Thankfully, whales are now protected. This season, officials have spotted almost 250 calves in Walker Bay!

Guide Philip – In the Middle

New Harbour

I thought the white patches around their eyes were barnacles, but our guide explained that they’re “eyebrows” unique to each whale. Southern Right Whales also have identifying white patches on their underside.

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Hermanus is recognized by the World Wildlife Fund as “one of the world’s 12 best whale watching destinations”. 
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Windy, Choppy Sea

Photography is difficult in a moving boat. The wind and sun glare didn’t help. I need to study the video and action photography features of my digital camera… For me, it was difficult taking photographs and holding on at the same time. Like others, I learned to stabilize myself by sitting down along the side of the boat, where I could lean against the guard to watch the whales and take photos at the same time. It was fun!

Nimble Whale

The sea was choppy but we missed the strong wind that came up later that afternoon. Recently the wind has been ferocious! A tree outside the house I’m renting touches the siding and when strong wind comes up in the middle of the night, the pounding branches roust me. Wind is my least favorite part of this spectacularly beautiful place!

Cormorant

Whale Behavior

There are two types of whale groups – mating and calving. It’s rare to see both hanging out together. The best viewing was along the coast close to Walker Bay Nature Reserve in nearby Stanford. The first sighting was a male and female, who were clearly soul mates. Later, we observed groups of 4 to 8 or more whales mating. None of them breached, but we saw typical whale behavior – fluking, spyhopping, logging, spouting, and lobtailing.

New Harbour

“The most spectacular whale activity is when they launch themselves up out of the water and then twist and fall back down. This is called breaching, and it’s believed whales do it for several reasons – to communicate, attract females, dislodge parasites, get a higher view, drive off predators, or just play. Southern Rights usually only breach about three-quarters of their bodies out of the water. Other species, like Humpbacks, jump clear.”

Cormorants in Walker Bay

Southern Right Whale and Calf

Cape Town Opera at Simonsig Wine Estate

Although the time in Hermanus is peaceful and wonderful, I miss Cape Town’s energy, excitement, and incredible performing arts venues. It’s only a two-hour drive, but unsettling not knowing what weather might occur while crossing Sir Lowrys Pass at night. Wind and fog on the Pass can be fierce, and there are no lights or dividers along the two-lane freeway. If something happens, you’re toast.

Martin Mkhize Baritone

Abongile Fumba Mezzo Soprano

When I heard that Cape Town Opera was performing in Stellenbosch at Simonsig Wine Estate, I jumped at the chance to attend the performance! Although I still had to cross the Pass, it’s only about an hour away. The fact that it was a dinner concert at Simonsig’s Cuvée Restaurant was an extra added delight.

Simonsig Wine Estate Vineyards

Simonsig Wine Estate Vineyards

Cuvée Restaurant

Simonsig Wine Estate Vineyards

Simonsig Wine Estate

Singers from Cape Town Opera appear at Simonsig every year performing arias and ensembles from well-known operas and musicals. The spectacular opera program was entitled “Love In All Its Splendour 1750 – 1950”. It was thrilling to be so close to the singers while they performed! I don’t have friends in Hermanus interested in opera, so I went on my own.

Sir Lowry’s Pass

There were about 8 tables seating 12 or so people and I sat at a front table with five couples – four German and one South African. Everyone at the table was a transplant from Germany. I’m sure that, except for me, everyone spoke fluent German, Afrikaans, or both. The Germans were interesting and I enjoyed our conversations. One German woman had a small vineyard specializing in champagne and another a PR firm. Most of them lived near Paarl in the small town of Windmeul (Windmill). The South African couple was friendly and interested in my African travels.

Simonsig Wine Estate

I’ve seen several Cape Town Opera performances at Artscape Theatre and have never been disappointed. The Germans were a bit critical of the diction and pronunciation of some singers. The MC for the evening was quick to notice. Before she introduced the second set she discussed the libretto (text of an opera) explaining that many were written so long ago that even native speakers don’t always understand every word. The singers were brave to perform for a small audience of discerning Germans.

Thomas Mohlamme Bass

Cape Town Opera singers have performed internationally at festivals and productions throughout Europe and the world. I spoke briefly with Melanie Daniels, Cape Town Opera Development Manager, who said it had been difficult to find venues in the US.

Sir Lowry’s Pass

I’m not an opera expert but enjoyed every song performed and thought the singers were magnificent! I hope to hear them preferoma gain at other venues.

