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How To Follow South Africa’s Whale Trail For The Best Sightings

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  • What is South Africa’s Whale Trail?
  • The six day journey along South Africa’s Whale Trail

Travelers who love the beauty of the coast, especially travelers who love outdoor activities like hiking, should check out this stunning multi-day trek that meanders along the coast of South Africa. South of the equator, the seasons in South Africa are opposite to the seasons in countries in the northern hemisphere, providing an excellent winter escape.

This hike is also an excellent way to spot wildlife not only of the ocean but also along the South African coast. This truly breathtaking hike is a must-do for outdoor travelers planning to travel in the fall.

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What is South Africa’s Whale Trail?

Situated alongside the ecologically diverse and geographically stunning De Hoop Nature Reserve, the Whale Trail meanders some 55 km (34 miles) through ideal scenic terrain for backpackers.

This hike takes five days along a well-established route that is followed by many hikers.

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The nature of the reserve is unspoiled and known for its exquisite limestone formations, huge sand dunes and abundant wildlife – just a few of South Africa’s Instagram-worthy scenes.

The What Trail starts at the Potberghütte. Here travelers probably arrived the day before to spend the night. It’s common for travelers to do this so they can hike their first 15 kilometers (9.3 miles).

The cabin is also a great resource for getting information from the rangers on what hikers can expect, including information on the terrain, wildlife, flora, safety, emergency evacuation, and even cell phone reception. They also help ensure travelers are packed appropriately.

  • distance – 55 km (34.2 miles), multi-day hike
  • hiking map – Map
  • difficulty level – Day 1: (because of the initial steep climb) 6/10, Days 2-5: 5/10
  • Technical evaluation – Easy to moderate standard walking. Day 1 and Day 2 are a bit more technical.

See also: Top 10 Natural Attractions in South Africa’s Cape Town

The six day journey along South Africa’s Whale Trail

Travelers are welcome to the Whale Trail Hike at De Hoop Nature Reserve. Check-in begins at 2 p.m. at the Potberg Hut in the reserve the day before the trek begins.

If you check in the day before, travelers have the opportunity to orient themselves to the Potberghütte and the surrounding area. Travelers are treated to South African braai, which is essentially barbecue.

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You’ll also have the chance to sample regional wines that will be paired with your meal. Travelers will also be briefed on the trek and meet their guide during this time.

First day: Potberg to Cupidoskraal (15 km)

On the first day of hiking, travelers start the day early in the morning with a hearty breakfast at the Potberghütte.

The first challenge of the day is the Potberg ascent. It is the highest of the entire trail and a great spot to soak up the scent of the Erica and Protea shrubs. Many of them cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

This is also a great place for photography. The gliding Cape vultures can occasionally be spotted in the sky overlooking the reserve’s stunning landscape.

Second day: Cupidoskraal to Noetsie (15 km)

On the second day of the trek, travelers follow the ridge of the Potberg as it makes its way through mountainous scrub to unparalleled aesthetic views of the Indian Ocean and Breede River.

The route consists of the Potberg and takes travelers up limestone hills dotted with an abundance of strikingly different shrubbery than on the Potberg.

The descent continues into Noetsie Bay along the coast.

Day 3: Noetsie to Hamerkop (7.8 km)

The third day of this hike contributes to its name, the Whale Trail. Here travelers have the opportunity to spot whales and dolphins from the cliffs, ancient shell middens and caves that make this land a paradise.

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Limestone formations that look like sculptures are visible on the white sand of the beach, adding to the wondrous scene.

Travelers have the opportunity to rest at Stilgat to cool off at the rock pools and caves that are easy to explore. Or travelers can simply enjoy the stunning views from the cliffs.

See also: Guide to the best time to visit Kruger National Park and what wildlife to see there

Day 4: Hamerkop to Vaalkrans (10.5 km)

The fourth day is spent almost exclusively walking along the white sandy beach. This is where travelers will find they have some company. Oystercatchers and white-breasted cormorants can rest in the sun.


There are tide pools to explore and limestone formations to admire. Travelers will also have some swimming opportunities on the day.

The last stretch of the day leads through a diverse coastal vegetation on the way to the travelers’ accommodation in Vaalkrans on a cave.

Day 5: Vaalkrans to Koppie Alleen (7 km, 4.3 mi)

On the final day of this Whale Trail trek, travelers will cruise through the coastal thicket and have plenty of time to enjoy the day’s scenery. Travelers also have the option to swim in Hippo Pools. During whale season, travelers can spot up to 50 whales near the pools. It’s not the whale watching capital of the world, but it certainly feels like it!

At the end, travelers are taken back to Potberg by shuttle, where they can pick up their luggage.

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