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Whales & Wine Tour with Explore Sideways

10 Nov , 2015  

Spend a day traversing the breathtaking Clarence Drive through Gordon’s Bay, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay; explore the manicured grounds of the Harold Porter Botanic Gardens and stop for lunch overlooking the cliffs of Hermanus whilst spotting for whales. Sip wine at three esteemed wine cellars in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, an area known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, before heading back to Cape Town fully satiated and high on life.

Explore Sideways offers both locals and visitors to Cape Town memorable full or half day tours that capture distinguished parts of the Western Cape in its beauty and essence. From wine tasting to outdoor adventures, there really is something for everyone (plus, your transport is taken care of so you can sip as much wine as you like. If that’s not a winning deal, we don’t know what is).

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Bernard and I went on the Whales and Wine Tour during whale watching season, but similar or better suited tours are available depending on your taste and time of year. Our tour saw us excitedly spot Southern Right Whales off the cliffs of Clarence Drive and Hermanus, the magnificent mammals who make their way to warmer waters from the Arctics to gestate.

Hermanus is recognised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as one of the 12 best whale watching destinations in the world. It annually brings thousands of visitors to its shores. If you don’t happen to be in the Cape over this season (July to November ideally), the tour explores restaurants and wineries specifically chosen for their appeal and standard.

The Hermanus Wine Route, a picturesque amalgamation of 15 wineries along the R320, blissfully unites the passion and reputation of its wineries. Each grows small volumes of premium quality wine in carefully and sustainably managed vineyards. Hamilton Russell Vineyards, easily responsible for some of the best Pinot Noir in the country, is scenically situated on a lake’s edge. Imagine a pine forest with mountain views and a quaint gabled tasting room that soaks the views in. That’s Hamilton Russell. It is… exceptional. Any Pinot fan needs to make a Pinot pilgrimage to the valley of heaven and earth.

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We stopped for lunch at Burgundy Restaurant. Situated on the edge of the Hermanus quays and only a few metres away from Hermanus’ historic old harbour, it’s a picturesque spot to enjoy fish ‘n chips and a glass of bubbly at the tour’s half way mark. Ingredients are sourced fresh from small local farms in the area, and with a varied wine and food menu (as well as options for the kiddies) you’ll find something to curb the day’s hunger pangs. Fish ‘n chips on the water’s edge seemed fitting…

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Your guide will stop at various points on the Hermanus waterfront to spot Southern Right Whales. Should you be exploring this area for a weekend or alone, you have the option of hopping aboard a boat to get a closer vantage point.

The area is closely monitored and aspires to uphold sustainable and ethical practices that don’t disturb the whales’ behaviours. Hermanus, particularly Walker Bay, is both the mating and breeding grounds of the Southern Right Whale during the winter and spring months. These creatures of the deep migrate from the Antarctic around June to calve and mate. Calving takes place in August and September and the males arrive for mating in October when the whale population peaks. A fascinating and exciting time of the year to get to better grips with a somewhat mysterious species.

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Stop for coffee and a relaxed walk through the Harold Porter Botanical Garden in Betty’s Bay, either on your way in or out of Hermanus.

The garden is situated in the centre of the coastal fynbos where the flora is at its richest. It encompasses mountain slopes with wind-clipped heathlands, deep gorges with relict forests, flats and marshes with restios, sedges and bulbs, as well as dunes adjacent to the beach. It is also renowned for its waterfalls and amber pools. Sounds idyllic right? It is. Just be cautious of the baboons, we were somewhat followed by an ultra curious primate and I almost suffered cardiac arrest at the prospect of an aggressive baboon.

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The highlights:

  • Drive down the famous coastal Whale Route through Gordon’s Bay, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay (the best land-based whale watching in the world)
  • Stop off to see if you can spot these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat (seasonal – most commonly found from June to November)
  • Stroll through the quaint seaside town of Hermanus and lunch (on own account)
  • Wine tasting at Southern Right Boutique Wine Estate – renowned for excellent Pinotage
  • Wine tasting at Hamilton Russell – famous for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
  • Wine tasting at the boutique Whalehaven winery

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Explore Sideways - Whale Watching and Wine Tour - Hermanus - Hemel en Aarde - South Africa 95Photography Bernard Myburgh Words Lisa Wallace

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66 Albert Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town