“It’s more than just a retreat – it’s total surrender”
De Hoop is one of the largest natural areas managed by CapeNature. This beautiful reserve is a favourite for hikers, cyclists, and bird and whale watchers. The reserve, which is 34 000 hectares, is just three hours from Cape Town, in the Overberg.
The neighbouring marine reserve, which extends 5km out to sea, is one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa. It conserves a vast and fascinating variety of marine life. The reserve is a World Heritage Site.
De Hoop has one of the best hiking trails in South Africa: the Whale Trail. This route offers coastal and mountain walking, with spectacular views and, of course, plenty of opportunities for whale watching. This route is a five-day trail featuring well-equipped accommodation on each of the five nights, including the newly-built Noetsie cottages, which are your stopover between days two and three.
To get a taste of De Hoop Nature Reserve, watch the video below.
To find out more, download the De Hoop Nature Reserve brochure.
Please note: The management of the tourism activities and accommodation facilities of the cottages and camping sites at De Hoop Nature Reserve (excluding the Whale Trail) is handled by De Hoop Collection.
How to get there
Potberg & Whale Trail:
Take the N2 from Cape Town to Caledon. Turn right at the second turn off to Caledon, where you will find the Venster Restaurant on your left side. Drive through Caledon and then continue on the R316 to Bredasdorp, via Napier. At the 3rd four-way stop street in Bredasdorp, turn left into All Saints Street (Engen garage on left corner). Travel approximately 8 km on the R319 to Swellendam (past the silos on right hand side). Turn right onto the gravel road signposted Infanta, Malgas and De Hoop. Travel for approximately 50 km straight on to Potberg. (Do not turn right at the De Hoop turn-off). Follow whale trail signs. Go past Ouplaas School. Potberg gate is approximately 10 km from the school.
Koppie Alleen & De Hoop Collection:
Take N2 to Caledon. From Caledon drive through Napier to Bredasdorp. From Bredasdorp take the R319 to Swellendam. At about 6kms turn right – sign posted De Hoop/Malgas/Infanta. Follow the gravel road for 35kms until you see a sign to the right – De Hoop Nature Reserve.
GPS Co-Ordinates (for reserve office/campsite): 34.454040 S 20.400098 E
Office hours: 07:30–16:00
Tel: +27 (0)28 542 1114/5. If the landline does not connect, or just rings, this means that the line is down.
Whale Trail and permit bookings Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190
The five Whale Trail overnight cottages lie at the foot of the Potberg Mountains, perched high on a sea cliff. The charming cottages range from Arniston-style units to A-framed thatched “kapstyl” cottages. Each fully equipped cottage sleeps up to 12 people, generally with three bedrooms (four beds in each). Hikers bring their own bedding. Dishwashing liquid, toilet paper, matches and candles are provided.
Electricity: Yes, solar powered
Bathroom: Hot-water shower (gas geyser)
Kitchen: Fully equipped, with gas stove, cutlery and crockery
Bedding, linen and towels: No
Fireplace/braai facilities: Yes, indoor and outdoor (except Noetsie – outside only), with wood, braai tongs and grid
Disabled access: No
Pets welcome: No
Trail distance: Approximately 55km
The Whale Trail is an unforgettable experience, taking you through one of the Western Cape’s most unique and diverse nature reserves.
The route stretches over 55km, from Potberg to Koppie Alleen, with five overnight stops (hikers spend the first night at Potberg before starting the trail). The unspoilt natural beauty on this trail is unsurpassable, leading through lush fynbos and offering stunning views of the coast.
De Hoop is known as one of the best land-based whale-watching spots in the world. Between June and November, the coastline is transformed as southern right whales migrate here to breed and look after their young.
Unfortunately, children below the age of eight are not allowed on the trail. The route is fairly strenuous, varying in intensity.
Reservations are limited to group bookings of either six or 12. The tariff includes the shuttle service from Koppie Alleen, where the trail ends, back to the Potberg tourism office and the undercover Whale Trail parking area.
