*The public is advised that due to a recent fire, the Cupidoskraal overnight hut has been replaced by a hut nearby. Details will be provided upon booking.

The Whale Trail

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


Potberg Hut

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

Cupidos Kraal - The Whale Trail


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


The newly built Noetsie huts
Image: Tarryn Clarke

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

Hammerkop - Whale Trail

Hamerkop Hut

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

Vaalkrans Hut - The Whale Trail

Vaalkrans hut

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.

Whale Trail

Whale Trail Map (right click the image, save as)

There are five comfortable cottages along the Whale Trail.

Luggage transport
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.

Please note
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.

Day Hikes

Hiking trails

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.

Trail preparation

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.
  • Do not hike alone.
  • Carry enough food and water with you.
  • Make sure you know what the weather conditions are before you depart.
  • Take a warm jacket/raincoat in winter.
  • Make sure you have a relevant map of the area.
  • Take a field medical kit with you for emergencies.
  • Obey all signage.
  • Stay in a group and on the trails.