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Whale Trail

De Hoop Nature Reserve, Bredasdorp, Western Cape


The last few years of South African hiking has seen a shift in emphasis from the long distance trail to the two day weekend trail. There have been numerous new weekend trail openings without any new four and five day trails. It has taken a bold step on the part of Cape Nature Conservation, to rectify this with the opening of the new Whale Trail in De Hoop Nature Reserve, close to Bredasdorp and Swellendam in the Overberg.

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Coastal trails have always been popular and since its opening, the Whale Trail has proved this point, as, I am sure anyone who has tried to book it will be able to testify. The Whale Trail should not be seen as an attempt to duplicate an existing trail such as the Otter but as a totally different trail experience with its combination of mountain and coastal walking, its diversity of fynbos together with beautiful rock pools and dunes to add other dimensions. The real possibility of seeing Whales as one walks along the trail is reason enough to recommend this trail.

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Trail Map (click on image to see full size map)

The Whale Trail stretches 54Kms from Potberg to Koppie Alleen and has 5 overnight stops. Vehicles are left at Potberg and a shuttle service is provided to take the hikers from the end of the trail back to their cars at Potberg.

Day 1- Potberg to Cupidoskraal

 

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View from Potberg

Resting place at the river

 

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A Protea along the way
This first day of the trail is also the toughest. It is 14,7km long and should take the average hiker about 8 hours to accomplish, so an early start is recommended. The trail takes the hiker to the summit of Potberg (611m). The climb is well worth it as the views from the summit are stunning. Views of Swellendam to the north, Cape Infante to the east and Cape Agulhas to the west are quite something to behold. As you walk take your time and observe the beauty of the Cape fynbos.

The trail continues though the mountain fynbos for some time before eventually descending to Cupidoskraal. Here there is a lovely dam for the weary hiker to take a swim in.

Cupidoskraal hut

Day 2 - Cupidoskraal to Noetsie

 

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View of the Indian Ocean

The second day of the Whale Trail covers a distance of 14Kms  and should take about 8 hours to do. From Cupidoskraal hut the trail continues along the crest of the Potberg with lovely views of the Indian Ocean and the Breede river. The trail is mostly through rich fynbos.

After leaving the Potberg mountains, the trail continues through limestone hills with its strikingly different varieties of fynebos. The coast is approaching and this spurs the hiker on in anticipation of a late dip in the Indian Ocean.

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On the way to Noetsie

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Noetsie

A Protea

After a long day's toil, the first sight of the bay at Noetsie is very welcome. The huts are in an idealic setting just above the crashing seas of the Indian Ocean. This is really what dreams are made of!

The two A-framed huts that are provided for the hikers are in the style known in the area as "Kapstylhuisies". They have thatched roofs and this adds to the enchanted atmosphere of this special place.

Day 3 - Noetsie to Hamerkop

 

Day 3 of the Whale trail is 9km long and is an easy 6 hours walk (including rest stops). It enables the hiker to have a leisurely start to the day with a final swim in the bay at Noetsie. It is worth taking time to explore the coastline.

 
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Caves and rock pools abound
 

Stilgat cave with its clear tidal pools and its abundant marine life is a very special place and worth the time exploring. A swim or snorkel in the crystal clear water is well worth it.

 

Day 4 - Hamerkop to Vaalkrans

 

The walk from Hamerkop to Vaalkrans is 11km long and is an moderate 6 hours hike, much of it along the beach. The rock pools encountered on this section of the trail are very beautiful and worth the time exploring. The marine life on this coast is really very special. Lekkerwater Lodge is passed on this stretch of the trail and trailists are requested not to disturb the guests at the lodge.

 
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Lekkerwater Lodge
 
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The Vygie (Mesembryanthemum)

Along the coast it is worth taking note of the other aspects of nature. The brightly coloured vygies add contrast to the blue and azure of the sea and the browns of the rocks.

The cottage at Vaalkrans is as unique as it is special. Situated as it is, perched high on top of the cliffs, give a fitting last night climax to this incredible trail.

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Vaalkrans Huts
         
 
 

Hiking The Whale Trail will leave you with many memories that will stay with you for years to come. Don't forget to take your camera along with plenty of film or memory cards.

 

 

Day 5 - Vaalkrans to Koppie Alleen

 
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Rock pools along the way

 

Day 5 of the Whale Trail is an easy six hour walk. More rock pools and beautiful beaches provide a fitting end to this latest addition to the top trails of South Africa. Look out for the Southern Right Whales and the Bottle Nose Dolphins frolicking in the waves.

 

Snorkel at your leisure in the pools before finally redezvousing with the shuttle bus at the Koppie Alleen information centre for the short trip back to Potberg to your awaiting cars.

 
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Beaches and Rock
 

Accommodation

The hiker's huts are designed to accommodate 12 people. All the huts except Noetsie have a built in braai suitable for all weather conditions. Warm water, mattresses, firewood and the luxury of solar powered lighting all go to make the accommodation live up to the special status of the trail. Hikers must bring their own bedding.

Conclusion

The Whale trail has now been open for a while and has come to be one of the most popular trails in Southern Africa. The trail has brought together a unique combination of mountain hiking with the ease of walking along the shore. It is a combination that has proved very successful. A second trail is now in its planning stage.

Trail accredited by Southern Africa Trail Owners Association

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Bookings

Reservations for the Whale Trail can be made through

Central Reservations

Telephone 021 659 3500

e-mail bookings@capenature.co.za

or

 

Telephone  0861Jacana (0861 522262)

Direct phone: Port Elizabeth 041 378 1439

Pretoria: 012 803 9109

Direct fax: PE 041 378 2548

Pretoria: 012 803 4144

 PE e-mail  bookings@jacanacollection.co.za

Pretoria e-mail: rosa@jacanacollection.co.za

 

 

 

Photos on this webpage were supplied by Western Cape Nature Conservation Board and used with their permission


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