Hermanus, South Africa
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When to go
Hermanus has mild climate and even the blustery winter season has plenty of sunny days. Summers months are dry and hot, although the sea breezes offset the temperature. Early March is perfect, with afternoon mists known as ‘champagne air’. The all-important whale-watching season is from July to late November, with activity peaking from August to October.
PlanesCape Town International (+27 (0)21 937 1200) is the nearest airport | 90 minutes north of Hermanus. Flights take 11.5 hours from London; Virgin Atlantic | BA and South African Airways operate direct flights from London.
AutomobilesA car is ideal in Hermanus. It’s cheap | and easy (particularly if you’re British: they drive on the left side of the road) | although you will need to reserve a car well in advance. It’s worth noting that it is South African law to carry your international driving licence at all times. Also | some driving tips: at roundabouts | there are four-way stops where the rule is | whoever gets there first | leaves first. Minibus taxis have right of way – let them go ahead.
TaxisTaxis are plentiful and cheap; ask your hotel to call you a cab.
Getting to this town south of the Garden Route, two hours from Cape Town, involves one of the most spectacular drives on the globe. For several months a year, Southern Right Whales come to calve around Walker Bay. And Hermanus has a grandstand view. Within easy reach is Cape L’Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.
Whale and dolphin watching is the best at the former fishing village of Hermanus from July to November: there’s a cliff path that runs for eight miles along the coast from Scotsmans Point. As guests of Birkenhead House can attest, the whales swim right in front of this luxury hotel. Or if you’re further east, go for a walk in the nature reserve Robberg Peninsula and keep your eyes peeled throughout. Or park up in Keurbooms in Plettenberg and get some just-caught fish with chips and eat it sitting on the big whale tail at the lookout point.