On cloud nine at De Hoop Nature Reserve

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It was difficult to concentrate on sea lettuce and snails in rock pools while large numbers of southern right whales frolicked in the turquoise waters of the bay nearby. Like the rest of the group on our guided marine walk at Koppie Alleen, I was enthralled at the sight of them.

Our group of six had set out to discover the magic of the De Hoop Nature Reserve, and from the moment we arrived the previous day, we were treated to a taste of paradise. As we made our way down to De Hoop Collection, the white dunes and crystal blue ocean on one side, and glistening waters of the Vlei on the other, had us mesmerised.

DeHoop Collection is situated adjacent to the Vlei, a Ramsar wetland of international importance. It boasts an assortment of Cape Dutch style accommodation and buildings, and comes with an interesting history. The land on which the reserve is situated belonged to the Dutch East India Company during the 1700s. The Opstal Manor House, adjacent to the Cloete Suites, is the oldest building and the original home.

The green lawns offer a welcome attraction to wildlife such as bontebok, Cape mountain zebra, eland, and ostrich. But apart from these residents, the park is also home to various other species. The reserve offers a safe haven to the only breeding colony of Cape vultures in the Western Cape. The good news is you can get quite close to these majestic birds. If you are willing for a short hike and a little bit of a climb, the viewing deck and vultures riding the thermals overhead are incredible to see. Afterwards, we were treated to a picnic lunch that included delicious local Overberg cheeses, cold meats and wholesome salads.

Apart from the walk to the viewing deck, Potberg also hosts the 6km Klipspringer and 10km Potberg hiking trails. Back at the De Hoop Collection next to the Vlei, active families can choose from four cycling routes, as well as 3km and 13km trails to enjoy on foot. This is probably the best way to really enjoy the fynbos-clad surroundings. De Hoop boasts 1 500 plant species – among the highest diversity in the Cape Floral Region. The blushing proteas and variety of ericas certainly left me impressed.

protea

The reserve offers a safe haven to Cape vultures in the Western Cape

If fynbos, flowers and walking isn’t really your thing, you can always opt for a more laid-back experience: the De Hoop Spa offers a variety of treatments for tired muscles. After a deep tissue massage, I felt ready to climb another mountain, or koppie. Another option is the eco boat cruise on the vlei. With bubbly in hand and various snacks to nibble on, it is an ideal vantage point from which to enjoy the sunset colours. They also offer guided bird walks and guided mountain bike trails.

De Hoop activities

  • Southern right whales can be seen from the shore between June and November. It’s incredibly special, so try planning your 2019 visit during this time. They counted 1 116 whales on a single day along this coastline during an aerial census in August 2018.
  • Blue cranes, South Africa’s national bird,are abundant on the farmlands in the Overberg. Apart from these, De Hoop is a birding hotspot with approximately 260 species to look out for.
  • Outdoor fun: Apart from walking, hiking and cycling, there is also a tennis court, swimming pool and boules courtyard.The world-famous Whale Trail, a 55km slackpacking trail starts at Potberg and finishes at Koppie Alleen.
  • For wine lovers, the new Silo cellar is a highlight. Stocked with the finest local wines from the region, guests can make their own selection for dinner.   

De Hoop is a great destination all year round, but at least two days are recommended to make the most of your experience. Whether you go for the outdoor activities, a long break or simply to take time off from the hustle and bustle of city life, you will leave invigorated and ready to take on the world.

Indian Ocean

Written by René de Klerk                                                                                       

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