Western Cape DestinationsDe Hoop, Cape Overberg
This is one of the most biologically diverse sanctuaries in the world and rates as one of the great floral wonderlands of Southern Africa, laying claim to the top whale mating and calving ground for the southern right whale just off its coast. 36 000 ha is home to a large landlocked vlei, a green plain covered with fynbos and riverine bush, limestone hills, sand dunes and the Potberg mountain range.
The reserve has 1 500 plant species including fine examples of rare lowland fynbos (Proteas, Ericas, Restios and Geophytes); there are 86 different types of mammal, including the rare bontebok and Cape Mountain zebra, eland, baboon, the yellow mongoose and even the occasional leopard.
The vlei, set partly in a magnificent gorge surrounded by high limestone cliffs, forms a coastal lake at the mouth of the Sout River, which is blocked by coastal dunes. Its landlocked waters sustain one of the richest concentrations of bird life in the country – more than 250 bird species, from coots, ducks and grebes to small waders, herons and egrets. The wetland is of international importance for migratory waterbirds while thousands of bats cling to the gloomy corridors of the limestone caves.
The Potberg Mountain, in the north-eastern part of the reserve, offers the endangered Cape vulture a nesting place on its rocky ledges. This is the only remaining breeding colony of this bird in the Western Cape.
A number of picturesque Hiking Trails like the Vlei Trail (6km), the Potberg Trail (4km) and a coastal hike give you a bird’s eye view of the fringes of the reserve you might not have spotted from the windows of your car. Bikers can cycle through the reserve and bird watchers can deposit themselves next to the vlei or watch the whales from a nearby sand dune - June through November brings at least 70 of these gentle giants to the waters.
For an in depth review and more photographs of whale watching in De Hoop see our article at "De Hoop - Whale Watching".