Day 1: Potberg to Cupidoskraal
Trail distance: 15km
Estimated time: 8 hours
Get up early to tackle the first, and toughest, stretch of the trail. Hikers will walk to the top of Potberg (611m), which has breathtaking panoramic views of Swellendam, the Indian Ocean and the Breede River, Cape Infanta and Cape Agulhas. Keep your eyes open for the rare Cape vulture. The trail descends along the watershed above Grootkloof towards Cupidoskraal, where you will find erica and protea species that grow only here and nowhere else in the world! You can end your day by cooling off in the refreshing dam.
Day 2: Cupidoskraal to Noetsie
Trail distance: 14.7km
Estimated time: 8 hours
On the second day, hikers walk to the Noetsie cottages. The Noetsie cottages have just been completely rebuilt on the footprint of the old cabins, with minimum ecological impact in mind. Day Two’s trail follows the crest of the Potberg through mountain fynbos with unequalled views of the Indian Ocean and the Breede River. The route finally exits Potberg and leads onto limestone hills with strikingly different fynbos, then descends to the enchanting bay of Noetsie at the coast.
Day 3: Noetsie to Hamerkop
Trail distance: 7.8km
Estimated time: 6 hours (3 hours of actual walking with the rest suggested for several break periods)
There is ample time for exploring the coastline on this stretch, as day three takes you along the coast, with the Marine Protected Area on your left. Stilgat is a most enjoyable stop. Several vantage points lie ahead until you reach a beach stretching a short distance to Hamerkop Cottage.
Day 4: Hamerkop to Vaalkrans
Trail distance: 10.5km
Estimated time: 6 hours
The long beachwalk on day four can be quite strenuous. Allow time to rest. On the way you pass Lekkerwater lodge. Look out for the shy oystercatchers and whitebreasted cormorants basking in the sun. The intertidal pools on the wave-cut rock platforms and coral reefs are remarkable sights. The last stretch to Vaalkrans ambles through diverse coastal vegetation.
Day 5: Vaalkrans to Koppie Alleen
Trail distance: 7km
Estimated time: 6 hours (3 hours of actual walking with the rest suggested for several break periods)
This is a short hike through coastal thickets with ample time to soak up the last of the scenic landscapes. There are two alternative routes for high and low tide. Hippo Pools offers great swimming before the path leads up to Koppie Alleen where the trail ends.
There are five comfortable cottages along the Whale Trail.
This is slack-packing at its finest. Your extra luggage is transported every day to the next cottage, so all you need to carry on the trail is a day pack. The 60-litre transport containers are waiting for you at Potberg cottage.
Up to 14 units per group of 12 are allowed, or seven units per group of six. Hikers pay for each container transported to the next cottage, including units used as cooler boxes on the trail.
The Denel Overberg Testing Range occasionally uses the eastern sector of De Hoop Nature Reserve for missile testing. CapeNature receives limited notice of these tests. Although we try to minimise disruption to our hikers, it may be necessary for us to evacuate groups from the Whale Trail while the tests are being conducted.
By participating in the Whale Trail, you acknowledge and accept that missile testing may be conducted at any particular time. You further accept to indemnify CapeNature, its employees, agents, contractors and any other persons affiliated thereto, from any damage, loss or injury, which may occur as a result of an evacuation or otherwise.
For more information please contact our booking office on +27 (0)21 483 0190.
This beautiful and diverse nature reserve is a hiking paradise. De Hoop’s Klipspringer and Coastal trails allow visitors to explore the reserve’s rich plant and wildlife.
De Hoop is also renowned for the famous Whale Trail, a multi-day hike that traverses stunning scenery and offers the chance to spot southern right whales along the coastline.
De Hoop Coastal Trail
This linear trail begins at Koppie Alleen – a great viewpoint for whale watching. From here, visitors can either walk along the beach or take an exploratory ramble across the rocky shore. Use the boardwalk to get to the water’s edge, turning left to explore rock pools, limestone cliffs and rocky outcrops. The beach walk is to your right.
Both walks are best at low tide, when the beach sand is most suitable for walking and coastal limestone platforms become exposed. A tide table is available at the office and at the gate. Please take care not to trample the fragile vegetation on the beach route.
