FOLLOWING THE WHALE ROUTE

The beaches of the Western Cape attract scores of visitors annually to embrace their warmth and beauty; but at no time is the Western Cape’s coast more beguiling then when the gentle giants of the deep visit to expand their families.

From June to December each year, southern right whales migrate from Antarctica to the warmer waters of South Africa to bring their calves into the world. While the whale families are here, people on the south coast will be able to see the whales breaching the surface of the ocean, lob tailing, and maybe even the little ones trying their flukes and fines at it.

I decided to pack my bags and venture out on the southern roads of the Cape (avoiding the more populated town of Hermanus) to explore the whale route, and experience the charms, tranquillity, and hospitality of the quaint coastal towns and their establishments along the way.

The Agulhas Country Lodge

Certainly one of the most famous areas in the Cape is where the two oceans meet. The Indian and Atlantic oceans collide in L’Agulhas; on land, from the sands of the beaches to the quaint atmosphere of the small town, the setting is tranquil making this a perfect relaxation stop.

The Agulhas Country Lodge is filled with old-world charm and embraces the incredible setting it is in: overlooking the ocean. Pulling up, I was immediately charmed by the old stone work of the exterior of the lodge, and turning around, I realised that certainly this establishment’s most incredible feature is location. Up the wooden staircase to the restaurant area where I was to have lunch on the balcony, the ocean glittered in the sunlight just a few metres away.

After a day of relaxing on the beach and exploring the area – there is the Ghost Corner hiking trail for the paranormally inclined, and the second oldest working light house in South Africa is in Agulhas – the ideal place to reline is the cigar lounge at the Agulhas Country Lodge. Sit back in one of the plush chairs, choose from one of the many varieties of cigars, and order a drink from the bar’s extensive menu.

A trip along the whale route of the Cape’s south coast is not complete without visiting the southernmost tip of Africa – and a stay at a place overlooking the ocean is simply a must.

Arniston Spa Hotel

Set just a few steps from the ocean, the four-star Arniston Spa Hotel is situated next to traditional fishing villages and centrally located so that the beaches are close at hand.

Comprised of 60 rooms, each has its own balcony and offers views of either the garden or Atlantic Ocean. Of course, during whale season, make sure to get an ocean view room, so that you are able to sit on your balcony and enjoy the appearance of the gentle giants.

Being in such close proximity to the ocean, Arniston Spa Hotel’s restaurant has made seafood its main attraction when it comes to dining. I opted for the Sushi Boat, which was overflowing with a fresh variety of sushi creations – both traditional and the restaurant’s own innovations. Diners can expect the freshest of shellfish and catch-of-the-day straight from the boats – do not forget to start the meal off with some oysters.

I awoke early the next morning and set off to learn more about the history of the town. Arniston has a rich history, punctuated by tragedy. The town got its English name from a ship wreck that occurred in 1815. Today, a portion of the The Arniston can be seen among the sand dunes off the coast, and a plaque was erected in honour of the dead.

I then went off to the Waenhuiskrans cave. Down some steep steps to the rocky beach, I walked along the stones to the small entrance into the cave. Only to be explored during low tide, I ducked through the opening and found myself in a large cavern. The cave opened to the ocean, where the water could be seen crashing against the rocks.

De Hoop Nature Reserve

Bringing together wide open grasslands and seaside expanses is De Hoop Nature Reserve – the complete nature lover’s package. Here, bontebok, Cape mountain zebra, eland, baboons, and ostrich roam freely on the reserve; sand dunes tumble their way to the shore, where the rock formations have created pools filled with the wonders of the ocean.

With one of De Hoop’s experienced guides, I went on a marine hike along the rocky coast where I was introduced to the inhabitants, and was awe-inspired by the magnificence of the waves crashing along the shore.

After the hike, it was time for lunch, which was an incredible picnic spread of cheeses, cold meats, fruits, and salads, all while enjoying the ocean views.

De Hoop is one of the world’s best land-based whale-watching areas, as the coast off De Hoop is a marine protected area as well as a World Heritage Site.

Back on land, guests at De Hoop can cycle through the reserve, there are hiking trails to explore the incredible diversity of the region, and, for some pampering after the activities, the onsite spa is there to massage muscles into a complete state of bliss.

With so much to do and explore at De Hoop, it is advised that you spend more than one day here. The accommodation options on the reserve are diverse: with cottages, suites, a manor house, and campsite rondawels, there is something to suit most people’s tastes.

Taking to the roads of the Western Cape’s south coast is ideal for a tranquil getaway with charming small-town hospitality punctuated by lob tailing whales.

This trip was sponsored by Cape Country Routes. For more information and to plan your own whale watching excursion, visit www.capecountryroutes.com.