Nature-lovers better strap on their hiking boots, the popular Whale Trail has reopened to the public on Wednesday, October 28 in an official ribbon-cutting ceremony following an extensive revamp.

The world-renowned trail in the De Hoop Nature Reserve has been closed since 2018 to construct much-needed safety upgrades and to add new developments.

“CapeNature has upgraded and improved the trail and visitors can now look forward to an improved experience made possible through innovative and value-add enhancements,” said Anton Bredell, the Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape.

Visitors can look forward to the following:

– Solar powered electricity in accommodation units, which are not affected by load shedding.

– Restored and improved hiking routes with stainless steel structures and stairs for optimal weather resistance and safety.

– An outdoor braai area.

– Modern appliances for convenience such as fridges and gas hobs within all overnight huts– a first for the reserve.

– Upgraded skylights installed for better viewing and star gazing.

– Full bathroom and shower upgrades at Vaalkrans, Hamerkop and Cupidoskraal huts.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, CapeNature CEO Dr Razeena Omar explained:  “It was not an easy decision to close this trail and disappoint many of our visitors in order to undergo the major structural and maintenance upgrades, but the safety of our hikers is our top priority. We are sure the improved facilities will be enjoyed and worth the wait.

“With South Africa’s tourism sector slowly returning to the ‘new normal’ with the easing of regulations, the reopening of the world-renowned trail comes at a time where locals are itching to get away on much needed breaks,” he added.

“Annually between June and November, southern right whales make their epic journey back to the safety of these rich waters to mate and calve. The famed Whale Trail is revered as one of the most meaningful ways to experience this extraordinary phenomenon. De Hoop defies superlatives – it must be experienced to be truly understood.”

Situated on 34 000 hectares of land, which extends 5km out to sea, De Hoop is one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa. De Hoop Nature Reserve is a favourite for hikers, cyclists, bird and whale watchers. The reserve is a World Heritage Site.

One of the main attractions of the reserve has always been its world-renowned Whale Trail, a 5 day overnight hiking trail taking visitors through the beautiful terrain of the reserve.

Five Whale Trail overnight huts lie at the foot of the Potberg Mountains, perched high on a sea cliff offering breath-taking views. Although the fully equipped huts can sleep up to 12 people at the time, the occupancy is currently restricted to 50% in line with COVID-19 regulations for dormitory-style accommodation.

Please note that due to the popularity of the Whale Trail, bookings are taken a year in advance. To make your advance booking, call the contact centre on 087 087 8250.

Picture: CapeNature

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