If you’ve ever visited Hermanus for the purpose of spotting a whale from the coast, but without much success, then it’s because you’re using the wrong sense: Stop straining your eyes and rather perk up those ears to listen out for the famous local Whale Crier.
Hermanus is the only town in the world that has a whale crier and, just like the whales, he’s become somewhat of a tourist attraction in his own right. Aside from the call of his horn, this town fixture can be identified by a sandwich board sign hanging around his neck and a bright feather that’s propped in his cap. The man underneath the cap is Eric Davalah, successor to Pasika Nodoba, Godleck Baleni and Wilson Salukazana (a man who once manned the coast line for a total of 8 years, drawing townsmen’s attention to the presence of whales).
This long standing tradition was started in August 1992 when Hermanus’ very first whale crier, Pieter Claasens, blew the horn for the very first time. At the time he was an employee of the Old Harbour and while mocked by his colleagues and friends, he took his job very seriously. It wasn’t long before word of this coastline attraction crossed international borders and he was invited to be a guest of honour at the annual Town Crier competition in Topsham in the United Kingdom.
Using a unique kelp horn – the same one that was carried by his three predecessors – Pasika uses a series of blowing techniques to announce various points along the coastline where a whale has been spotted, as well as the number of whales. What’s more, locals who are familiar with the sound of the horn, can judge from a single blow which type of whale has been spotted in the bay – Humpback, Bryde or Southern Right whale.
Out of towners on the other hand can meet up with Pasika and learn the different calls that are written on his board or chat to the whale guru himself. Having patrolled the coastline for over four years now, he’s built up an impressive knowledge on this spectacular creature and is probably one of the most knowledgeable on the subject of whales.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the Hermanus whale crier every day from June to December as he does his rounds between 10am and 4pm – he’s always happy to pose for a picture. If you can’t find him however, simply wander along the coast – you’re bound to bump into each other somewhere along the way. Or, you can join him on Facebook.