Guide to visit De Hoop Nature Reserve
De Hoop Nature Reserve is a World Heritage site and offers the finest whale viewing in southern Africa. The marine protected area, that stretches 5 kilometres out to sea, is one of the largest areas in Africa, providing a sanctuary for a vast array of marine life. It’s also a bird watchers’ paradise and is home to more than 80 species of game. It’s in the Overberg region near the southern tip of Africa and can be approached from either Bredasdorp or Swellendam. De Hoop reserve is the perfect venue for whales watching since almost 40% of the global Southern Right whale population come to the bay each year to breed.
How to reach De Hoop Reserve
There are no means of transports to reach the De Hoop gate; therefore, you need your own vehicle. The Reserve lies approximately 230km from Cape Town and 600km from Port Elizabeth. Several roads lead to the Reserve, and it depends on your itinerary. If you pass through Bredasdorp, you will reach the entrance gate after 50 km; from Swellendam, it is about 45 km, while from Witsand it is 60 km (you will have to cross a river in Malgas by taking a small ferry). Most of the road leading to the De Hoop entrance gate is unpaved. The admission ticket costs 50 Rand.
We reached the Reserve during our trip to South Africa, renting a vehicle at Port Elizabeth airport and visiting some Parks along the coast before reaching De Hoop.
When to go
The best time to visit the Reserve is from June to November when the southern right whales approach the coast, and it is possible to enjoy them taking a seat on the sandy dunes of the coast. These months correspond to the South African winter, and some days could be cloudy and windy.
Activities in the Reserve
De Hoop Reserve offers a wide range of outdoor activities and is an ideal place for nature lovers. If you decide to spend several days here, you will certainly not be bored. For daily visitors interested in seeing southern right whales, the best place is Koppie Allen beach. From here, you can hike on two paths along the coast: the first coastal path is about 5 km long and stretches towards your right, along the sandy dunes of the wild beach; the other path, about 8 km long, stretches towards your left along the rocky coast. Of course, you can walk a bit as we did and come back whenever you want.
In addition to the classic hike to spot whales, other activities can be arranged. You can hike on several paths, have a ride on a mountain bike – there are routes from 10 to 50 km, guided and free, where you can meet animals such as zebra, eland, baboons and ostriches -, boat trips on the small De Hoop Vlei, game viewing safaris and bird watching – there are about 260 bird species).
The “whales trail” is De Hoop’s most famous activity, an unforgettable experience that will take you through a unique landscape of the Western Cape. This 5-day guided hike stretches over 55km from Potberg to Koppie Allen. You will need to book the Whale trail in advance as reservations are limited to groups of 6 or 12 people.
Where to sleep
If you are a daily visitor (like us) and you will spend a few hours in the Reserve, you will find several accommodations in the cities of Bredasdorp, Swellendam and Witsand. We slept in Witsand at the Whale Watchers Inn.
- Click here to see accommodations in Witsand;
- Click here for accommodation in Swellendam;
- Click here to see accommodations in Bredasdorp.
Alternatively, it is possible to sleep inside the Reserve at De Hoop Collection Hotel and the Morukuru Beach Lodge. The De Hoop Collection also offers affordable self-catering accommodation, a barbecue area (they sell wood in their shop) and even an area to camp with your own tent (there is a small kitchen and shared bathrooms). You can book the guided activities through these accommodations.