The wonders of the Whale Trail
NATURE TRAVEL, CONSERVATION | OCTOBER 31, 2022
Don’t think of the Whale Trail as a five-day hike. Rather see this incredible trail as five very different landscape experiences.
There’s no shortage of information available on this incredible hike, created by CapeNature, taking you over the Potberg mountain and into the De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Overberg. And most will highlight where you start, and where you end up.
Perhaps the thing that stood out most for the LoveGreen team during the hike was how the landscape simply dissolves effortlessly into the next incredible sight. From mountains covered in fynbos into edgy coastlines and into soft sea sand.
So enjoy the Whale Trail through a slightly different lens: that of the ever-changing views.
1. A tough but glorious fynbos-covered mountain
This was quite a steep climb – leaving the safety of the Potberg accommodation and heading onto the 15km trail for the day. We were told to look out for Cape Vultures, and weren’t disappointed. Around 10 minutes into the trail, the first of these majestic birds soared overhead. A highlight was reaching the viewpoint to look out over the curls of the Breede River far below.
Because we hiked in June, the lovely proteas spoiled us. Already on day one, we were treated to the gorgeous colours and varieties of Protea neriifolia. And a Cape Dwarf Chameleon even welcomed us to the trail, moving quietly through the restios.
Birders shouldn’t miss the chance to investigate the trees below Cupidoskraal, the first stayover on the hike. We saw a range of bird species here, including the Greater Double-collared Sunbird.
2. Mountains in the mist, and a dash of wetlands along the way
Our hiking group soon disappeared into the pretty mists on top of the Potberg mountain on day 2. This made the moment we stumbled onto the Protea aurea subsp. potbergensis even more special. The hikers had been excited about the prospect of seeing one. Instead we headed into mountain slopes covered in this flowering sugarbush. It’s listed as Vulnerable and only occurs on this mountain.
More proteas also appeared, including Protea obtusifolia as we headed down the slopes and into the lower-lying landscapes. Hopping through the wetlands required some nifty footwork. These wetlands were however the only sections of the trail that were overrun with invasive plants.
As we came closer to the coast, the vegetation changed dramatically as the ground became increasingly rocky. Here we came across the likes of the fascinating Boophone disticha, and others more suited to these drier conditions.
3. The edgy coastline leading into the ocean
Don’t hurry off from the wonderful Noetsie accommodation in the morning. For birders, there’s so much action along the coastline. We came across a range of terns and gulls on the move. Two Cape Gannets, the BirdLife South Africa 2022 Bird of the Year, even snuck past quietly.
Then once you’re on your way, it’s best to stay on the straight and narrow. For hikers who don’t enjoy heights, the rocky trail on the cliff edge, with a crashing sea far below, proved rather challenging. But while the ocean views might have been problematic for some, there’s more than enough to enjoy in terms of plant life to your right.
As the rocky path leads down to the ocean, there’s a chance for a dip at the Stilgat tidal pools. And there are so many opportunities to enjoy the powerful ocean contrasted with the peaceful rock pools along the way. The final stretch of this 8.5km hike is in soft sand, leading you to your overnight stay at the Hamerkop cottage.
4. A day of soft sea sand and marine life
During our morning coffee on the veranda at Hamerkop, a whale provided lots of entertainment as he breezed by. That certainly set the scene for the incredible wildlife we experienced on day 4.
For most of this day, we walked on soft sea sand. And that allowed photos of the endless coastline against striking skies in the background. We were treated to a pod of dolphins playing in the blue-green waves. They seemed to follow us all along our nearly 11km easy walk. An eland bull enjoyed the fynbos vegetation to our right. And the bird life once again didn’t disappoint, with the Black Oystercatchers, Intermediate Egrets, range of cormorants and Swift Terns playing in the spray of the waves.
Don’t miss the powerful blowholes en route – which made for the ideal resting spots on the way to the Vaalkrans accommodation.
5. The final stretch through the coastal thickets
This is the shortest distance on the hike – just 7kms from Vaalkrans to Koppie Alleen. So this allowed the swimmers in the group to take on the chilly waters at the Hippo Pools, and the birders in the group to snap away at all the bird life they could find. There were once again incredible views of the ocean below. And the stroll between the coastal fynbos seemed a fitting way to end the trail.
We were fortunate to enjoy the best weather during our hike – mild days and nights, even though we hiked in the middle of winter. And we were joined by a team of adventurous, outdoors lovers, to fit right in with the LoveGreen mold. That made the Whale Trail hike one of the best multi-day hikes we’ve done to date. And certainly a hike to revisit at a different time of year, to experience the landscapes completely afresh.
“This hike was absolutely stunning, can’t wait to go again. A #bucketlist adventure for sure!”
– TINA VLOK
Heather is our content writer. She enjoys helping our clients formulate their message and loves to run her way across beautiful mountains, to explore new places and is always ready for an adventure.
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