South Africa’s Whale Trail Relaunches after Major Upgrades
Words Fiona McIntosh, pics Shaen Adey & supplied
The iconic Whale Trail, a five-day hiking trail through CapeNature’s flagship De Hoop Nature Reserve has just reopened after being closed for nearly two years for upgrades. The world-famous trail was always a winner, but it just got even better!
The 34 000 hectare De Hoop Nature Reserve, which extends 5km out to sea, is one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa. Part of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site, and with magnificent scenery and incredible biodiversity including rare flora and fauna, it is a haven for all nature lovers, including hikers, cyclists, bird and whale watchers.
The Green Flag accredited Whale Trail, which starts by traversing the Potberg mountain before heading down to the coast, is unguided and you self-cater, but a baggage transfer service means that if you don’t fancy the traditional backpacking approach (ie carrying everything you need for five days in your rucksack) you can pack your food, wine and overnight gear into supplied boxes and walk with only a day pack. Slackpacking in this manner means that you can relax and enjoy walking through some of the finest scenery that South Africa has to offer, stopping to smell the flowers, listen to the birds, swim, scan the ocean from the dramatic cliffs and explore the caves that have been eroded at their base.
Anton Bredell, the Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape has welcomed the reopening of the CapeNature trail.
“In 2019, the trail was closed to construct much needed safety upgrades and add new developments along the popular hiking route. CapeNature has upgraded and improved the trail and visitors can now look forward to an improved experience made possible through innovative and value-add enhancements.”
Dr Razeena Omar, CEO of CapeNature says, “With South Africa’s tourism sector slowly returning to the “new normal” with the easing of regulations, the reopening of the world-renowned trail comes at a time where locals are itching to get away on much needed breaks. 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.”
I’ll second that. For my money the Whale Trail is the best multi-day hike in Africa, if not the world. You’re sure to have a whale of a time!
Why go now?
Whatever time of year you hike the Whale Trail is a magnificent meander through dense fynbos and along the pristine coastline on which you’re likely to see rare birds such as blue cranes and Cape vultures and a host of marine species. But if you go now, in spring, you’ll also enjoy the colourful carpet of wild flowers as well as whale sightings.
Major upgrades to both the trail and the overnight accommodation include:
• Solar powered electricity in accommodation units, which are not affected by load shedding.
• Restored and improved hiking routes with stainless steel structures and stairs for optimal weather resistance and safety.
• Outdoor fire pits and braai areas.
• Modern appliances such as fridges and gas hobs at all overnight huts– a first for the reserve.
• Upgraded skylights for better viewing and star gazing.
• Full bathroom and shower upgrades at Vaalkrans, Hamerkop and Cupidoskraal huts.
The fully equipped huts can sleep up to 12 people, but, in line with COVID-19 regulations, occupancy may be restricted if hikers are not part of a group or family. Inquire when booking.