02 October 2013 by Kate Turkington

Whale watching without the crowds

It’s whale-watching season, and if you want to find somewhere beautiful to do this away from the madding crowd, then head for the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Stroll alone on gorgeous beaches...

Whale-watching season is in full swing until November, so now is the time to take yourself off to the Cape south coast and enjoy fantastic sightings of southern right whales as they mate, calve and play.

There’s also a very good chance of seeing humpback, minke, Bryde’s and perhaps killer whales.

Why are they called the ‘right’ whales? It’s because whalers found them easy to harpoon, and once dead, their bodies floated on the surface for easy retrieval.

A southern right mother and baby

Hermanus is the whale-watching capital of South Africa – there’s even a Whale Festival every September – but if you want to stay away from the crowds and try somewhere really beautiful and remote, then head out towards South Africa’s southernmost tip, Cape Agulhas, and visit De Hoop Nature Reserve.

The reserve, managed as a private and public enterprise initiative between CapeNature and the De Hoop Collection, has lovely accommodation of all kinds set among fynbos plains where bontebok, Cape mountain zebra, eland, red hartebeest, baboons and ostrich roam. There are over 1 500 different plants, including rare proteas, and if you hike one of the many inland De Hoop trails you’ll be walking through fields of yellow, purple, pink and coral flowers.

In the distance you’ll see high white dunes that line 70km of stunning beaches and overlook the Marine Protected Area, which stretches 5km out to sea.

If you want to stay away from the crowds, and try somewhere really beautiful and remote, then head out towards South Africa’s southernmost tip, Cape Agulhas, and visit De Hoop Nature Reserve.

I stayed at one of the comfortable cottages overlooking the 16km-long De Hoop vlei (area of marshy ground), an important Ramsar site that is home to hundreds of waterbirds, from pelicans and flamingos to migrant waders and fish eagles.

If you’re a family, or with a group of friends, then choose the 1900s Manor House, or the 1872 Melkkamer Cottage, and relax in perfect seclusion. The Fig Tree restaurant in the reserve serves tasty food for all occasions and will even pack you a picnic with a bottle of chilled wine.

The really great thing about being here is that you’ll see very few other people. My friend and I took a picnic to the beach where we watched over 100 whales cavort, float, breach and play.

And we were the only people there.

A fully equipped cottage

Category: Attractions, Wildlife

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