Hermanus was going to be a mixed bag for me,since it was my first time there,and i couldn't locate much information on the whale cruises online,esp reviews.I wasn't even sure HOW MANY cruises are there in total from Hermanus and Gansbaai.
The Gansbaai tour girl was very unhelpful with a big concern of mine-if you are a day tripper,coming for the Whale cruise and lunch,how do you stay back for a few hours to relax after your cruise.She was categorical that it was a Capetown pickup,straight to the boat,and back to Capetown.The costs were anyways on the steeper side and extra for the group pickup.The boat ride alone was 900 odd rand per person.She said that a self hired taxi drop off would be astronomical,and she was probably right.
For those of you who havent been,Hermanus is a good distance from Capetown-a beautiful drive,no doubt,with vineyards on the ocean(!!!) and a beautiful seaside town to boot.It warrants a self drive,and a few nights stay,especially in peak whale season,around august /september,when you can apparently see the whales from land.We didnt get as far as Gansbaai,since that was a further 30 min drive.Funnily,that and the Kelders are where the whales really hang out.Oh,for the right information before i went!!!!
So,I booked thru Percy tours,since Percy seemed affable and knowledgeable enough,and he happily got us a private taxi for a reasonable price(a mini fortune,but still better than the other rates).The driver John ,a local,would eventually take us around Hermanus,and stop for lunch too.He went out of his way to help us choose local wines,as well as local olive oil(yummmy).
The whale trip was another story.Percy said to us last minute that the Gansbaai trip we had booked thru him was cancelled on account of engine failure.We were thus shifted to Hermanus.I have been whalewatching in Costa Rica,Provincetown(Boston),Monterey and other cities around the world-the boat,and the crew/captain are KEY!!!If the boats are big commercial boats,you are at too much of a height to see anything.Informed crew,especially if there are marine biologists or experts on board,make a whale of a difference!!I was adamant that Percy put us on a small boat.To my dismay,the small boat turned out to be a little better than a glorified shipping vessel,and the crew no better than those on a fishing boat.There was one lookout who gave us information,when asked.There was not much of an attempt to scour the coast.We plonked in two parts of the ocean,on spotting one and two whales respectively,and rushed back to shore on the dot.Apparently,there is a permit law that is strict.Whatever the reason,we felt rushed.
I was hard put to decide if going with Percy's suggestion of the Hermanus Catamaran,instead of the small boat,would have made a difference-apparently,it had a more knowledeable captain.Would it have made even more of a difference if we had stuck with the Gansbaai operators?I really don't know.Coordinating the Hermanus pick ups and the boat rides seemed to have completely slipped out of my control at some point!!
I have been on intense whalewatching trips before,and unforunately,the limited time at sea,and it being July MEANT limited whales.I dont know where the 100 whales in the bay supposedly were.Oh well.
The area is super lovely,and romantic.I have heard that the whales breach sometimes,and you can see them from land- i would like to go to Gansbaai in the future in peak season to find out if that is true,or just a local legend to entice tourists!!
I also swear to eat no breakfast before i board a Hermanus cruise again-the swells are unlike anything i have ever seen- not recommended for those with motion sickness and a fear of choppy waters.
Happy Whale Watching!!!
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