De Hoop Nature Reserve – Marine Meets Terrestrial
De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Western Cape is a well-known marine protected area boasting some of the greatest whale-watching opportunities. Located in the Overberg, just 3 hours drive from Cape Town, De Hoop Nature Reserve encompasses 34,000 hectares. In addition it takes in the De Hoop Marine Protected Area which includes 5 km of sea and is amongst Africa's largest protected marine sanctuaries.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is situated along a beautiful coastline with stunning bays, impressive cliffs and massive sand dunes. The boundaries of De Hoop Nature Reserve fall within the threatened Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest plant kingdom in the world. Fynbos is the main vegetation and is well adapted to both drought and fire. Amongst the vegetation’s growth forms are geophytes, ericas, fynbos and restios. Thirty-four plant species are endemic to De Hoop Nature reserve, that is, they are found exclusively in the park. The park has a distinctly Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters. Most notable about De Hoop Nature Reserve is that it covers the vast breeding grounds of the magnificent Southern Right Whale. Approximately 120 whales visit De Hoop annually to mate and calve. The sight of these immense water mammals is astounding. Climb up the Koppie Alleen sand dunes for an exceptional view of the whales as they splash through the waters. The whale season at De Hoop is from June through to November with the highest concentration from August to September. Dolphins and many species of fish also frequent the waters of De Hoop.
In addition to the amazing marine life of De Hoop Nature Reserve there is a grand variety of animal life. The variety of terrestrial habitats are able to host some 86 species of mammals including Cape Mountain zebra, bontebok, baboon, grey rhebuck, eland, leopards and yellow mongoose. Avid birders will be delighted with the over 260 species in the reserve. As a protected area fishing is not permitted at De Hoop Nature Reserve. Visitors to the reserve are also not permitted to disturb or remove sea-life. Snorkeling is a popular pastime and a great way to view the magical inter-tidal world. Aside from snorkeling there are a number of ways to enjoy De Hoop’s stunning landscapes. The many hiking trails are very popular with the Whale Hiking Trail topping the list. A much sought after weekend and vacation destination, De Hoop Nature Reserve has lovely chalets as well as space for camping and caravanning. Be sure to include De Hoop Nature Reserve on your vacation itinerary, especially during whale watching season.