Overview- Whale Coast Cycling
Whale Coast Cycling offers you a relaxing 5 day, self-guided cycling holiday with an abundance of activities, mostly in a protected environment. It is an outdoor experience with river, sea, sand dunes, the vlei, a floral sensation of rare fynbos plants, diverse antelope and whale watching. Eco boat trip, interpretive marine walk and nature drive included
|Type||Self-guided cycling plus activities with Field guide|
|Location||Malgas & De Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa|
|Group size||1+ people|
|Duration||4 nights/5 days|
|Day Stages||Average 25 km|
|Distance||100 km (4 days)|
|Terrain||Country roads & cycling trails|
|Meals||Breakfast each day|
|Cost||Available on request|
|Dates||Whole year. Oct to April is “High season”. Whale watching June to Nov|
Your tour starts in Malgas- an off the beaten track destination for those who enjoy something different. It is a small settlement on the western bank of the Breede River in the Overberg region of the Western Cape. Enjoy the peaceful tranquility of the Breede River. The historic ferry (or pont) across the Breede river at Malgas has been in operation for more than 100 years. It is probably the oldest, and only, manually operated cross-river ferry in all of South Africa. Visit Sijnn Wines, a beautiful pioneering wine estate in the middle of nowhere at the end of a long, dusty, bumpy road at the Southern tip of Africa. The word “sijnn” is derived from the Khoisan word meaning riverbank. Today Sijnn Wines has become well known for their interesting and bold choices of cultivars and award-winning blends. They believe in natural farming and natural winemaking, and focus their skills on blending Mediterranean-style varieties that are best suited to the low rainfall climate and poor soil quality.
De Hoop Nature Reserve
Positioned on the Western Cape’s coastline and extending 340 square kilometres, De Hoop is one of the largest areas managed by Cape Nature, and one of few parks to boast such a large diversity in marine and land animals, birdlife and vegetation! De Hoop coast is a marine reserve which extends 3 kilometres out to sea
Few other reserves offer as complete an outdoor experience as De Hoop – sea, sand dunes, the vlei, a floral sensation of rare fynbos plants, diverse antelope and the Potberg Mountains. Birders observe wading birds on the shores of the vlei while the Potberg Mountains are home to a colony of endangered Cape vultures. Hikers and cyclists have close-up encounters with bontebok, Cape mountain zebra, eland, baboons and ostrich.
The De Hoop Marine Reserve is one of the world’s most important calving grounds for the southern right whale and an important nursery area for depleted angling fish species.
Every year, some 40% of the world’s southern right whales come to these shores to breed. Females and their calves swim in the clear waters, while males put on spectacular displays. These endangered mammals ensure that the De Hoop Reserve in South Africa, is one of the world’s best land based whale watching areas. As a marine reserve and World Heritage Site, De Hoop guarantees a safe nursery for these pods of visiting cetaceans. They come so close to the shore that visitors can relax on the unspoilt sand dunes, watching in awe as these beautiful creatures calve, blow, breach and belly-flop. The whale season is from June to December
“Fynbos” plants and wildlife
The diversity of 1 500 plant species is amongst the highest in the Cape Floristic Region, with a large percentage of rare, threatened and endemic species. Fynbos is the dominant vegetation group and is largely confined to nutrient-poor soils in the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape. It is adapted to fire and drought and is defined by four growth forms:
- proteas – tall shrubs with large leaves
- ericas – heath-like shrubs
- restios – wiry, reed-like plants which are always present in fynbos
- geophytes – bulbs that store moisture in fleshy underground organs.
The discerning visitor is privileged to walk or ride amongst pristine fynbos vegetation and view the flowering plants at close quarters. The invertebrate animal wealth is equally diverse. The reserve has 86 mammals species. A safe refuge is provided for rare mammals such as the Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra, smaller predators and various bat species. Approximately 260 bird species have been recorded including the rare Damara and Caspian terns, the vulnerable Cape vulture and Stanley’s bustard.
De Hoop vlei
The De Hoop Vlei is 17 km long and a highly productive ecosystem; a Ramsar site of international ecological importance where aquatic birds and other organisms breed and feed undisturbed. Many of the 260 bird species which occur at De Hoop can be seen here. The vlei boasts several pairs of African fish eagles. Their high-pitched call, the voice of Africa, contributes to the wild charm of the area. The area is a safe shelter for twelve waterfowl species during the dry summer months. As many as 13 species of migrant waders including curlew sandpipers, ruffs, little stints, whiskered and white winged terns visit the vlei in summer, when the water level drops and the mud flats are exposed
Activities in De Hoop Reserve are diverse. In addition to mountain biking along selected gravel roads and trails your program includes a scenic nature drive, an eco boat tour and interpretative marine walk. Other options are a vulture experience and a guided bird walk. Relaxing on the beach and snorkeling in the many turquoise rock pools is simply another way to pass a rewarding day.
