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Posted on: Tuesday, 4 August 2009
South African Hiking Trails

The Whale Trail – the five-day Whale Hiking trail

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The Whale Trail is not a new trail, having been around since about 2002, but it has become extremely popular. Nonetheless, the five-day Whale Hiking trail must be one of South Africa’s greatest selling points. It is truly a unique experience, perhaps comparable with the likes of the Otter Trail that rates as one of the top 10 hiking trails in South Africa and is popular to the point that one needs to book two years in advance, so be warned!

The Whale Trail spans over 55 kilometres from Potberg to Koppie Alleen with five overnight stops. Its comparison with the Otter Trail stops at its popularity and the cliff-top walk to Hamerkop, for the rest of its setting is totally different. The Whale Trail combines both mountain and coastal walking, predominantly through the De Hoop Nature Reserve, close to Bredasdorp.


The Whale Trail


Of course the main reason for doing the hike, other than the incredible scenery, is the increased chance of sighting whales. De Hoop lies on a portion of the coast strongly associated with the Southern Right Whale. Sometimes more than 50 of these peaceful giants can be spotted at a time.

Better still, the hike is designed for those with a moderate degree of fitness – you don’t need to have conquered Kilimanjaro to manage the Whale Trail – and the days vary when it comes to intensity. For instance the first day is the most strenuous and covers 15 kilometre climbing 611 metres of the Potberg Mountain, whilst day three is half that and gives one more time to loiter and drink in the views and the rock pools along the coast.

Overnights are in a series of cottages that don’t qualify as ‘roughing it’, whilst the trail  only takes groups of 6 or 12, so planning who accompanies you on the hike takes on an added dimension.



Destination Info:

De Hoop Nature Reserve
The Cape Whale Coast
Western Cape accommodation
South Africa Accommodation


Reservations for the Whale Trail can be made through Cape Nature:
The Contact centre is open from 07h00 to 16h30 (South African time) on weekdays.
Telephone: +27 (0)21 483-0000


The Whale Trail

The Whale Trail



Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

You are reading Popular Hiking Trails and Walks in South Africa Series Read more from this series of articles.

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1 comment about The Whale Trail – the five-day Whale Hiking trail
  1. August 29th, 2012 at 20:11
    Jenny Roos says:

    A couple of friends and myself finished the 5 day whale trail in De Hoop nature reserve last week – 25 August 2012. It was really beautiful and a priviledge to see the many different and beautiful Flora species. Also the coastline was the most scenic I’ve ever seen in my life. We were absolutely amazed at the many whales and also calves to be seen – incredible. Our accommodation was very comfortable, with high quality utensils and well organized.

    However, we were all 60 yrs plus ladies and that was a mistake. The younger, the better we agreed. As far as we were concerned there was no moderate or mild hiking days. All of them were very hard for us, consisting of climbing up and down huge rocks and boulders and walking over loose stones and rocks of all sizes most of the time. That was extremely hard on our knees, thank goodness for walking sticks. We’re used to walking 5 km/ per hour, but on the trail we could mostly only manage 2 km/hr. The first day took us 8.5 hours to complete.

    We needed pain killers every morning before starting and also before going to bed at night. After showering at night we intensively rubbed our sore limbs, from toes to calves and shoulders.

    So I guess the bottom line is : experience the wonderful Whale Trail, but the younger and fitter you are the better.