Frances du Plessis Soprano

Program Before Main Course

Cecilia Rangwanasha Soprano

Program Before Dessert

  • Giuditta – Franz Lehár Solo Cecilia Rangwanasha
  • Paganini – Franz Lehár
  • Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) – Franz Lehár
  • Camelot – Lerner & Loewe
  • West Side Story – Bernstein Solo Johannes Slabbert
  • Porgy & Bess – Gershwin
  • Der Vogelhändler (The Bird Seller) – Zeller

Nkululeko Masuku Tenor

Nonhlanhla Yende Mezzo Soprano

The talented singers were accompanied by amazing pianist Paul Ferreira.

Cuvée Restaurant

I enjoyed the entire program. Johannes Slabbert’s Maria from West Side Story was magnificent. The bass, Thomas Mohlamme, has a mesmerizing voice, and sopranos, especially Frances du Plessis, were all amazing. It was a memorable evening!

Johannes Slabbert Tenor

Fernkloof Nature Reserve Hermanus South Africa

Maanskynbaai from Fernkloof

Fernkloof Reserve is one of nature’s bright gems, and it’s a short 15-minute drive away! I’ve hiked the waterfall trail and am learning other routes. Fernkloof trails are gentler than Table Mountain with spectacular views of Walker Bay, Hemel en Aarde Valley, and Maanskynbaai (Moonshine Bay)!

Erica Annectens

Cliff Hanger Heath

Mountain Pride Butterfly

Fernkloof has four “routes” – green, red, blue, and orange. I’m working up to the more challenging orange route and its inner and outer circuits.

Fernkloof covers 7 sq. miles in the Kleinrivier Mountains. The reserve includes 37 miles of hiking trails, flowering fynbos, thick shrub vegetation, forests, and secluded dams where you can swim on hot days.

Sugarbird

De Bos Dam

Fernkloof’s luxurious fynbos is magnificent! The word fynbos derives from the Dutch word ‘fijn bosch‘ or fine bush.

Fernkloof is known for around 500 varieties of Erica. Colorful ericas (Cape “heath“), disas, and proteas are endemic to South Africa.

Trail3

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Fynbos is a “collective name for a myriad of evergreen shrub-like plants with small firm leaves, including woody plants with hard leathery leaves”.

_____________Trail28Uphill Trail

The climate is “Mediterranean with cold wet winters, hot dry summers, and strong south-easterly winds”. I can vouch for the extraordinarily “strong” winds!

Caterpillar Photo from Fernkloof Website

Fynbos

Fynbos

Orange Disa

Pincushion Protea

Disa

Fynbos Brush

Protea

Yellow Disa

Fynbos

Fynbos

Disa Uniflora Bergius

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“There is no other place on earth where so many distinct fynbos species grow in such proximity. More than 1250 species of plant have been collected and identified in Fernkloof.”

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During my hike yesterday, I didn’t see any large mammals but enjoyed birds, mountain pride butterflies, unusual beetles, and lizards. There are several creeks and waterfalls, and I heard, but didn’t see, frogs. Hikers are known to encounter interesting species of turtle plodding along the trails. It would be thrilling to see an elusive Cape Leopard.

Lizards and butterflies are too fast for photos, but I followed a lizard to a rock outcropping near “Adder Ladder”. Considering the name of the trail, I retreated.

Rock Hyrax – Dassies

Beetle, Locust, or Alien Creature?

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Grey rhebok, Cape grysbok, klipspringer, baboon, mongoose, and dassie are present in small numbers. Nocturnal animals in the Reserve are seldom seen but include the porcupine, genet, hare, and Cape Mountain Leopard.”

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I plan to hike Fernkloof often not only for the exercise but because the refreshing, pristine environment is uplifting and makes me feel happy and content!

Cape Agulhas and Struisbaai – Tip of Africa

Cape Agulhas Southernmost Tip of Africa

Surrounded by rugged beaches and peaceful De Mond Nature Reserve, the seaside villages of Cape Agulhas and Struisbaai seem to “melt into one another”. From Hermanus, it’s a two-hour drive east via R316 and R319 through rolling hills, sheep farms, and bright yellow fields of blooming canola! It’s hard keeping your eyes on the road, and I pulled over often.

Bredasdorp Dutch Reformed Church

Cape Agulhas

Cape Agulhas headland is the southernmost tip of Africa – where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. The point lies near Cape Agulhas lighthouse at the end of a wooden boardwalk. It’s marked with a stone plaque where visitors snap selfies.

Cape Agulhas Boardwalk

The exact location where the Agulhas and Benguela currents meet is said to “fluctuate seasonally” between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point. But the official meeting place, decided by the International Hydrographical Organisation, is unquestionably Cape Agulhas.” In the past, I’ve visited and hiked Cape Point – another pristine coastal area.

