When I feel like running away from reality, I always think of De Hoop. We visited this nature reserve a couple of years ago and stayed in their Melkkamer vlei cottage across the De Hoop Vlei, which works completely with gas. No electricity or cell reception means no phones or laptops. We couldn’t even read a book after 6pm. All we could do was light a fire, open a bottle of wine and catch up on life. I still remember this as one of my favourite trips.
I love that De Hoop is removed from civilization, but you are still living in perfect luxury. The rooms have a modern, country chic charm with comfortable beds and soft white bedding, and there is a restaurant serving up delicious, heartwarming food. It’s the best of both worlds, allowing you to escape into nature while enjoying all the creature comforts.
For our last visit we stayed at the Opstal on the main side of the reserve which is less isolated but equally beautiful and a bit more convenient if you want to eat at the restaurant or join some of their activities. You still feel completely lost in natural beauty, though. Driving in you’ll pass herds of eland, bontebok, ostrich and troops of baboons that graze the area, sometimes coming right up to your front door.
We stayed in one of their Cloete suites, a section that was added after the old restaurant tragically burnt down. Our room, Cloete 1, was a beautiful and spacious suite decorated in a Cape Dutch country style. It has everything you need for a romantic weekend, including a large fireplace, a fluffy king size four poster bed and a deep bathtub in the en-suite bathroom.
The Cloete suites are one of their more luxurious accommodation options but they have a wide variety of options starting at very reasonable prices, especially if you are traveling as a group. And if you are visiting them during off-peak months you can score a proper bargain.
What to do
Get out into nature
The point of visiting De Hoop is to get out as much as possible. This conservation area has around 1500 different plant species – among the highest in the Cape Floral region, and 260 bird species including the African black oyster catcher and rare Damara and Caspian terns. It is also a popular haven for southern right whales during the calving season. The natural beauty makes it a prime location for those who love hiking and cycling, with several trail options taking you into this unspoiled part of our country.
A great way to discover the area is by renting a bicycle from the reserve (or join a guided trail). I would recommend renting one for a full day so you can cycle to the beach, follow one of the various trails or take a ride along the vlei. It is a wonderful way to really experience the surrounds.
The reserve offers a variety of guided options, including an interpretive marine walk exploring the coastal rock pools and beaches with a qualified guide, and a stargazing experience where you can learn about the various constellations.
We went for an eco boat cruise late Saturday afternoon where we learnt about the birdlife in the area. It was really interesting seeing the different nests and learning about the rare birds that nest along the vlei, but what I loved most was the serenity of that perfectly still evening, the sunset reflecting on the glassy water and the birds chattering around us.
De Hoop has recently added small spa which offers Africology and Elemis treatments. I strolled over from our room just after breakfast, stopping a couple of times on the way to take pictures of the vlei running alongside the path. The spa is situated right by the edge, with a swimming pool that seems to float above the river, and loungers laid out on the lawn where you can soak up some Vitamin D.
Inside the rooms are spacious and tranquil. I was welcomed with warm, spicy chai tea while I filled in their forms. This was followed by their signature Soul of Africa treatment, a 90 minute session with a mud scrub followed by a deep tissue massage. The entire experience was perfectly serene and relaxing, and just what I needed to complete my weekend of unwinding.
Mostly it is best to do as little as possible when you visit De Hoop and really aim to fall into pace with nature out there. Hike, cycle, read, sleep and take a few moments to do absolutely nothing but enjoy the tranquility around you.
A few things to note
There are baboons on the reserve and they might try to get into your room, so make sure you lock up, even if you are there. Shortly after we had arrived in our room we heard a rattle on the door telling us a furry friend was trying to let itself in. As soon as it saw us it scrambled away though, and afterwards one of the staff assured me that the baboons won’t harm you unless they feel threatened.
Take note, the signal isn’t great, especially in the rooms. There is free WiFi access for guests at the restaurant though so you can pop in there for any urgent matters. In truth I don’t really mind the lack of reception. In a day and age where we are constantly connected, there is something special about a holiday where you can leave the digital world behind. No posts or likes or comments to worry about.
You need to travel on dirt road for about an hour on your way to De Hoop. The road is in a very good condition but be cautious during rainy weather when it can become a bit slippery.
For more information visit dehoopcollection.com