In September 2006, I was honoured to be invited as a guest to the annual Whale Festival in Hermanus, a beautiful coastal town just over an hour's drive east of Cape Town.
Hermanus has long been famed for providing the best land-based whalewatching in the world, and it certainly lived up to that reputation well when I was there, providing amazing close viewing of Southern Right Whales. The town even has a 'whale crier' who walks through the main streets signalling on a horn whenever whales have been spotted.
The Hermanus Whale Festival mixes natural history with culture, but the climax is always the 'whale wave' when 4,000 or so young people gather along the clifftop to welcome the whales back to their breeding grounds every southern spring.
The images below are just a taster of what Hermanus can offer, which extends far beyond the whales themselves. We also have a good range of photos of flora, wildlife and landscapes from elsewhere in Overstrand, from Cape Town and Table Mountain, Cape Point and the surrounding area, Stellenbosch and from the Sabi Sands area adjoining the Kruger National Park. Publishers seeking photographs of any of these subjects should contact Michael here to check what he has available.
Note that this website only allows us to display extremely low resolution images; all the photographs displayed are available as high-quality digital images with a minimum size of 2GB.
All images copyright Michael Scott
PREVIOUS SPECIAL FEATURE GALLERY 'ABOVE' HOME
SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE
To me, these two photos sum up what makes Hermanus special. I went on a boat-based whalewatching trip from Hermanus, and after an hour on a very rough sea we eventually found a whale. Here I'm looking up at it on a wave crest, as the boat sinks in a deep trough ~ not a comfortable experience!
These people, on the other hand, are getting almost as close to the whale but in much more comfortable circumstances standing on the clifftop with the whale just a few metres offshore. It's that experience that makes Hermanus such a special place, when the whales visit from September to December.
SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE SPOUTING
This view from the Hermanus clifftop shows a Southern Right Whale making the characteristic V-shaped 'blow' of the species. This may be a male courting the female beside him.
SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE AND CALF
Here a mother Southern Right Whale is nuzzling her calf, perhaps to encourage it to suckle (and I've watched calves suckling just a few metres offshore). The mother stays seaward of the calf to protect it from the surf.
HERMANUS WHALE CRIER WHALE WAVE
Around 4,000 children line the clifftop in September each year for the 'Whale Wave' to welcome the breeding whales back to Walker Bay off Hermanus.
LEFT: The Hermanus Whale Crier blows a code on his horn which signifies in which bay(s) whales have been spotted.
The whales can be viewed from the spectacular 6-mile, all-abilities clifftop path that leads along the Hermanus shore. It is said to have 100 benches where visitors can stop and admire the view.
DASSIE ON CLIFFTOP PATH
There is plenty of other wildlife to be seen along the Hermanus Clifftop Path, like this Dassie, or Rock Hyrax ~ an unlikely relative of the elephant.
The Fernkloof Wildflower Reserve on the hillside behind Hermanus is also well worth a visit. It has a rich flora, including this handsome Protea (LEFT), which has been reintroduced to the site. The natural fynbos habitat is also valued by many birds, like this Cape Sugarbird (ABOVE).
SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE BREACHING
But it is the whales that I will always remember from my visits to Hermanus, like this subadult male, showing off at sea, just like 'teenagers' anywhere show off when adults aren't around.
SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE, HOUT BAY
Since hunting was banned in 1935, the population of Southern Right Whales has recovered greatly. Today there are at least 3,700 of them around the Walker Bay - Cape Town area. Places like Hout Bay are also well worth visiting for excellent whalewatching.