Coasting along

Western Cape

Cape Town - I hadn’t been to Hermanus in over 15 years and had been warned I wouldn’t recognise the place. Although Hermanus had certainly grown, it retained its old world charm. We were heading somewhere new though, Three Cities’ Whale Coast Hotel.

If anybody told me we would be staying above Checkers, I would have wondered. However, even though Whale Coast Hotel is above a shopping centre (which turns out to be a nice little mall), there were more advantages than disadvantages. Whale Coast has two- and three-bedroom self-catering apartments plus conference facilities. Shops below made catering easy, and a tourist office run by Whale Coast in the mall proved an invaluable source of information.

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Hermanus FynArts, which held its inaugural festival last year, is an eclectic mix of art fest and winter school, and its on from June 6 to 16.From our spacious balcony  with a built-in fireplace for braais and chilly weather  it seemed  we could almost jump to the nearby bluff.

From our spacious balcony – with a built-in fireplace for braais and chilly weather – it seemed we could almost jump to the nearby bluff and on to the path up through the pristine fynbos of Fernkloof Nature Reserve to the top of the high ridge with its paragliding take-off point.

Inside, our elegant, spacious double-storey apartment was decorated in cool, contemporary colours and furnishings and had a nifty sound system, large flat screen TV and complimentary wi-fi. We had tables inside and out and a bar-style counter with high stools.

The upstairs bedrooms were restful and quiet. The master bedroom had its own balcony and modern en-suite bathroom with shower and bath, heated towel rails and excellent finishes. There was also a second bathroom and a downstairs toilet.

Hermanus is famous for whale watching, which we did the easy way: eating a delicious breakfast while watching Southern Right Whales cavort in the old harbour. A cliff path serves as a 12km viewing platform, while boat trips to view whales are available.

I launched a sea kayak instead from the slipway of the old harbour under the expert guidance of Riaan Kloppers of Walker Bay Adventures.

This was a great way to explore, gliding across the sparkling water while enjoying the company of juvenile Cape Fur Seals who swam next to and under the kayaks, splashing us whenever they could. A pod of dolphins joined us for a while, but we were clearly too slow to be enough sport.

We headed up to the gorgeous Hemel-en-Aarde valley – but not the usual way. Just out of town, Clinton Lerm of SA Forest Adventures got us on to quad bikes and we rode through the vineyards of Hamilton Russell and Southern Right wineries.

Up the mountain we went on an exhilarating ride through Fernkloof Nature Reserve, close to the paragliding launch site.

The fun wasn’t over when we got back as we were soon gliding from one platform to the next along ziplines through the valley forest.

Then we enjoyed an extended summer afternoon at Creation Wines.

Owner Carolyn Martin put us under the tutelage of Khail van Niekerk, who took his time guiding us through a superb food and wine pairing.

Years ago I had been chilled by the cold waters off Danger Point, about 40km from Hermanus and just past Gansbaai, where we headed to get up close to Great White sharks. Gansbaai today remains charming and so were the folk from Marine Dynamics.

Here we were put in a cage attached to the side of the boat and it didn’t take long for the sharks to arrive. Sharks of up to four metres came really close and one rushed to grab the decoy seal and swiped the corner of the cage as it spun. An unforgettable, educational experience that dispelled any Jaws notions of these creatures.

The hotel’s knowledgeable staff kept us informed of events during our stay. We visited The Whale Museum, charming restaurants and did some shopping.

Rates run from R1 950 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Call 0861 000 333 or visit - Sunday Tribune

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