Kayaking affords visitors a chance for an up-close view of the sea life in Hermanus.
Kayaking affords visitors a chance for an up-close view of the sea life in Hermanus.
When you do spot a whale  or even just its tail  youll catch your breath.
When you do spot a whale  or even just its tail  youll catch your breath.

Cape Town - Poet Emily Sun Li wrote in September 2011 about Learning to Kayak, with these words:

“glowing waters, tranquil as though the ocean were holding its breath

“and yet breathing in and out, in and out

“rhythmic, an inexorable drum”

“I know this rhythm so well, for much of my life has been spent in the sea”

Paddling the Cape’s coast offers such stark, dramatic beauty. And without doubt the most memorable has been rounding Cape Point half a dozen times. The mood at the foot of the famous cliffs is sometimes jubilant, sometimes solemn, always wild. You round that coastline with your eyes wide open and your heart in your mouth.

But if Cape Point takes first prize for drama, there’s an equal winner for pure prettiness, and that must be Hermanus Old Harbour.

And it’s that time of the year again, in Hermanus, when “The Whales Are Back”!

Robin Alcock, of Southern Right Charters, said this week: “There’s a noticeable increase in whales, compared to this time last year. We’ve had some fantastic sightings – including some humpbacked whales, which are migrating past our area in June, July and August and are wonderful to see.”

Among the many ways of spending time in Whale Country – in addition to boat-based whale-watching, or from the cliffs – is by kayak, with Walker Bay Adventures.

The sea, salt and sun are etched into Herman de Vries’s face as he welcomes his guests on his “guided ecomarine educational tour”.

“Our tours focus on the entire marine life experience in Walker Bay – but from the ‘other’ side of Hermanus, the sea side.” he explained. “We love showing a different view of our famous whale-watching cliffs, from the sea side.”

The tide surges gently into the Old Harbour’s bay, and kayakers quickly fall into the rhythm described above.

You paddle into a live, ocean environment in the same way you may enter a nature reserve, or game reserve. You’re at the whim of nature – and the life around you unfolds at its own pace, to its own direction.

The horizon heaves and lolls. And bobbing about 20m above the ocean floor, floating over the giant upward-waving arms of kelp, you may see the Cape fur seals, and a variety of marine birds – cormorants, terns and gulls.

Or possibly Common and Bottlenose dolphins, and possibly even Southern Right and Bryde’s whales.

Walker Bay Adventures observes strict regulations protecting the marine life, and ensures that all encounters are from appropriate distance, and respectful. Kayakers are given a rich narrative of ocean lore, and no creature is too insignificant for mention.

The rise and fall of the ocean is made more dramatic by the depth in this bay, yet so close to shore, which is one of the reasons why the Southern Right whales love it so.

Herman explained: “We paddle our kayaks in a marine reserve and by law we are not allowed to come within 300m of a whale. If they decide to come close to the kayaks we must move away from them.

“We are very aware of our environment and are proud of the fact that we are an ecologically friendly operator that strives to have as little impact on the environment in which we operate our tours as possible. With minimal noise pollution and no environmental pollution we also do regular clean-ups of any rubbish found in the bay.”

Kayaking is aboard Perception Tribe sea kayaks, manufactured in the UK, and are “sit-on-top, self-bailing, plastic sea kayaks”.

Kayaking information:

Departure times:

November to April: 8am, 10.30am and 1pm

May to October: 9am, 11.30am and 2pm

Call Herman de Vries at 082 739 0159 or e-mail [email protected] or see www.walkerbayadventures.co.za

Weekend Argus