Struisbaai

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“Historically, Cape Agulhas was known to sailors as particularly hazardous – notorious for winter storms and huge rogue waves that can reach a spectacular height of 30 metres (99 feet). It’s no surprise that the area is littered with shipwrecks. One of which – the Meisho Maru – lies in Agulhas National Park.”

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Struisbaai

Struisbaai is an old South African fishing village with a beautiful natural harbour. Although some development has taken place, “Struisbaai is relatively untouched by the rigours of over-development”.

Many fishermen live in Struisbaai, but it’s also becoming a popular place for tourists and leisure activities like fishing, horseback riding, hiking, paintball, quad biking, diving, and kiteboarding. Paintball and kiteboarding are new to me. At Struisbaai Harbour, I watched kiteboarders, in awe of their nimble moves!

Napier Dutch Reformed Church

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Struisbaai has the longest beach in the Southern Hemisphere, reaching almost 8.5 miles along the coast.

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Napier Farmstall

Napier Farmstall and Restaurant

Like Cape Agulhas, the waters off Struisbaai have traditionally been treacherous for shipping. More than 30 vessels have run aground since 1673. One of them was the Dutch ship “Meermin that stranded in 1766 after a mutiny by the Malagasy slaves she was carrying. Another, the French ship Jardinière, sank 28 years later”.

South African Blue Crane – National Bird of South Africa.

Blue Crane in Courtship Dance – Roland Bischoff

On the way to Cape Agulhas I stopped at Napier and Bredasdorp and took a few photographs. These small towns are rich in South African history and stories!

Lodge De Mond Nature Reserve

Napier

Napier is a rural village located under Soetmuisberg Mountain between Caledon and Bredasdorp. There wasn’t much happening when I passed through. It’s a “blend of century-old cottages and modern houses”. Historically, blacksmithing was Napier’s primary craft.

Lunch Stop Napier Farmstall

Routes 316 and 319 between Hermanus and Napier are a favorite gathering spot for flocks of the endangered Blue Crane, South Africa’s National Bird. Sadly, I didn’t see cranes.

Gorgeous Cape Agulhas Seagull

Napier was founded in 1838 through a dispute between two neighbors, Michiel van Breda and Pieter Voltelyn van der Byl, over the location of the community Dutch Reformed Church. Michiel van Breda wanted the church sited on his farm, Langefontein, while Pieter Voltelyn van der Byl wanted it built on his property, Klipdrift. Neither van Breda nor van der Byl would give way, so they built two churches.”

Bredasdorp grew around Van Breda’s church, while Napier, named after Sir George Thomas Napier the British governor of Cape Province, developed around Van der Byl’s.

I stopped at Napier Farmstall for lunch. Farmstalls are popular and have delicious home-baked goods and fresh farm produce. The specialty at Napier Farmstall is a black pan breakfast served all day. It’s a mix of beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, herbs, and spices served in a black pan. Several locals were enjoying brunch and the warm, sunny spring weather.

Media Photo Heuningberg Nature Reserve Bredasdorp

Napier has interesting old buildings. During 1810 – 1820, the Feeshuis (Festival House) was used as slave quarters and later a wine cellar. It was restored in 1988 to celebrate Napier’s 150th anniversary. The Napier Dutch Reformed Church was built “in the form of a Greek cross with teak interior and a yellow copper pipe organ”.

Meeriman 18th Century Dutch Hoeker

Bredasdorp

Bredasdorp is said to be the first town or ‘dorp’ established in South Africa. It’s the economic hub of the region and lies on the slopes of a high hill known as the Preekstoel (pulpit), surrounded by giant proteas and wheat fields. The proteas grow on the ridges of the hill and are one of the main products of the district.

Napier Thatched Roofs

Bredasdorp was named after the first mayor of Cape Town, Michiel van Breda (1840 – 1844). Van Breda introduced the animals on his farm, Zoetendals Vallei, and is known as the father of the merino sheep industry in South Africa.

Bredasdorp is best known for its Shipwreck Museum, “the only one of its kind in the country”. The museum has a collection of artefacts from ships wrecked along the Overberg coast, including cannons, china, coins, buoys, and ships bells. Bredasdorp’s parsonage was restored with pieces salvaged from the shipwrecks. A room in the Museum pays tribute to a South African author I’d never heard of, Audrey Blignault, who was born in Bredasdorp.”

Meisho Maru Shipwreck

Meisho Maru Shipwreck

Canola Field

The Heuningberg Nature Reserve on Van Riebeeck Street in Bredasdorp is “a must for nature lovers and birders. The Reserve offers short hikes in nearby mountains”.

