The sound of the whale crier’s horn drew me to my bedroom window. Out beyond the Cliff Path the ocean was flat and blue, a patch of white foam the only sign of any recent disturbance.
I stared intently in the direction of the foam and animated pointing of people gathered on the path below. A moment later a southern right whale launched itself into the air, flipped around, then landed on its back with a mighty splash! The crowd “aah”ed and cheered as I stood at my window, entranced. It was only on the third breach that I thought of reaching for my camera, and snapping my first (of many) a-whale-was-just-here photos.
The Marine Hotel and pretty Cliff Path.
The first a-whale-was-just-here photo taken from my bedroom window.
Hermanus claims to offer the best shore-based whale watching in the world, a title this Whale Coast town certainly deserves. Living in Kalk Bay I’ve seen many whales these past couple of seasons, although in False Bay they seem to embrace a more relaxed Cape Town vibe; lolling about with the occasional flipper flap as they roll onto their backs or on more energetic days breaching far out to sea.
Not so in Hermanus! I’d been at The Marine Hotel less than 10 minutes, and had already had my most spectacular sighting of the year. Over the next few hours I wandered the pretty Cliff Path, sitting at various well-placed benches to watch this world-famous performance play out on the watery stage of Walker Bay – the whales breaching so close to shore that I could hear the thud as they hit the water.
Fortunately I had plenty of opportunities to practice capturing the flying-through-the-air moment.
By late afternoon the whale crier had exhausted himself from the constant blowing of his kelp horn, and I’d lost count of the number of acrobatic sessions I’d seen. Camera memory card filled with photos, I returned to my favourite vantage point of the day: propped up with plump pillows on my bed at The Marine, my complementary bottle of Felicité Pinot Noir close at hand.
Stretched out watching whales, I mused that it would be a true shame to stay at this luxury hotel and not have a sea-facing room - even my bath had a view out across the deep blue of Walker Bay. As for the room itself it was light and spacious with a comfortable lounge area where I checked a few emails using the decent-enough free WiFi connection, before my next highlight of the day: dinner!
By far my favourite spot for whale watching - my bed at The Marine.
At every turn in the hotel you're treated to wide ocean views.
As the charismatic House Manager Patrick put it: “In the evening your sea view is on your plate.” That night at The Marine’s bistro-style restaurant SeaFood I was treated to grilled sole with creamy mussel velouté complemented by a lovely glass of Sauvignon Blanc from the surrounding Overberg Region, and rounded off with a I-simply-can't-resist dessert. Even if you aren’t staying at The Marine, do yourself a favour if you’re in Hermanus and dine at SeaFood restaurant.
See why I was unable to resist this dessert?
After breakfast the next morning, I sat chatting to The Marine’s GM Hamish about the many other things to see and do in the area. While Hermanus is best known for its whales, and they certainly are a phenomenal attraction, this pretty seaside town is also a top choice for outdoor enthusiasts and offers all manner of thrills from paragliding, quad biking and zip lining to fantastic mountain biking trails.
If you prefer to take things easier I’d recommend visiting the nearby Harold Porter Botanical Garden or Fernkloof Nature Reserve, while golfers are just a 15-minute drive from Arabella – which has one of the country’s top golf courses – and even closer to the Hermanus Country Club, a beautiful course with 27 holes. Then there are all the wine farms in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley including the famous Hamilton Russell Vineyards known for their award-winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Chatting to the GM Hamish in the main lounge area at The Marine.
The staff at The Marine are great! More than half of them have worked at there for over 10 years, and some of the senior staff have been at the hotel since Liz McGrath bought it in 1998. The fact that people enjoy working there shines through in their genuine hospitality and clearly I’m not the only one who feels that way as some guests return year after year, with The Marine becoming a type of second home for them.
And what a second home it is too, set on cliffs overlooking the ocean with the world’s best whale watching right out your window!
- Whale season in Hermanus is from July to November
- Take a walk along the Cliff Path which runs all the way to Grotto Beach
- When taking photos, continuous shooting (or burst mode) may help get that perfect shot
- Be sure to book a sea-facing room at The Marine
Whale watching on the cliffs of Hermanus overlooking Walker Bay.