De Hoop Klipspringer Trail
Trail distance: 6km
Estimated time: 2 hours
This circular trail winds across the Potberg Mountains, in the north-eastern section of the reserve. The hike begins at Potberg’s environmental education centre. The views of the Breede River valley are breathtaking. Hikers will also see the Cape vulture colony – the only remaining breeding colony in Western Cape.
Permits may be purchased for R40 per adult and R20 per child at the reserve office or through CapeNature Central Reservations.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is home to the world’s smallest and most threatened plant kingdom – the Cape Floral Kingdom. The reserve has the largest conserved area of lowland fynbos in the Western Cape. Of the 9 000 plant species found in the Cape floral region, the reserve and its surrounds have an estimated 1 500 species.
De Hoop has 86 mammal species, such as the rare bontebok and Cape mountain zebra, as well as eland, grey rhebok, baboon, yellow mongoose, caracal and the occasional leopard. The nature reserve also has more than 260 bird species, including many water birds living around the De Hoop vlei. Potberg is home to the only remaining breeding colony of the rare Cape vulture in the Western Cape.
The highest level of protection is applied at the De Hoop MPA to limit human impact to a minimum. Not even a rock or little shell may be removed from here, but if you’re willing to walk a bit, you can also enjoy this area.
The De Hoop MPA does not only protect the reserve and the coastline. It also stretches three nautical miles into the sea, protecting dolphins, seals, southern right whales and at least 250 species of fish.
De Hoop lies at the southernmost tip of Africa, where mountains meet the sea and create a fusion between freshwater and marine habitats that support a staggering array of terrestrial and aquatic life. Encompassing roughly 34 000 hectares, this World Heritage Site is one of the largest natural areas managed by CapeNature.
Annually, between July and November, southern right whales make their epic journey back to the safety of these rich waters to mate and calve – a spectacular site to witness. With many large mammals (most notably the rare bontebok and Cape mountain zebra) and a great diversity of birds, the reserve has also become well known for supporting the only breeding colony of Cape vultures left in the Western Cape.
See the videos below for De Hoop’s Filming Options.
De Hoop Overview
De Hoop – Koppie Alleen
De Hoop Vlei
Thank you very much to the friendly and efficient staff at de Hoop for making our first camping holiday as a family a great success.
When you drive in, over the high hills, you feel as if you are entering a forgotten and magical place.
Even though it was fully booked, we only saw a few people and it never felt crowded.
It was lovely to be able to walk around and view the animals and birds,
The Birding walk was interesting and the guide was very nice. It could have been longer because the walk was much easier than expected and the trail fairly good, so I wasn't tired at all.
The beach was just beautiful and the kids spent ages looking into rock pools and looking for fish. We didn't do the marine walk because it was a bit expensive.
The booklet we bought was interesting and great fun to tick off the things we saw. It might be nice to have a book or poster somewhere, where people can identify something new that they have seen while out walking. Instead of asking the staff all the time.
Thanks to the baboon monitors who kept the cheeky baboons at a distance so that they were comic relief and not the big problem that they could have been.
My husband enjoyed the biking very much, but said that the 30km route needs a little maintenance as the restios across the path are a bit painful against the shins and the sandy parts had to be walked.
I did the 3km vlei walk (because I am not a hiker) and it was easy and enjoyable, with various terrain and views.
Meeting Professor Tony was a highlight of the trip. His snake show was great and changed our whole opinion of snakes. He helped identify birds, insects, buck, etc and generally took the time out to chat and inform anyone who was interested. As our kids put it "A totally cool guy". Please thank him for us.
We had a fantastic holiday and feel very lucky that we were able to visit de Hoop.
We will definitely come again.
[…] and the mussels that they feed on are protected too. It’s just one of many reasons why the De Hoop Nature Reserve is so […]
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Bookings are processed through our Call Centre during office hours Monday to Friday 07h30 to 16h30 and Saturday 08h00 until 12h00 noon (CAT).
Our friendly tourism booking officers will take you through the booking process and answer all enquiries.