If you're a nature lover and at least moderately fit, the Whale Trail might be the perfect choice for you. Located in the De Hoop nature reserve in the Western Cape, the hiking trail varies in intensity over 5 days and combines more strenuous sections with those allowing tons of time to soak in the surroundings.
Route starting at Potberg stretches over 55 km and offers the opportunity to experience the incredible natural diversity of the Potberg Mountains and the coastline area rich with marine life. The neighbouring marine reserve is one of Africa’s largest marine protected areas. Oh yes, and you’ll get to see the whales!
De Hoop – A Unique and Diverse Nature Reserve
The hike will start with the toughest section of the trail, taking you a bit less than 15 km from Potberg to Cupidoskraal. You'll be climbing 600m high Potberg Mountain and get rewarded for the effort as soon as you face magnificent views whichever way you turn: Swellendam on the North, Cape Agulhas on the West, Infante Cape on the East. Before descending to Cupidoskraal, you might catch a sight of Cape vulture, endemic to southern Africa. Look out for shrubs of erica and protea species on the way, this is the only place in the world you'll be able to spot them. As you arrive to location of your overnight stay, taking a dip in the dam will be the perfect end of a tough but gratifying first day.
On day 2, you'll continue on a less strenuous but equally long stretch leading to Noetsie. While moving through mountain fynbos, you'll get to enjoy spectacular views of the Indian Ocean and Breede River. Final descent takes you to the coast and the enchanting bay of Noetsie.
The following day offers a more leisurely pace, easier terrain and almost half the distance to cover. You'll have plenty of time to explore tidal pools and marine life at Stilgat, watch the whales, and even engage in some snorkelling and swimming. De Hoop is a world-famous whale-watching spot, and between June and December the coastline transforms into a nursery area for southern right whales. Lovely sandy beach will take you all the way to Hamerkop where you can relax and relive the highlights of the way.
Long beach walk towards Vaalkrans on day 4 is well worth the effort as it offers sightings of oystercatchers, whitebreasted cormorants and other interesting seabird, until you reach the amazing turquoise rock pools. Only 2 hours of walking on the final day and you'll arrive to Koppie Alleen. The hike takes you through coastal thickets and you'll have plenty of time to admire scenic landscapes and go for a swim in Hippo Pools before your hike ends.
The Whale Trail is a truly unique South African hiking experience and should not be missed. It's a perfect way to enjoy the beauty of De Hoop nature reserve and the neighbouring coastline, taking advantage of one the best whale watching spots in the world.