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Gansbaai (goose bay) is a no-frills fishing town that has recently risen to fame through the shark cage diving and whale-watching phenomenon, although the town itself seems unperturbed by its newfound fame.
The locals are the very definition of salt-of-the-earth: unpretentious, sincere and welcoming, with a great majority still deriving their livelihoods directly from the ocean.
Shark tour operators launch their boats from the small harbour of Kleinbaai and head straight for Dyer Island, undoubtedly the best place in the world for observing and encountering the Great White Shark. Besides sharks, Dyer Island boasts a prolific variety of marine life including whales, seals, dolphins, penguins and a massive variety of sea birds.
If you’re not interested in coming eye-to-eye with a Great White Shark, the natural beauty of this wild coastal environment will not fail to enchant and delight you.
On the other side of town, the suburb of De Kelders is established on top of enormous underground caverns, some of which have become exposed along the coast to reveal expansive caves. These caves are of great archeological importance, bearing evidence of Middle and Late Stone Age inhabitants. Besides the caves, De Kelders is also famous for its land-based whale watching opportunities, competing closely with Hermanus for top place. If you prefer a peaceful, uncrowded environment to the buzzing tourist scene of Hermanus then De Kelders is the place.
stablished alongside the Klein River, hugged by towering mountains and surrounded by rolling green pastures and vineyards, Stanford is the quintessential Cape country village. The quaint Victorian and Edwardian architecture, dating back to 1857, has been beautifully preserved, attaining national heritage status.
Stanford invites visitors to slow down a little and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Take a gentle cruise down the river, visit an antique store, go bird watching, shop for fresh produce at the farmer’s market, or enjoy a wholesome country meal at one of the cozy restaurants. The village also boasts its own micro-brewery named after the famous Birkenhead shipwreck where you can try a variety of fine lagers, ales and stouts. Down the road is the Klein River Cheese farm where you can sample award-winning cheeses and enjoy a pre-packed picnic lunch on the beautifully manicured grounds. In recent years, several farmers have recognized the potential of vineyards in the area and are now making wine with great success. The wineries welcome visitors with warm country hospitality.
The ‘Riviera of the South’ is how Hermanus came to be known in the late 1800’s as its reputation as an upmarket holiday destination overtook its humble beginnings as a peaceful fishing village. Its crisp ‘champagne’ air was believed to assist recovery from illness and encourage wellbeing. Nestled between Walker Bay and the majestic Klein River Mountains, Hermanus is an idyllic coastal resort surrounded on all sides by pristine natural splendour.
Every year from June to December, hundreds of Southern Right Whales migrate from their icy Antarctic feeding grounds to the safe, warm waters of Walker Bay to mate, calve and raise their young. The low cliffs and coastal pathways of Hermanus make this arguably the best place in the world for land-based whale watching (along with De Kelders on the opposite side of the bay).
Local and international tourists arrive in their droves to witness the spectacle as whales breach and cavort mere meters from the land. The town has grown to accommodate this massive influx of tourists with an extensive variety of shops, craft markets, restaurants, galleries and museums.
Hermanus also boasts several stunning beaches, nature reserves, sport facilities, and wine estates, to name just a few of the myriad attractions. Hermanus might not be the sleepy village it once was but its inherent natural beauty and restorative atmosphere still remain.