09 June 2014 by Andrea Weiss

Beautiful De Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape

​De Hoop Nature Reserve near the southern tip of Africa is a beautiful reserve with 70km of pristine coastline.

Koppie Alleen is a prime whale-viewing site within De Hoop Nature Reserve

I have a vivid memory of hiking the iconic 54km Whale Trail at De Hoop Nature Reserve with family and friends a few years ago. 

It was just before Christmas and we were traversing a lovely stretch of coastline between Noetsie and Hammerkop. 

We had just enjoyed lunch in bright sunshine next to a rock pool where we had been snorkelling. As we resumed our hike, I was still thinking about putting on sunscreen when, within half an hour, a wild storm blew in off the sea straight off Antarctica (or so it felt). 

For the next two hours, we struggled along a precipitous cliff path through wind and rain with sea foam flying all around us, until we made the safety of the hiking hut. Here we could dry out and string up our soaking clothes around the fire. 

There could be no better illustration of why you should always be prepared for all weathers when hiking!

But you don't have to do the Whale Trail to experience De Hoop.

The De Hoop Collection offers a range of accommodation from a handful of campsites to a luxurious stay in an old manor house, with several variations in between. 

The Opstal Manor House offers guests a comfortable night in well-appointed rooms

You can also book a fully catered and guided three-day trail based at the Melkkamer Manor House on De Hoop Vlei. The vlei (wetland) is a birder's paradise as some 260 species have been recorded here.

De Hoop Vlei is a wetland of international significance for its birdlife

The main centre of the reserve is at the old Opstal homestead with its enormous wild fig trees. 

The giant wild figs outside the main centre of the reserve

Here you can also see bright red splashes of colour against the whitewashed walls when the aloes are flowering in winter (June to August).

Aloe ferox blooms outside the manor house

This Opstal suite has stable doors that swing wide open to allow occupants to enjoy an uninterrupted view.

Accommodation at the Opstal Manor House

While De Hoop is more renowned for its whales, there are also animals like leopard, caracal, bontebok, eland, baboons, and, of course, lots and lots of birds. At the Potberg mountain on the eastern edge of the reserve you'll find the only breeding colony of Cape vultures in the Western Cape.

Cape spurfowl are common here

Koppie Alleen, however, is the jewel in the crown. Think turquoise water, unblemished beaches and the sound of the African oystercatchers' piping call against a backdrop of crashing waves.

A boardwalk takes you down to a vantage point over the sea at Koppie Alleen
A pair of African oystercatchers take flight

This is a prime whale-watching spot. An estimated 40% of the southern right whale population that visits South Africa's shores visits this stretch of coastline, and there are anecdotal accounts of up to 700 whales gathering here at the height of the season (the season is in spring, from around August and it can stretch through to November).

Mmm. Maybe time to make a Whale Trail booking again!

Shells on the beach

Category: Attractions, Routes & Trails, Wildlife

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