Overview- Whale Coast walk

Whale Coast Walk offers you a relaxing 4 day, self-guided walking 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.


TypeSelf-guided walk plus activities with Field guide
LocationDe Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa
Group size1+ people
Duration3 nights/4 days
Day StagesAverage 13 km
Distance26 km or more
Terrainhiking trails
MealsBreakfast or D B&B
CostAvailable on request
DatesWhole year. Oct to April is “High season”. Whale watching June to Nov

Trip details

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.

Whale watching

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 hiking along selected 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 or mountain biking. Relaxing on the beach and snorkeling in the many turquoise rock pools is simply another way to pass a rewarding day. 

Accommodation and restaurants

3 nights at De Hoop Nature Reserve in cottage or suite- wide range of accommodation. Restaurant open daily.

Day 1 (Arrival Day)
14h00: Check-in at the De Hoop Opstal reception.
After settling into the accommodation, a briefing of the next three days together with a short walk.

Thereafter 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
19h30: Dinner in the restaurant

Day 2 (Marine Walk)

It is ideal for this day of your booking to be on a date when low tide will be between 11h30- 13h00

08h00: Breakfast served in restaurant. 

09h00: Walk or transfer to Koppie Alleen for interpretive marine walk

You have to meet your guide at Koppie Alleen on the coastline ( 14 km from your accommodation) at an agreed time (low tide). You have the option to ride with the guide to Koppie Alleen and walk back or walk to Koppie Alleen and ride back with the guide. 

Take Trail 3.2 from the restaurant. After leaving the main road this hiking 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. Your guide will unveil the relationships and interactions of the many marine creatures found in the intertidal zone. Also a great way to experience the Southern Right Whales in the bay. Picnic lunch at the coast.

Confirm your eco boat booking for the next day
Dinner and overnight at De Hoop

Distance 14 km

Day 3 (The Dassie trail and Eco boat cruise)

After breakfast at 08h00, a 12 km -4 hour- circular route (no 1) that follows some rocky terrain to the southern end of the vlei and back. Look out for birds and large game. 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. Do not enter the abandoned house, half way through the trail (honey bees)

15h00: Explore the De Hoop Vlei and enjoy bird, game, otter and even porcupine sightings with eco cruise experience (Weather permitting).  Enjoy house wines, local beers, juices and savoury snacks (duration about 2 hours)

Distance: 12km
Elevation: 110m

Day 4 (Departure)
Optional extra actvity (3 hours)
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. Short walk 1,5 km.
End of tour

Extra day

An extra day can be booked for hiking or cycling. Bikes can be hired.

Note: Your walking distances per day can be extended.

You will stay 3 nights in De Hoop Nature Reserve. De Hoop offers a wide range from equipped cottages to luxurious suites. For more pictures of De Hoop accommodation, refer to Whale Coast Walk Gallery

Equipped Cottage 1
Equipped cottage
Equipped Cottage seating area
Equipped cottage
Fig Tree Suite
Fig Tree suite
Cloete Suite
Cloete suite

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.

3 nights accommodation in selected lodges/cottages/suites.
Dinner and breakfast. (For some accommodation options it will be breakfast only)
Eco boat trip, incl snacks and drinks
Nature drive, incl snacks and drinks
Interpretive guided marine walk, incl picnic lunch
Detailed Route directions.
Information about the area
Not included
Items not listed above, eg
Transport to and from De Hoop Nature Reserve
Other lunches, snacks, drinks with meals (restaurant at De Hoop)

Overall rating is Easy/Moderate. You do not need to be ultra-fit, but certainly able to hike between 13 and 20 km per day and be able to cope with undulating countryside and some hills. The route takes you along sandy and stony paths, along field tracks and dirt roads. There are various routes and you can choose sections which are more challenging if you feel you need an extra challenge. Refer to Walking grades

Day 1 – Easy: Day 2 – Moderate: Day 3 – Moderate: Day 4 – Depart

When to book Whale Coast Walk

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.

Getting there

For international visitors
Fly to Cape Town International airport and drive (or transfer) from Cape Town.

From Cape Town to De Hoop

Take N2 to Caledon. From Caledon drive on the R316 through Napier to Bredasdorp. From Bredasdorp continue on the R316 down Long Street and  turn left at the Caltex Toyota Garage onto All Saints Road and take the R319 to Swellendam out of town for about 6 km and then turn right – sign posted De Hoop / Malgas / Infanta. Travel on the gravel road for 33 km until you see a sign to the right – BUCHU BUSHCAMP / DE HOOP. It is 7 km from this turn off to the Main Gate of the Park and a further 8km to the office.

What to take

Comfortable, well aerated clothes in keeping with the season. Always bring a pullover, windbreaker, good walking boots (already worn-in) and several pairs of cotton or woollen socks. 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), rainwear, a sun-hat, sunglasses, sun block, a water bottle, plastic picnic boxes (for transporting your lunches), first-aid kit , camera and film, torch/flashlight and an extra plastic bag for litter.


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.

Route description

Our detailed route notes and description allow you to walk self-guided and at your own pace amid splendid scenery while we transport your luggage.

As soon as we have finalized your booking we will forward details by email. This will specify your accommodation and provide directions.  The second component of your route description is your Route guide. This specially prepared guide includes route notes, maps and GPS references. Self-guided walking is simple and convenient with our Route guide. Hikers can set out when they like, stop where they want and visit sites en route that are of interest to them. The Route guide will be given to you on 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

email: info@trailsandtravel.co.za, or

Booking process and -conditions – Go to  How to book



Pictures of Whale Coast Walk can be viewed in Whale Coast Walk gallery 


MG 0172
Nature drive
de hoop nature reserve cape mountain zebra
Whale Coast Cycling 3
Whale watching
De Hoop eco boat
Eco boat trip
koppie alleen 1
Koppie Alleen marine walk
MG 0230
Vulture experience


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 Walk offers you a relaxing self-guided walking 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.

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