The Whale Trail
Hike Overview: The Whale Trail
This breathtaking 5 day hike is a perfect homage to the unique scenic splendor of our country and should be on every South Africans bucket list. There are endless secluded beaches, rock pools, panoramic views, abundant wild life, picturesque accommodation and even a well deserved cold beer at the end of each day (thank you slack packing). The Whale Trail is a true slice of paradise – just buy some takkies and book it, you will not be disappointed.
Go Outside Rating: *****
Trail Type: 5 day hike
Slack Packing: Yes! (Must be organised in advance)
Level: Moderate, suitable for hikers of all levels
Total Distance: 55km’s over 5 days
Daily Distance: Day 1: 15km Day 2: 14.7km Day 3: 7.8km Day 4: 10.5km Day 5: 7km
Location: Dehoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape
Accommodation: Included, and you haven’t seen anything like it
Ablutions: Yes, excellent condition
Path Markings: Adequate
Parking: Yes, uncovered
Access Road: Graded gravel road
Cell Reception: Yes
Bookings: Bookings are essential and the trail is generally fully booked a year in advance
Capacity: One group of 12 OR Two groups of 6
THE WHALE TRAIL
The toughest part of the Whale Trail is securing a booking (okay and co-ordinating menus and packing lists and WhatsApp groups and training hikes and travel plans for 12 people). We booked a year in advance and they only had one date available for the hike – we took it and considered ourselves lucky. 12 months and 0 training hikes later we arrived in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, ready for the adventure of a life-time.
The first night of the trail is spent at Potberg, a good sized hiker’s cabin where you leave your cars for the duration of the hike and get a quick safety briefing on the procedures and expectations for the trail. Though inland, and modest compared to the accommodation awaiting you on the rest of the hike, the big braai area and fresh Cape air are a wonderful start to the Whale Trail.
Day 1: Potberg to Cupidoskraal (15km)
It is generally understood that the first day, which is also the longest and steepest of the trail, is the toughest. But we found that although a fresh start is definitely recommended, the excitement of finally being on the trail and our fresh “first day legs” made it a relatively easy and enjoyable hike.
The day included steep cliff-top views, circling birds of prey, lunch on the banks of a quiet river, a slow final decent towards Cupidoskraal, sunset swimming in the nearby dam and campfire games long into the night.
Day 2: Cupioskraal to Noetsie (14.7km)
In our opinion the second day is tougher than the first. It is a long hike with a number of tricky descents, very little shade and constantly changing terrain. But tired legs and sore knees are quickly forgotten when you spot the ocean for the first time and even more so when you see your accommodation for the night.
The beautiful, modern huts overlook a secluded beach and fresh water lagoon and the rest of the day can be spent swimming, wave surfing and exploring the nearby caves… (what sore legs?)
Day 3: Noetsie to Hamerkop (7.8km)
From here on out the trail is nothing but spectacular ocean views, different shades of blue, long beach stretches and an endless scanning of the horizon in the hopes of spotting a whale.
The slack pack items arrive a little later each day (they are delivered by the same bakkie that does a circular route past all the houses daily). This means that you should take full advantage of all the lookouts and rock pools along the way as the hike is flat and relatively quick and there is no point in arriving at the house before the cooler bags.
Hamerkop is situated in the middle of a deserted beach and the swimming directly in front of the house is fantastic. There is an open air braai area and a deck on the second floor for whale watching.
Day 4: Hamerkop to Vaalkrans (11km)
By now walking has become a way of life but the early morning beach walk required on day 4 may still come as a shock to your calf muscles. We recommend setting off early as the pace is generally slower on the sand and there are some magical snorkeling spots to be enjoyed towards the end of the trail.
The house at Vaalkrans is perched on a cliff above the ocean (spectacular views have become a way of life too). It belongs to a Cape Cobra but he graciously vacates the house when guests arrive (although it is still worth keeping an eye out – just in case).
A long wooden dining room table and cosy indoor fire set the mood for the last night on the trail which will undoubtedly be spent reminiscing on the adventures of the past few days, inventing new cocktails with the remaining booze and a long investigation into who ate the Snickers… well that’s what we did at least.
Day 5: Vaalkrans to Koppie Alleen (7km)
The final day is a short and easy hike along the coast and it leads to the best snorkeling spot on the trail by far. The swimming hole is very close to the pick-up point so you can swim and snorkel and explore without worrying about being late for the shuttle.
And that’s it. Before you know it you are back at your car with sand in your toes and salt on your skin, facing the glaring reality that you are not the only 12 people in the world…
The Whale Trail
Video Date: 25 December 2015
5 glorious days on the iconic South African Whale Trail. (The fun seen in this video is not guaranteed, unless you have friends as crazy as ours!)
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The Whale trail is more of a holiday than a hike. Although we were a relatively fit group, it is certainly suitable for hikers of all fitness levels.
Bookings: Cape Nature handles all Whale Trail bookings and reservations. They are extremely helpful and professional (021 483 0190).
Slack packing is cheating but in this instance it is fantastic. Having no heavy bag means there is more time for enjoying the scenery, swimming and other activities during the day. And more wine to enjoy at night. There is an additional cost for slack packing, and space is still limited.