The call to Hermanus

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

You can’t help wondering if the Whale Crier hasn’t called more than whales to the historic fishing village of Hermanus.

Difficult to imagine – because he’s become such an icon of tourism in Western Cape – but the tradition of the Whale Crier goes back only as far as the early 90s, when the local tourism office’s Jim Wepener came up with the idea of alerting locals and visitors to sightings of the Southern Right Whales that migrate to this part of the coast to mate and calve every year from about June to December.

The call of the kelp

The happy sound of the Crier’s trumpet – made of dried kelp – has been a feature of the town, which bills itself as offering the world’s best land-based whale watching, since August ’92. And the idea has crept into the popular imagination around the world, too: it was the inspiration for Zake’s Mda’s acclaimed 2006 novel, The Whale Caller, and in 1996 the first Whale Crier, Pieter Claasen, appeared as the guest of honour and leader of the procession at the Annual Town Criers Competition in Topsham, in the UK.

In fact the Whale Crier (the post is currently held by Eric Davalah) has become so popular that you could say that he’s called more than just the whales to Hermanus over the years: he’s called visitors and investors who’ve helped to grow the town into what Private Property advertiser and Seeff Properties Hermanus licensee, Reon van der Merwe, reckons is “South Africa’s top recreation destination.

“Where else in the world can you watch whales and sharks, and go deep sea diving, golfing, hang gliding and mountain biking and do a thousand other things, all within a few kilometres of one another?” he said.

Roaring residential market

Besides being excited about the town where he’s been selling property for 17 years, Reon is incredibly excited about Hermanus’ current residential market.

“We’re in the middle of a boom at the moment: total residential sales for the region grew off a low base two or three years ago to around R800-million last year – and to over R1.1-billion for the last 12 months.

“This is remarkable. Although Seeff has posted excellent results for the whole of South Africa, no other area has shown as large an improvement as Hermanus.”

But why?

But if you ask him the reason for this phenomenal growth – he’ll say he doesn’t really know. Although he does know that, “After the Atlantic Seaboard in Cape Town, Hermanus is the number one choice of people moving to the Cape – partly because it’s easily accessible (it’s just an hour’s drive from Cape Town International Airport), partly because of its Continental feel (with little pavement cafés that spill out onto the streets at night), and partly because prices are still affordable for most people.” (He said that prices span the spectrum from R6 000 to R20 000 per square metre –land included).

... All of which might mean that now could be a very good time to heed the Whale Crier’s call to come to Hermanus.

Contact Reon van der Merwe at Seeff Properties Hermanus for more information. The company currently has 233 properties listed on PrivateProperty.co.za.

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