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De Hoop Nature Reserve Educational – Western Cape – June 2018

Posted on 4th July 2018

                                   

                                                DE HOOP (The Hope) – June 2018

 

Situated midway between Hermanus and Mossel Bay on the South Coast of South Africa, not far from Cape Agulhas - the Southernmost tip of Africa - lies the majestic jewel of the Cape that is De Hoop Nature Reserve. De Hoop Nature Reserve boasts tasteful and well appointed accommodation, birding that is unrivalled, game viewing, countless kilometers of walking trails, and a quite magnificent, pristine coastline where hundreds of whales visit each year.

Whales travel to De Hoop to calve

Whales

Gondwana Tours & Safaris was invited to visit De Hoop Nature Reserve mid-week in June 2018. We drove to the reserve from Cape Town International Airport. This easy drive takes about three hours and can be taken along the coast - the world renowned Clarence Drive - or over the majestic Hottentots Holland Mountains through the Overberg. The last section of road to De Hoop is gravel but easily driven in a normal vehicle.

From the rolling green farmlands of the Overberg we crossed into the Fynbos of De Hoop Nature Reserve, passing Ostrich, Grey Rhebok, Cape Mountain Zebra and Bontebok. De Hoop Collection is the accommodation and activity organisation for the Reserve. The Reserve has its own airstrip and helipad, either of which would shorten the trip to and from Cape Town International Airport significantly.

The once nearly extinct Bontebok thrives at De Hoop

De Hoop Animals and Surrounds-

The De Hoop Collection consists of a variety of accommodation that suits the needs of any visitor. From rustic self catering rondavels through to luxurious fully catered rooms. For those looking for absolute peace and solitude there are secluded old stone cottages and an elegant manor house available across the De Hoop Vlei.

We were treated to lunch under massive old fig trees at The Fig Tree Restaurant. There we enjoyed huge portions of tasty, well prepared cuisine. None of us could finish our lunch!

Next up was an inspection of the De Hoop Accommodation. Space does not allow for us to review all of the accommodation at De Hoop separately. There are so many buildings and rooms that make up the accommodation. Suffice to say that every room, every building, is tastefully decorated in such a way that one feels instantly welcome and comfortable upon entering. Some of the accommodation seems brand new. Other accommodation has been kept as close as possible in structure and form to the original farm buildings - but is nonetheless luxurious and comfortable.

Swimming pool with a view

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What really stood out for me was the Manor House and surrounding suites leading off the huge former walled kraal where we had lunch outside. Each suite had an aura of history about it. And well they should have, being some of the original buildings on the De Hoop Reserve - complete with salvaged beams from old shipwrecks, original kitchen hearths, and large, flatstone floors. We were regaled with stories of the difficult days of the past when tough men and women had to struggle to make a go of farming in the area. Indeed, the farm was called ‘De Hoop’ because they were hopeful of farming in an area with such poor soils and harsh climate!

The Manor House Main Bedroom

Manor House Main Bedroom

The other accommodation that completely charmed us was the very private stone cottages and manor house across the Vlei. The De Hoop Vlei is a prestigious Ramsar Wetland Site. It is strictly regulated and in pristine condition, well stocked with fish, abundant in birdlife, and home to many Cape Clawless Otters.

To access the private accommodation across the Vlei we took a quiet, stable barge that is basically a wooden platform on a twin hull. We immediately saw a couple of inquisitive otters on the rocks close to the shoreline before we moved silently across the Vlei past huge flocks of Flamingo and Pelican. Apparently there are some 260 bird species to be found at De Hoop. Certainly a wonderland for birding enthusiasts.

The superbly secluded Melkkamer Vlei Cottage

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The barge moored gently on the other side of the Vlei, allowing us to disembark and walk up to the sturdy old stone cottages and manor house that grace that side of the Vlei, which is known as ‘Melkkamer’ (Milk Room). These three secluded buildings are perfect for families or small groups, sleeping between six and eight people each. It takes 40 minutes to drive to Melkkamer from the main accommodation at De Hoop, so once one is there - by boat or car - one is certainly secluded.

 Eco Boat Cruise De Hoop

Boat Cruise

The activities at De Hoop are varied and plentiful. Most activities can be guided but guests are allowed to explore the massive reserve at their leisure. Long and exciting mountain bike trails through the Fynbos, guided birding, guided coastal trails, endless hiking trails, tennis, a Spa, Boules, a Jungle Gym for the children…sunbathing at the pristine beaches and dunes, rock pool snorkeling, eco boat cruises, whale watching, stargazing, game viewing, botanical trails - and this is not even an exhaustive list. There is really something for everyone.

After a whirlwind tour of the coastal area with its dazzling dunes and rock pools we just managed to inspect the rest of the extensive De Hoop Collection accommodation before dark. By then it was time for dinner. And what a dinner! Fine dining at the Fig Tree Restaurant with each superb course matched by equally stunning wines from the excellent De Hoop Cellar.

Learning more about the rocky shores at Koppie Alleen

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What a pleasure to retire to our luxurious room with electric blanket and piping hot water for a deep hot bath. No water restrictions here! After such a long day the crisp sheets and warm duvets were just what we needed for a blissful deep sleep.

Breakfast at De Hoop is quite out of this world. One of the best I’ve had in years. A buffet featuring everything from smoked salmon with fresh, cold, thick farm cream to muesli with natural honey – and everything one could imagine or want in between, including fine cheeses with a delectable homemade De Hoop fig  preserve. Their excellent coffee was from a proper old fashioned espresso machine at the bar. And then…a full English Breakfast! We staggered out of the breakfast area to be transported to our next activity, a visit to the Cape Vulture Colony, the last remaining colony of these birds in the Western Cape.

Cape Vulture riding the thermals at De Hoop

The Cape Vulture Colony is at the opposite end of the Reserve from the De Hoop Collection accommodation. There is a steep climb of about half an hour on foot up to a well constructed wooden viewing platform that overlooks a chasm in the mountains where the vultures soar on the thermals. One way to work off our breakfast! It was so quiet and peaceful up there in the cool breeze, cool yet warmed by the sun. This Cape Vulture colony is a viable and growing colony of hundreds of birds, an excellent example of co-operation between local farmers and conservationists. Eland, as well as many cats - from Cape Mountain Leopard through Lynx (Rooikat) to Serval are also found on the Reserve.

Tired yet exhilarated by our short stay at De Hoop we returned to the hustle and bustle of Cape Town. De Hoop Nature Reserve is a place where we could easily spend many more days, exploring, relaxing or engaging in the many activities offered both there and in the surrounding area.

Highly recommended.