In the second week of October we spent a few days at a bed and breakfast situated right on the cliffs at De Kelders, a tiny residential suburb located about 35 kilometres past Hermanus and less than five kilometres from Gansbaai. It was both a mental health break and an early celebration of our two year wedding anniversary, which actually takes place at the end of next month (our marriage seems to have been both longer – to Tony! – and shorter than that). You can send Noddy badges to our postal address.
De Kelders is Dutch for “the cellars”, and is so called because the limestone cliffs on which the town is perched are riddled with caves – some of spectacular dimensions. It is also one of the finest locations in the world for land-based whale watching. Walker Bay is a wide, open bay with Hermanus at its western top corner, and De Kelders on the eastern edge. Each year, many southern right whales make their way to this part of the coastline to calve, socialise, mate and generally delight the tiny humans who flock to this part of the world to observe them.
I first visited De Kelders briefly with Tony in October 2010 as part of a stay at Grootbos. We spent an early evening eating oysters and watching whales from a balcony at De Kelders. (We didn’t pay for any part of this trip – very fortunate – our style is more Salticrax and Steri Stumpies while sitting in the car!) My acquaintance with this quiet suburb was renewed by the television series and book Shoreline, which dealt in some detail with one of the historically significant caves in the cliffs there. Stone age humans made a home in the caves some 75,000 years ago and added marine protein to their diets from shellfish, seabirds and seals. Poor planning and sheer laziness on my part meant that we did not visit any of the caves that required a guide or an entrance fee, but we did see several caves of varying dimensions in our scramble over the cliffs.
It is possible to walk along the cliffs, with varying degrees of rock hurdling required. There are narrow gullies through which the tide rushes fiercely, and one or two tiny sandy beaches that might allow swimming. The cliffs are lined with kelp beds, and during the months of June to November the whales approach right to the edge of the kelp, where the mothers are quite still and their calves test out their vocalisation and physical abilities.
We took a whale watching boat trip on our first full day in De Kelders. The second day was miserably rainy in the morning, so we drove down to Danger Point lighthouse near Gansbaai (and got pelted by rain). That afternoon we watched whales and walked on the cliffs. We drove home on Wednesday via Hermanus, where we saw more whales and visited an abalone farm (on this subject, more to follow). It was profoundly relaxing and a beautiful break.