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Africa Geographic
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Africa Geographic Travel

Written by: Carrie Hampton

The view from Whalesong Lodge at De Kelders, across Walker Bay from Hermanus, must be one of the best in the world. Not just for this classic Cape seascape, but because between July and November this coastline turns into one of the best land-based whale watching venues on earth. 

Whalesong Lodge
©Whalesong Lodge

Southern Right Whales arrive in Western Cape waters every southern-hemisphere winter to mate and calve and they frequently do so right outside Whalesong Lodge’s panoramic window. Owner Stanley Carpenter keeps his back to the view while we are talking; he’s seen it all before in the 14 years since he built Whalesong Lodge. I, however, am distracted by a pod of dolphins speeding by.

Whalesong Lodge watching whales from terrace
©Whalesong Lodge
©Whalesong Lodge
©Whalesong Lodge
Whalesong Lodge sunset
©Whalesong Lodge

Stanley’s baggy jeans, long grey ponytail and rambling beard contrast with the elegant surroundings he has created for his guests at Whalesong Lodge. The spotlessly clean picture windows lead the eye outwards, but you can’t fail to notice the tasteful interiors and glowing wood-burning stove directing warmth to both lounge and dining room.

Local, organic and sustainable

Lainy is the more animated and cheery element of this husband and wife team and tells me how they are cultivating a plot of land in the interior to become as self-sustainable is possible. It’s important to them to know where their food comes from and this is reflected in what’s put on the table at breakfast; everything is as local, organic and free range as possible.

Whalesong Lodge breakfast
©Whalesong Lodge

This ethos naturally translates to the whole set up, with solar powered geysers, grey water and waste recycling, composting and a worm farm. They even make their own cleaning products. With such values it was a natural progression to tread the path set by Fair Trade Tourism  (FTT) to become audited and certified by them.

“I can see myself staying here forever.”

Vee, aged 26, is one of four Xhosa girls who work at Whalesong and says of Lainy and Stanley, “We are like family here.” Fresh from rural Eastern Cape, she had no skills but did have willingness to learn. She’s now a dab hand at baking the morning muffins and bread rolls and can fry a mean bacon and egg breakfast! She can do anything the guest house demands of her, including using the computer.

Vee in the kitchens at Whalesong Lodge
©Carrie Hampton

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, Lainy has made it her mission to upskill her staff so that they can forge a bright future for themselves and their children. Staff are provided with a weekly English lesson, tourism, customer care and food courses and familiarisation visits, family outings and Vee is now taking driving lessons courtesy of her employer. But it’s not always prized; Lainy tells of one staff member who left last year because, “there was too much learning!”  Lainy admits, “I’m tough. I expect a lot, but I give a lot too.” Vee is thriving on Lainy’s version of tough love and says, “I can see myself staying here forever.”

Whalesong Lodge has five bedrooms and I suggest paying that bit extra to secure the Seaview Suite, complete with king-size bed and a view fit for royalty. You can even watch whales from the bath. Or dolphins like I did if you go out of whale season! Booking in good time during whale season is a must though, as Whalesong Lodge is generally 99% full from the end of July to October. The vista doesn’t change out of whale season, of course, so it’s well worth a visit at any time.

Whalesong Lodge
©Whalesong Lodge
©Whalesong Lodge
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Fair Trade Tourism

Fair Trade Tourism is pioneering the development of sustainable and responsible tourism in southern Africa and beyond. A non-profit organisation, it grows awareness about responsible tourism, helps tourism businesses operate more sustainably and facilitates the Fair Trade Tourism certification programme.