De Hoop High Res copyright Scott Ramsay 22
De Hoop Nature Reserve
The Whale Trail

Map of Reserve area

The Whale Trail is an unforgettable experience, taking you through De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Where to Stay

What to Do

Bring along your binoculars to get up close and personal with some of the 260 bird species in the reserve. Potberg at De Hoop is home to the only remaining Western Cape breeding colony of the rare Cape vulture.

De Hoop’s marine reserve is a breeding ground for the southern right whale. About 120 whales return to these waters every year to mate and calve.

The high dunes at Koppie Alleen offer an excellent vantage point for whale watching.

Visitors should be on the lookout for bontebok, Cape mountain zebra, eland, grey rhebok, baboon and yellow mongoose. De Hoop is also home to the shy caracal and leopard.

The Whale Trail Visitors Centre

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 Whale Trail parking area. Portage of R560 per unit (box) is in addition to the tariff.

To get a taste of the amazing Whale Trail watch the video below:


Day 1: Potberg to Cupidoskraal

Potberg Hut

Trail distance: 15.5km

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: 15.2km

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

Trail distance: 8.5km

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

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

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.

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 70-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 087 087 8250.

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.

To find out more, download the De Hoop Nature Reserve brochure below.

Guest videos

Thanks to Cornel Rautenbach

Thanks to Ettienne Myburgh

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 the R316 to Bredasdorp, via Napier. At the 3rd four-way stop street in Bredasdorp, turn left into All Saints Street (Caltex 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

GPS Co-Ordinates (for Potberg reserve office): 34°22'29.15"S 20°31'59.75"E

General information

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: 087 087 8250

What Our Guests Say


Only group bookings of six or twelve permitted, from R2 050 per person. Portage R560 per unit (box).

Potberg Dormitory Eco-venue up to R150 per person per day.

See Tariffs
Conservation Fees


Day Access = R50


Day Access = R30

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What our guests say
The overnight hut's locations were superb!, 20 Mar 2024
The overnight hut's locations were superb! Well done to an awesome adventure.
Whale Trail Review 1, 05 Sep 2023
The Whale Trail is great, and the accommodation is excellent. Facilities in the overnight huts worked really well (gas hobs, showers, fridges), and the transporting of our boxes from hut to hut was entirely reliable.
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