Accommodation and restaurants
Lodge on the Breede River for one night (dinner B&B) and 3 nights stay at De Hoop Nature reserve in cottage or suite- wide range of accommodation. Restaurant open daily.
Arrive at your hotel on the banks of the Breede river. The tranquil setting attracts a vast diversity of bird life. Cycle to a nearby winery for wine tasting, lunch and a short hike on the estate. Cycle back to the hotel. In summer cool off along the river. In colder winter evenings warm up by a fireplace. Dinner and overnight Malgas
Cycling distance 12 km
Cycle from your Breede River hotel to De Hoop Nature Reserve- a World Heritage site, offering the finest whale viewing in Southern Africa. All roads are gravel, except for a short section of tar. After entering the reserve you will observe rare fynbos plants and diverse antelope such as Bontebok, Cape Mountain Zebra, Eland, etc.
15h00: Check-in at your chalet or lodge. After settling into the accommodation, a briefing of Days 2-5.
End the day with a 2 hour nature drive experience. Times: 17:00 Summer -16:00 Winter. Experience the Pristine Fynbos and Wildlife on the reserve from an open safari vehicle. A qualified field guide will interpret rare and endangered species including Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra.
The drive will encompass some of the beautiful scenic areas of the wetland and there will be opportunity for viewing and identifying some of the Birdlife occurring in the reserve. Rate includes sundowners with snacks, soft drinks, local beers & house wines.
Confirm booking and guide for marine walk the next day
Dinner and overnight De Hoop
Cycling distance 32,5 km
It is ideal for this day of your booking to be on the 11th to the 14th of a month, for low tide to be from 11h30- 13h00
Plan your ride via Trail no 3.2 to be at Koppie Alleen at low tide to meet your guide. Start at about 08h00 if your booking falls in the above slot. It is a 3 hour ride
After leaving the main road this cycling path winds its way through open grazing fields- great for spotting game such as Eland, Bontebok, Cape Mountain Zebra, Grey Rhebuck, Baboon and Ostrich; thick stands of Cape reeds and rocky terrain. There are no notable long up or downhills. Continue to Koppie Alleen at the coast. The trail runs parallel to pure white sand dunes and the coastline offers spectacular views of Southern Right Whale (July – November) as well as beautiful rock pools and sandy beaches.
Meet the guide for an interpretive marine walk (2 hours) to explore coastal rock pools, sandy beaches and interesting marine life forms. Also a great way to experience the Southern Right Whales in the bay. Picnic lunch at the coast.
Optional additional 13km cycling- Buchu Camp short loop (Trail 5.1), subject to available time and your preference.
Confirm your eco boat booking and arrange lunch pack for the next day .
Dinner and overnight at De Hoop
Cycling distance 27 km- 40km
Start at about 08h00 with the Dassie trail (no 1) is a 12 km circular route that follows some rocky terrain to the southern end of the vlei and back. Expect some short up and downhill stretches. This trail runs through an area that was burnt in 2006. Larger mammals such as Bontebok, Eland and Grey Rhebuck are often seen in or near depressions in the landscape where they graze. Ostrich is also common. In times of high water, parts of the trail may be flooded and not negotiable. Some technical sections. (3 hour ride)
Quick lunch (Suggest a lunch pack)
The afternoon trail (no 2) is a fairly rocky option with a long gradual uphill in the circular section, but easy downhill coming back. Visit the Tierhoek Picnic Site at the edge of the vlei for some relaxation and birding.
The fynbos vegetation along this 13 km route is very unique, and quite rare. The plants here grow on Limestone and include species such as Protea obtusifo/ia (red cup-shaped flowers in winter) and Leucadendron murii (medium sized bushes with large whitish grey cones). Birders can keep their eyes peeled for Cape Sugarbirds and Orange-breasted Sunbirds – both endemic to Fynbos are also common in winter. Cape Mountain Zebra and Baboon can sometimes be seen along the route. It is a 2 hour ride
15h00: Afternoon guided eco boat trip- 2 hours. Explore the De Hoop Vlei and enjoy bird, game, otter and even porcupine sightings. Enjoy house wines, local beers, juices and savoury snacks. Boat trip to be booked.
Dinner and overnight at De Hoop
Cycling distance 25 km
Optional extra actvity:
You can book a guided vulture experience. You will be accompanied by a Field Guide to view the Cape Vultures near their breeding colony of about 200 vultures. It is the only surviving colony in the Western Cape. Prior arrangement and bookings are essential. The viewing is at 09h00 and includes a picnic backpack. About 1,5 km walk. Approx 3 hours
End of tour
Note: Your cycling distances per day can be extended.
