The whale tail in Hermanus is a symbol of the town's favourite activity

whale tail, hermanus, south africa

The whale tail is first of all a global symbol that, if you've been to any places in South Africa, has basically become synonymous with the coastal town of Hermanus.

Whale watching season starts in May and stretches all the way to December. The whales are often seen close to river mouths and in shallow waters.

It is such a delight for our family when we all head off to Hermanus for the day. The drive from Gordons Bay takes you all along the coastline, through Bettys Bay and you're bound to see a few whale tails and some spouting in the South Africa sunlight.

These are truly amazing creatures. The most common whale is The Southern Right Whale which is thought to live up to 100 years old.

Hermanus is famous for the whales that come to visit every year. You can enjoy watching the famous whale tail from many terraces and restaurant balconies in the town.

From one "whale tail" to another tale, here's a great whale tale I came accross which tells a great story of someone famous walking the streets of this beautiful town:

Hermanus is the only place in the world to have its own whale crier.

So when you encounter a guy with a funny feather in his hat, patrolling the streets and blowing a weird looking kelp horn, don't think that you have encountered one of Robin Hood's merry men, it is the whale crier alerting everyone to the whereabouts of the whales. The feather, incidentally, is a whale tail.

Different horn 'Morse' codes refer to the different points along the coastline where whales have been spotted. The key to these codes, as well as the number of whales spotted at each location, are noted on the sandwich board he proudly wears.

The humble kelp horn blower who became an international icon The blow of the whale crier's horn has become a familiar and well-loved sound in the streets of Hermanus over the past decade. In 1992 the first whale crier, Pieter Claasens, was appointed in this job. Although Pieter initially had to endure the mockery of his local friends for dressing up as a 'papegaai' (parrot) his friendly manner and knowledge about whales soon endeared him to both visitors and locals. As media interest in the world's only whale crier grew, Pieter through his dozens of press and TV interviews became one of Hermanus's top tourist attractions.

A highlight of Pieter's career was when in 1996 he was invited to Topsham in the UK where he was guest of honour at the annual Town Crier's competition. A feather in Pieter's cap was when he was also made honorary Town Crier of Britain during his visit.

Due to poor health, Pieter retired in 1998 and it was a great loss to all who had known him when Pieter died in 2000. In the time that Pieter had performed his job with gusto and enthusiasm he had grown into an international icon for Hermanus and a beloved symbol for whale-watchers universally. His humble kelp horn had brought him fame, but unfortunately never fortune, because Pieter Claasens was a man of moderate means when he died.

Wilson Salakusana took over from Pieter in 1998 and since then the fame of the world's only whale crier has grown even further. Since he has taken up this position, Wilson has represented Hermanus at numerous occasions and has done much to publicise the town as one of the world's best whale watching destinations. The whale crier sure needs to be knowledgeable about whales, but says Wilson, "to be a really good whale crier like my late friend Pieter, you must be able to give the community excitement." This Wilson sure does, because he is extremely popular with the tourists and most definitely the most photographed man in Walker Bay!

Wilson Salukazana does his rounds along the coastline between 10:00 and 16:00 from June to December. He is always willing to answer questions, give interviews and allow tourists to photograph him. "And things get really crazy," says Wilson, when he lifts his kelp horn and the now famous sound reverberates through the streets of Hermanus. He may also be reached via the Hermanus tourism bureau (028) 312 2629.

Codes of the whale crier’s horn
New Harbour - ●
Preekstoel ● ●
Fick’s Pool - -
Old harbour - ● -
Roman Rock ● ● ●
Kwaaiwater - - -
Voëlklip ● - ●

Article courtesy Vita van Zyl

Whale Watching in Walker Bay: A tourist's pocket guide

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