Cape Agulhas Lighthouse

Sandbaai Adventure Western Cape

Sandbaai

What began as a meander along the Atlantic Ocean, turned into an educational mini adventure. Having been in Hermanus for nearly two months, I’m feeling comfortable and relaxed and becoming slightly complacent. I don’t always plan the day, and on a spur of the moment whim, decided to hike the Cliff Path but extend it by a few miles and begin in Sandbaai instead of New Harbour. I didn’t know there were reasons why people didn’t walk portions of the coastline.

Flower6Flower7

The weather was perfection – high 60s with crisp, clear blue skies. It’s easy to become mesmerized by the beauty of a hypnotic South African seascape – the powerful surf, white sand, sky, wildflowers, fynbos, and sweet sound of birds and frogs. As I walked, it was clear there was no well-defined hiking trail. I thought the rugged coastline would eventually connect with the more civilized Cliff Path. The small rocky coves and beaches were gorgeous with dramatic surf along some of the points.

It’s early Spring, and wildflowers are beginning to bloom. I walked along relishing in thick luxurious fynbos on one side and coves, beaches, and ocean on the other. Continuing for about an hour I passed beaches strewn with the remnants of a high tide – large intact trees uprooted from their base, a car carcass, and tons of oyster and mussel shells. I passed a small homeless encampment near the dunes and saw the red roofs of houses in the distance.

After reaching the houses, I discovered impenetrable security walls surrounding them, so I kept walking until I found a paved road and a guarded gate. The gatekeeper advised it was a private community and only invited guests could enter. He said to continue down the road, and in about a mile I would reach New Harbour and could connect with the Cliff Path there – my goal from the beginning! While walking, I passed an industrial area with businesses and warehouses. Laborers in blue jumpsuits were walking the grounds speaking Xhosa.

I didn’t feel threatened, but it was strange. I tried to take a shortcut and turned off before the mile point only to realize the entire coastal area was cordoned off by large, guarded industrial complexes. There was no way to get through except jumping into the ocean and swimming or backtracking and following the security guard’s recommended route.

 

The businesses I passed were part of Hermanus Marine Aquaculture, a developing industry in South Africa, especially along the Atlantic Ocean coast. The focus is on mussels, oysters, abalone, seaweeds, and prawns. Some of the businesses included:

The Abagold complex – logo shown in English and Chinese – took up several blocks.  Abagold “cultivates abalone in close harmony with nature, at the southernmost tip of Africa”. The plant’s location on the cold Atlantic provides the “necessary nutrients and environment for producing the highest quality Abalone”.

Quayside Cabin

Quayside Cabin

Aqunion Whale Rock Farm is described as an “aquaculture value chain”. In addition to abalone farming, they process, market, and export South African abalone”.

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“South African abalone is cherished around the world for its excellent quality, taste, shape, and texture. The Haliotis Midae species is unique and enhanced by the pristine waters of the Atlantic Ocean.”

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New Harbour

Friday is a happy, festive day in South Africa – people are ready for a weekend break and the atmosphere is light and fun. Africans I met along the way were singing, laughing, and clearly enjoying themselves. I noticed small, close-set makeshift housing in the surrounding area and realized the beach I had walked was bordered by a township – Zwelihe. The name means “beautiful place”.

Finally in bustling New Harbour, I took a break at a small, popular restaurant – Quayside Cabin – next to whale watching, deep-sea diving, and shark cage adventure businesses. The area was hectic with an eclectic crowd of locals and tourists going on or returning from boat-based whale watching trips. The restaurant was busy, but they found a place for me near a table of rowdy locals. Everyone seemed to know each other and they were speaking Afrikaans.

South Africa is an ambiguous country with many faces – at times it seems like it could be part of the US or Europe – but that’s an illusion. South Africa is a unique country with many levels of complexity.

Rather than finding my way back to the parked car, I called Uber. A Zimbabwean driver picked me up and drove me back to the car. His Shona name – Munashe – means “with God”. Munashe seemed surprised at where my car was parked and the area I had hiked. He advised it wasn’t a safe area for a woman walking alone – ha. How many times during my travels have I heard that?!

Munashe’s English was excellent and we talked about Zimbabwe which I’ve visited several times. Like many Zimbabweans, Munashe and his wife and two children moved to South Africa to find employment. If things improve politically and economically, they will return to Zimbabwe. Munashe wasn’t overly optimistic about returning to his home country, but he seems happy in South Africa.

What an interesting and educational day in Hermanus! Can’t believe I didn’t understand the importance of abalone farming in the area.

Zwelihe Children

Zwelihe Township

Zwelihe Township

Zwelihe Homes