Sea Kayaking, Lagoon Canoeing and Cruises

WOW I have never seen so many whales. what a buzz. Kristin Townsend. Canada

The lagoon is incredible and fantastic to see flamingos and fish eagles. Cozzete Billon. France

Your guides are very knowledgeable and not only did I have a great time kayaking but I learnt a lot too. Claire. NZ

We at the Tourism department would like to thank you for your contribution to our student's enjoyment of their annual tour. With a fairly small budget we were able to fill three days of the tour with all manner of excursions, food and fun. The students thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Once again I would like to thank you for your efforts and your kindness in dealing with us. Ilze Van der Merwe. Northlink College.

Kayaking the whale sanctuary

Words by Andre Bothma

Sea kayaking may strike the uninitiated as a rather daunting sport requiring extensive skill, muscular strength and a lot of sheer guts. Yet under the guarding eye of an experienced guide, anyone can experience the joys of this fantastic sport. Leisure Boating joined Walker Bay Adventures for a paddle into an ecological VIP zone - the Hermanus whale sanctuary.

We meet Walker Bay Adventures' guides Ivan van der Merwe and Kobus van Zyl at the old harbour where an informative briefing and signing of indemnity forms precede our early morning excursion. At 09:30, the sea looks like a mirror and the bright sunshine drenches everything. Under less than perfect ocean conditions, novice paddlers are paired with the more experienced ones, yet this particular morning the weather cooperates beautifully and even those who'd never kayaked before get to go it alone.

Our guide points out a seal, totally engrossed in a fight with an octopus. The seal repeatedly slams the squirming creature on the surface, paying scant attention to his human audience. We also spot numerous jellyfish and opportunistic sea birds as we paddle along. The kayaks are really stable; nonetheless, we are kitted out with life jackets - just in case.

One quickly gets into sync with your fellow peddler and the brightly coloured two-man kayaks moves along at a swift pace. This activity is well suited for all ages: youngsters, adults and even seniors will enjoy this truly unique experience and the exclusive view of Hermanus' coastline and marine life.

Renowned for its whale watching, Hermanus serves as the mating grounds for the southern right whale between the months of May and December. Aptly named due to their propensity to float once killed, the southern right for many years fell prey to the harpoons of whalers. Labelled as the "right" type of whale by human hunters, their numbers dwindled alarmingly, yet stabilized around 3000 to 4000 worldwide once protective legislation had been enacted. After a quick detour into a calm little cove, we once again pass the harbour entrance and head for the little colony of seals relaxing in the sun amid the stirring seaweed.

And then we see them. Or more specifically, a monumental rumble rolls across the calmly swaying waters, alerting us to the presence of the largest mammals on earth. It sounds like the rumbling of an elephant's belly - a fifty ton elephant, that is. Due to strict legislative regulations, one is under no circumstances allowed to approach the whales, nor come closer than 300m. A respectful distance of 300m is maintained at all times, giving the mating giants their privacy and ensuring the safety of man and animal alike.

Our guide is very knowledgeable about the whales and their mating routines, and we pick up whaling terminology like "spy-hopping" and "breaching". It truly is a sight to behold.

Breaching is the term used to describe the whales' spectacular flying jumps, their massive bodies slamming onto the surface of the waves, with seabirds swooping down to peck at the dislodged callosities. These distinguishing growths on the whales' heads are often mistaken for barnacles or other sea life, yet are essentially part of the whale's skin and quite unique to the southern right whale.

Another distinguishing trait of the southern right is its V-shaped blow spray, attributed to the placement of the blowholes. The blow is actually a cloud of vapour produced when warm whale breath meets the somewhat cooler ocean air.

We are cautioned to retreat should a whale decided to approach us. Although highly unlikely, one errs on the side of caution with animals the size of these!

The seals, on the other hand, hold scant potential threat and we sidle up to them for some photos and a closer look. These fellows bask with their webbed feet sticking out above the surface, apparently unfazed by the attention. A stiff breeze brings with it a bit of a swell and our guide decides to call it a day. Hugging the shoreline (and all too soon), we slowly paddle back into the harbour and beach the kayaks. The kayaking trip is rounded off with a midmorning coffee and biscuits, while we wait for the sun to dry our board shorts.

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