Escape to the countryside where a treasure trove of natural assets and delightful lodgings await
South Africa’s Garden Route is famed for its plethora of fauna and flora, myriad adventurous pursuits and smorgasbord of culinary offerings. Yet, there is no other destination that encompasses the best outdoor experience as does the De Hoop Collection in the Overberg.
Borne of a private-public partnership — the first of its kind in South Africa’s hospitality industry — and a three-hour drive from Cape Town, the 36 000-hectare De Hoop Nature Reserve is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site that is open to holiday-goers and day visitors as well as provides a venue for weddings and conferences.
Whether a relaxed weekend getaway or an adventuresome day trip is on the cards, there is no shortage of pastimes within the reserve. While guests are welcome to explore and take hikes on their own, the guided bird and interpretive marine walks are highly recommended. The latter not only offers an interesting look at marine life forms at the De Hoop Marine Protected Area but is also a great way to experience the Southern Right whales that occupy the bay between June and December while the former is popular with birdwatchers as is the Cape vulture experience.
Departing from the Opstal area at De Hoop, guests will be treated to a scenic drive to Potberg. From here, a 40-minute guided walk leads to the vulture-viewing deck where the sight of the Western Cape’s last surviving colony of these magnificent birds will delight kids (over 12) and adults alike. Or head for the water on a pontoon to enjoy the birdlife, game and otter sightings of the Ramsar-listed Vlei. Morning cruises include tea, coffee, croissants and pastries while guests on the afternoon cruise can expect house wines, local beers, juices and snacks.
The night sky at De Hoop is uninterrupted by the smog of the city — and arguably one of the best ways to view the constellations. A very knowledgeable guide will teach guests about the various star signs and other astrological facts in an intimate one-hour session.
While the reserve offers plenty to keep visitors busy, one of its most endearing aspects is that of its lodgings. No matter the budget, its romantic cottages, all-inclusive suites, houses, rondawels and campsite are amenable to groups of all sizes. The campsite allows for both tents and motorhomes while guests who prefer a more comfortable space to rest their head can opt for a two-sleeper rondawel, which shares its restrooms with the rest of the campsite.
For honeymooners, the Opstal, Dassie, Otter and Figtree Suites as well as the Cloete Cottage all offer king-sized beds with large en-suite bathrooms while families and large groups can be assured of a weekend of revelry and braai by staying at one of the Opstal Houses, an Equipped or Vlei Cottage, or a unit in the De Hoop Village.
For those wanting something different — away from the hub-bub of the mainland — the Melkkamer Manor House, Foremans Cottage and Vlei Cottage is situated a short boat ride away, across the vlei.
Food and drink
Self-catering is a huge advantage of vacationing at De Hoop, however, many who regularly visit the destination hold its restaurant, the Fig Tree, in high regard. This past winter, the restaurant has been transformed — and relocated — into The Shed.
With a stylish dining area that overlooks the vlei and is flanked by a veranda, The Shed now also sports owner William Stephens’ wine cellar: The Silo Cellar, a round, intimate space that showcases more than 3 000 wines. Guests are invited to peruse the cellar before reclining in front of the cosy fireplace to enjoy a drink of their choice with a dish from the breakfast or lunch à la carte menus, or the set dinner menu.
+27 28 542 1253, dehoopcollection.com
A version of this article first appeared in Edition 3-2018 of Intrepid Explorer.