I was fortunate enough to do one of the best hiking trails South Africa has to offer!
If you love hiking and appreciate the outdoors, then the Whale trail is a MUST. It is a five day, 56km slack-packing trail through the De Hoop Nature Reserve that introduces you to some of the most beautiful scenery along the Western Cape coastline. The route from Potberg mountain to Koppie Alleen includes five overnight stops. The distance to each overnight cabin differs each day from easy to strenuous and takes approximately 4-8 hours of hiking per day.
What added to the atmosphere was the fact that this hike could cater for up to 12 people sharing. I met some amazing people who joined me on this incredible experience. Knowing this, I would suggest if you planning on going, you need to book in advanced because of the space limitation.
In order to enjoy the full extend of this amazing adventure, one needs to take the true sense of mother nature into consideration! In saying that, you should not be squeamish when it comes to mice or crickets or other bugs, as you would expect being out in the wild! Being in the nature reserve, we had to adhere to letting them roam as free as they like without harming them, and leave the food pyramid to its own devices. Snakes were pretty common too, as we saw the infamous Cape Cobra as well as the Berg Adder which was both scary and amazing at the same time! At one point, I had a meeting with the one Cape Cobra as it decided it wanted to introduce itself across my path. Bird life is incredible, having had an opportunity to see the Fish eagle and our countries National bird. Overall, you can expect to be greeted with a vast range of wild life. Unfortunately we didn’t see any whales, as whale season ended in August/October.
What to eat
What made this hike even more enjoyable was that your food and clothes were transported to each hut which made exploring nature just that much easier and exciting as you only carry your day pack. When it comes to food, avoid things that needs refrigeration, so preparation is key, as only the first hut had a fridge available.
Make sure you carefully plan your meals and snacks, these are essential for keeping your energy levels up while hiking.
I wanted quick and easy snacks to keep me going throughout the hike which included:
- A energy bar e.g. fututrelife lite – make sure that the sugar content is low
- Nut butter/ nuts/ trail mix
- 1-2 fruits (I always had fruit in my bag, I love my fruit and would always start off with a fruit)
- Handful of mints
- Keep breakfast simple, you could have eggs, however I preferred a bowl of cooked oats topped with dried cranberries. This breakfast was quick, easy and kept me going for a couple hours.
- I decided that the easiest thing to do was braai and have leftovers for lunch, which worked out quite well and saved a lot of time, this included:
- Boiled baby potatoes and corn on the cob
- Salad that was easy to travel with e.g. cucumber, cherry tomatoes, gherkins and onion etc.
- And a variation of protein e.g. mostly chicken and some red meat, I prepacked the protein into vacuum sealed bags (this is key as your meat can go off by day 4-5) and kept it frozen in a mini cooler box that fitted in our portage.
I love my beans and fish, so it was a bit of a struggle having chicken and red meat everyday, so I quickly started craving fish. I promised myself to enjoy some lovely sashimi after and I have been eating fish everyday since!
What to pack
I found a check list to be quite helpful, as space is limited and you don’t want to forget your most important items:
- Bed sheet
- Sleeping bag
- Hiking shoes
- Mask and snorkel
- Washing liquid and dish clothes + cutlery (it was provided
but I packed in just in case)
- Mosquito repellent or cream
- Toilet paper (this was provided)
- Small medical kit
- Water boots
- Sunscreen (preferably higher than SPF 20)
1.Use Ziplock bags
Pack dry food, like oats or trail mix, into ziplock bags. Ziplock bags work well and can double up as trash bags afterwards.2. Wear a hat
2. Wear a hat
It is important to bring a hat to keep your ears and face protected from the sun. The tops of your ears and back of your neck are highly susceptible to getting burned while on the trail, so either get some sunscreen and or wear a hat that keeps them covered, I used both.
If it’s sunny outside and you’re hiking up a mountain with a cool breeze in your face, you probably won’t be able to tell that your ears and face are getting absolutely burned. Get yourself some waterproof sunscreen (I recommend SPF 50) to cover up those ears, cheeks, and back of your neck.
Sunglasses is a MUST, I used polarized sunglasses.
I would suggest you pack your phone away and enjoy nature, there is limited reception throughout the trail, so all we used our phones for was taking beautiful pictures of the scenery, also there is limited space to charge your phone at each hut depending on your group size. I would suggest bringing along a power bank if you have one.
6. Keep hydrated
Always make sure you are keeping well hydrated, we went through 2-3L water while hiking, we were lucky to have great sunny weather but you sweat a lot in this warm weather. Its a good idea to add re-hydrate to one of your water bottles to replenish your electrolytes.