Situated on 34 000 hectares of land, which extends 5km out to sea, De Hoop Nature Reserve is one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa and is a firm favourite for hikers, cyclists, bird and whale watchers.
Here are our top 6 reasons why the De Hoop Nature Reserve and its fabulous Whale Trail should top your go-to destination list.
WHALE TAIL HIKING TOUR
CapeNature recently relaunched the iconic Whale Trail multi-day hiking tour after a 2-year hiatus. The experience uncovers flora and fauna spread across 43,000 hectares of De Hoop Nature Reserve, one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa.
Multi-day hiking opens up a world of adventure opportunities, unlocking parts of the Cape wilderness often accessible by no other means. Whale Trail plays to all of the Cape’s strengths – majestic mountains, picture-perfect fynbos, and tranquil nautical scenes.
This 5-day land and sea sustainable experience is already a firm favourite with many locals and tourists looking to reduce their eco-footprint while creating new memories.
For the reboot, CapeNtaure restored and improved hiking routes, and this time around the tour is valid only for a group of up to 6 people to fall in line with COVID-19 regulations.
FYNBOS AT ITS FINEST
Many city slickers nowadays connect with fynbos through everyday lifestyle goodies from gin to beauty products and flower delivery. This nature tour treks throughout the Cape floral region to get up close and personal with some of the most pristine areas of plant diversity in the world. Think mountainous fynbos, grasses, proteas, as well as minimalist dune fynbos which can be found on a beach stroll.
Meander through approximately 1,500 plant species at De Hoop, some of which are unclassified, threatened, and endemic to the area, meaning that you can’t see them anywhere else in the world. And if you’re fortunate you’d still be able to spot some blossoms relatively late in the season.
RICH AND THRIVING WILDLIFE
De Hoop Nature Reserve is home to a thriving and rich birdlife with more than 260 bird species have been recorded in the region. More than, and you can see pelicans along the coast or breeding in the safe haven of De Hoop.
On your first day experience, you have the opportunity to see the last remaining breeding colony of Cape vultures in the Western Cape.
These vulnerable birds of prey are currently thriving thanks to conservation efforts at De Hoop, and seeing them circling the surrounding area is a reminder of just how special these enormous birds of prey are.
Eagle-eyed hikers are also likely to come across mountain zebra, wild ostriches, baboons, and bontebok among others.
ECO-FRIENDY GETAWAY OPTIONS
The 5-day excursion includes overnight dormitory-style accommodation, some perched on top of sea cliffs for spectacular views.
Each of the venues boasts with unique selling points and scenery, but all with an eco approach to construction, materials as well as amenities. All cabins are built on the existing footprint of the old cabins to ensure minimal disruption to this unique protected area and feature an ergonomic design, fully equipped kitchen and outdoor braai.
The recent reboot of Whale Trail also allowed CapeNature to upgrade and add a few fringe comforts such as solar-powered electricity, modern appliances and bathroom upgrades, and new skylights for some stargazing.
Noetsie Hut with its architecturally chic design tops our list for its sweeping views over both land and sea. But Vaalkrans Hut, as the final stop, is equally as attractive for pulling together a memorable experience with tranquillity and stunning scenery.
REBOOT AND REVIVE
Don’t forget to grab a yoga mat along for the journey to take advantage of the stillness and surroundings to fully immerse yourself with nature. A quick stretching, meditation, or yoga session does wonders, not only for your hike but also for mental clarity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Day three of the tour, between Noetsie and Hamerkop, offers a detour via a short wooden ladder past limestone cliffs down to the Stilgat tidal pools.
Avid snorkelers are able to dive in and explore the bright sea anemones and other marine life on the coast on this cosy, private ocean-side pool.
THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN
No doubt the deciding factor for many, the Whale Trail gets its name from the sheer amount of whale activity that can be experienced along the coast. June to December are the best months to visit, with peak months being September and October.
Dr Razeena Omar, CEO of CapeNature says, “Annually between June and November, Southern Right whales make their epic journey back to the safety of these rich waters to mate and calve. The famed Whale Trail is revered as one of the most meaningful ways to experience this extraordinary phenomenon. De Hoop defies superlatives – it must be experienced to be truly understood.”
If your stars are aligned and the weather is clear, you can be lucky enough to see pods of whales on all three days of the coastal hiking portion of the tour in the peak season.
Keep an eye out for large schools of resident dolphins and seals, as well as sharks in the marine reserve.
Bookings can be made here.
Cost: Self-Catering Accommodation – from R1795 per night | Conservation Fee Day Access – Adults R50, Kids R30