You will stay in a lodge on the Breede river (first night) and 3 nights in De Hoop Nature Reserve. De Hoop offers a wide range from affordable equipped cottages to luxurious suites. For more pictures of De Hoop accommodation, refer to Whale Coast Cycling Gallery
Rates will be quoted on request. Choice of Standard or Superior accommodation. The rate also depends on availability and season. A Minimum of 2 people per group.
Moderate cycling grade Overall rating is Easy/Moderate. You do not need to be ultra-fit, but certainly able to cycle between 30 and 40 km per day and be able to cope with undulating countryside and some hills. The route takes you along stony mountain paths, along field and farm tracks and country roads. There are various routes and you can choose sections which are more challenging if you feel you need an extra challenge. Refer to Cycling grades
Day 1 - Easy: Day 2 - Moderate: Day 3 - Moderate: Day 4 - Easy/Moderate
Day 5- Depart
When to book Whale Coast Cycling
Reserve early to obtain the best rooms. Bookings can be for any time of the year. "High season" is Oct- April. The whale season is from July to November. During winter accommodation is normally more freely available and special rates are available from time to time.
De Hoop Nature Reserve's climate is Mediterranean, with warm summers and mild winters. The reserve gets 380 mm of rain annually. August is the wettest month. In summer, winds blow in from the east, west and southeast, whereas winter has westerly and southwesterly winds.
For international visitors
Fly to Cape Town International airport and drive (or transfer) from Cape Town to Malgas.
From Cape Town to Malgas
Take the N2 towards Somerset West Continue on the N2 through Somerset West and over Sir Lowry's pass. Just before Swellendam turn right at the Malgas/Infanta sign. Continue on the gravel road for approximately 40 km. The Malgas/Infanta road is a gravel/dirt road, the conditions vary depending on the time of year. Suggest that you do not exceed 60 kph
What to take
Wearing a helmet while cycling is mandatory and bicycles need to be equipped with basic repair kit. These items can be provided with bicycles rented via us. Bring your own if you prefer so. If you decide to bring your own, a MTB is the best choice (not a road bike or hybrid).
It is important to be comfortable when cycling so we suggest wearing thin layers of clothing. Fast drying and hard-wearing synthetic fabrics are ideal as a base layer as these allow your skin to breathe and wick the moisture away from your skin to the next layer, avoiding the chill which cotton T-shirts can cause. A thin fleece or sweatshirt is ideal as the next layer. You should also take a lightweight waterproof jacket (breathable and windproof material is best). Sport shoes are fine for cycling and for when you stop off to visit places on foot. For your daily needs, you are advised to have a day-bag, a plastic bag to line your day-pack (to protect the contents from rain), sunglasses, sun block, a water bottle, plastic picnic box (for transporting your lunches), first-aid kit, camera and extra plastic bag for litter. Plan for swimming in Summer.
We recommend that you arrange appropriate holiday insurance covering you against illness, injury, and loss or damage to luggage. This insurance should also cover the possibility of your having to cancel your holiday for any reason.
Our detailed route notes and -description allow you to ride self-guided and at your own pace amid splendid scenery while we transport your luggage. As soon as we have finalised your booking we will specify your hotel schedule. (We are using different hotels/guest houses from time to time). The tailor-made Route guide include hotel details, route notes, maps and GPS references. Going self-guided is simple and convenient with our Route guide. It allows you to set out when you like, stop where you want and visit sites en route that are of interest to you. Our notes include information on monuments, places of interest along the way and suggested stops for lunch, wine tasting etc. The Route guide will be given to you on the date of your arrival. We can provide a file which can be imported to a gps or computer for navigation on a cellphone or gps device.
Availability and Booking
To enquire or reserve a date, go to: Availability request
For general information: Contact us, or
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Booking process and -conditions - Go to How to book
Pictures of Whale Coast Cycling can be viewed in Whale Coast Cycling gallery
Comments by guests who have experienced a self-guided walking/hiking holiday offered by Trails and Travel in South Africa- "Overall, the holiday was invigorating- You certainly went out of your way to make the whole time memorable- We are recommending it to our walking community in the States- Fantastic walks, wines and accommodation" For details, go to Reviews
More about the Whale Coast
Whale Coast Cycling offers you a relaxing self-guided cycling holiday with an abundance of activities in a protected and safe environment. It is an outdoor experience with river, sea, sand dunes, the vlei, a floral sensation of rare fynbos plants, diverse antelope and whale watching .
Contact us for more information about the area.