If you head out of Cape Town, N2 side, you can make your way to the Overberg. The area is known for its sprawling canola fields and quaint little towns, but not everyone knows that beyond that also lies a beautiful untouched piece of coastline protected by Cape Nature, known as the De Hoop Reserve. During the end of August, I headed out to the reserve with some great girls to explore all they have to offer.
As I mentioned, the beautiful reserve lies just off the N2. You actually have a few options when it comes to choosing a road to the reserve. The great thing is that even if you end up on a dirt road, these roads are extremely well kept and easy to drive. So first off, turn off at Caledon, head to Bredasdorp and then take the R319 to the reserve. If you would prefer to stay on a tar road for as long as possible, I’d suggest taking this route.
A second option would be to pass Caledon and Riviersonderend in the direction of Swellendam. Around mid-way you’ll see a turn-off to De Hoop, as well as just before Swellendam. Looking at a map, you’ll see that the reserve actually lies quite close to the small towns of Malgas and Infanta. Primarily a dirt road, you need not worry about hurting your vehicle if you stick to the speed limit. And, of course, the surrounds on this road are breath-taking! Looking around, you will see beautiful kilometres of farmlands, this is after all one of the key grain producing areas in Southern Africa.
If you are heading out of the city, it is good to keep in mind that because the De Hoop Collection is part of a Cape Nature Reserve, they have set opening and closing times and that you need to be at the gate by 18:00 to be able to check-in. The De Hoop Collection is also part of the Cape Country Routes which is a conglomerate of accommodation and activities in the Cape Area aimed at making it as easy as possible for visitors to explore family-friendly venues without ever getting bored.
A big part of what makes De Hoop Collection’s offering so unique is the wide variety of accommodation they have available at different price points and for differing needs. I stayed in the beautifully decorated Cloete Suite which is close to the Old Manor House, reception and the Fig Tree Restaurant. These suites are part of the more luxurious offerings for two at the De Hoop Collection and their rate includes dinner, bed and breakfast.
At its core, the De Hoop Collection is definitely more geared towards families. My favourite cottage by far are the Vlei Cottage. The units have two bedrooms, with a small fireplace in the lounge area and a little stoep. If you are looking for something bigger then the Opstal Houses are another great option. These houses have three bedrooms – one double and two twins – as well as a braai area and loads of space for the kids to play. All the accommodation options are already-established structures renovated to ensure comfort and maximum enjoyment of the surrounds.
I can ensure you that activities abound at the De Hoop Collection. I would highly recommend the Vulture Experience. This includes a steep 1km walk to a viewing deck from where you can see one of the last remaining vulture colonies in the Cape area. The birds fly overhead against the backdrop of some amazing mountain and ocean views. You can also opt to have lunch on the deck or at the designated picnic area at the foot of the climb.
Another favourite of mine was the eco boat cruise. From the boat you can experience the gorgeous vlei area where we saw some flamingos, fish eagles and other wildlife. You also get a good glimpse of the Melkkamer Manor House on the other side of the vlei. If you are anything like me, you’ll just love the wind in your hair as you cruise the vlei. On the cruises you are usually accompanied by a guide, which truly adds an enriching experience as they are able to point out unique facts about the animals, the environment and more.
If your idea of the perfect weekend includes some strenuous activity, I would highly recommend hiring a bike at reception and making your way to Koppie Alleen to explore the coastline. You get to see the most beautiful scenery while breaking a bit of a sweat. The rolling hills (small hills, I promise) make for some great exercise by getting some interval training.
Food and Drink
A while ago, the restaurant suffered some quite extensive fire damage and they’ve recently relocated the Fig Tree Restaurant in The Shed. I would definitely recommend having at least one meal at the restaurant. Every evening has a three-course menu prepared by head chef, Marcia Tyobeka, and includes freshly sourced ingredients that are beautifully prepared.
They also have an extensive wine collection in the Silo Cellar – which includes not only wines from the region, but also a collection of collector’s pieces which can be viewed by restaurant patrons. Walking through the cellar you’ll be amazed at some of the wines that form part of the collection and that can be ordered with any meal. The staff are also very knowledgeable when it comes to the wines, so definitely ask them for a recommendation.
Lastly, on the topic of staff; what really struck me during our trip to De Hoop Collection was the way in which the Collection’s staff love their little slice of heaven. It’s infectious really, the way in which you are received, showed your accommodation and guided around the property screams of a love for this unspoilt piece of coastline where whales and several other wildlife abounds.