I’ve known about De Hoop Nature Reserve for a very long time. There was a map of the area on the wall at David Jack’s holiday house in Arniston which I visited frequently 30 years ago. Almost 15 years ago, when David Daitz was CEO of Cape Nature, he frequently spoke of his frustrations in getting a public-private partnership concluded; so that the visitor facilities would be run the way they should be run.
Well… I finally visited De Hoop. I drove up the mountain and through the reserve’s gate at around 6pm one evening and, as I topped the crest and looked over the plain below, the view across the Agulhas Plain – with the vast extent of the De Hoop vlei towards the ridge of white dunes along the Indian Ocean – just took my breath away.
Why had I never come here before?
What makes the Reserve so special? At 36,000ha, it is one of the largest remaining examples of indigenous lowland and coastal Fynbos. There is the sea, the massive dunes, the huge vlei, birds, game, rare plant species and a mountain. And then there are the whales from June to October – when there are 600–700 whales along the De Hoop coast! There’s birding, mountain biking, eco quad biking, star gazing, swimming, snorkelling, walking and driving. Hikers and cyclists have close-up encounters with bontebok, Cape mountain zebra, eland, baboons and ostrich. Swimmers could enjoy the company of dolphins!
The De Hoop vlei is a wetland recognised by the Ramsar Convention as being of international importance – it’s a saline body of water and something of an anomaly to scientists. This Ramsar wetland was once part of the Sout River mouth, but now it’s a coastal lake around 16km long, flanked by high gorges and sand dunes. The strange thing about this vlei is that its levels of salinity rise and plummet.
Its water levels also go up and down and, during drought, it has been known to empty completely.
There must be some unseen outlet of the lake to the sea. Anyway, the birds adore the place. Greater flamingo have twice bred successfully here over the decades – the only place in South Africa they have ever done so.
You’ll also find lesser flamingos here, along with yellow-billed duck, little bittern, Caspian tern and the chestnut-banded plover.
In fact, there are a total of 260 species of birds you could spot here. Sometimes you’ll see dozens of pelicans flecking the surface of the lagoons. Other times, there are literally thousands of Cape shovellers.
The birds feel so safe here that they will frequently use this as a refuge where they can moult in peace – a time when they are vulnerable.
De Hoop is home to more than 1500 species of plants, has unspoilt dunes and if you look up, you may see one of the famous Cape vultures that nest nearby, on the cliffs of Potberg mountain.
The hospitality side of the Reserve now falls under the De Hoop Collection – and it exceeds most expectations yet caters for all pockets. Experience the luxury of the old Manor House and the self-catering cottages, or the more basic cottages and rondavels. There are also campsites with caravan parking overlooking the vlei, so you will have a room with a view! There is the Fig Tree Restaurant where we enjoyed some really fine wining and dining! If you’re a day visitor, you can either dine there or pre-order a picnic basket to enjoy somewhere in the Reserve.
The De Hoop Collection has its hands full upgrading all the visitor amenities throughout the area. The cottage at Koppie Alleen, right above the beach, caught fire recently and will be upgraded soon, along with a coastal eatery and other unused houses.
One luxury lodge (not part of the De Hoop Collection) east of the Dunes is close to completion and has started taking enquiries. See Morukuru Ocean House. There are opportunities for other investors to participate in the greater De Hoop plan.
De Hoop will enthral the whole family – few destinations offer as much. And it is a uniquely Cape experience three hours from Cape Town.
PS. This was one place Beezus was not allowed to go 🙁