Rough coastline and magical sunsets
The little village of De Kelders is a residential suburb of Gansbaai and stretches along the rugged shores of Walker Bay – about 25 minutes’ drive from Hermanus. The shores of De Kelders face the northwest, a rare orientation for the coastline east of Cape Town, and this guarantees lots of sunshine and magical sunsets over the ocean. The view from the cliffs of De Kelders encompasses the entire Walker Bay, spreading from Danger Point through Hermanus, and further up the coast to Hangklip and even all the way to Cape Point. At sunset on a clear day the Cape of Good Hope is illuminated by the sun, creating a most wonderful and spectacular view.
De Kelders – the world’s best land-based whale watching spot
De Kelders has managed to dodge the negative effects of large-scale tourism despite the fact that it is one of the best land-based whale watching spots on Earth. Southern Right Whales can be seen just a few meters off the rocks. Large numbers of these gentle giants return year after year between July and December to the shelter of Walker Bay to mate and, completing the cycle twelve months later, to give birth. Standing on top of the cliffs, you can easily spot the whales splashing with their tails, breaching, or simply lounging gracefully in the water.
Klipgat / Duiwelsgat Trail – hiking along cliffs, rocks, and caves
De Kelders’ secret attraction is a seven km coastal hiking trail, the ‘Klipgat’ or ‘Duiwelsgat’ trail, along the dramatic coast line of Walker Bay. The trail starts from Gansbaai harbour passing a number of rock pools en route to Stanford’s Bay – an ideal spot for a safe swim (and the location of Crayfish Lodge). From there, the trail continues further along the cliffs past a number of larger and smaller caves and spectacular rock formations. At the end of your hike you are rewarded with a spectacular view of the entire arc of Walker Bay and its 17 km white sand beach, locally referred to as the “Plaat,” stretching from De Kelders to Hermanus.
“De Kelders” is the Afrikaans name meaning ‘The Caves’ and refers to the numerous caves penetrating deep into the rocks along the shoreline. Probably the most famous of these is the “Drupkelder” (‘Dripping Cave’), which Lady Anne Barnard visited in 1798 and which later served as a popular holiday site. It is the only freshwater cave on the coast of Africa with natural mineral water.
Another impressive cave is “Duiwelsgat” (‘Devil’s Hole’). A gaping hole formed by the collapse of the cave ceiling opens up to a vast sea level cavern. A small wall was built around the hole by the first inhabitants of the area to prevent sheep and cattle from falling into it.
Archaeological excavations have shown that “Klipgat” (‘Cliff Hole’) Cave at the very end of the hike was inhabited by early man as long as 70.000 years ago, a time when the Neandertals in Europe were thought to be the only representatives of the genus “Homo”. Klipgat Cave has also shown evidence of a more recent Khoi community thriving some 2.000 years ago.
Hiking the Klipgat trail from Gansbaai harbour to Klipgat Cave is not only a nature walk, but truly, a walk back in time.