20 Reasons to Visit the De Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape

by - October 13, 2021

The De Hoop Nature Reserve is home to an incredible combination of wildlife, birdlife and marine life. The approximately 340 square kilometre reserve extends into a protected marine area that stretches three nautical miles off its shores. This becomes the breeding ground for the Southern Right Whales between June and December each year. 

This is also the location of The De Hoop Collection, a selection of impressive accommodation options that forms part of the Cape Country Routes. Here one can have an enjoyable stay in the midst of incredible natural surroundings. Not only is this beautiful place a World Heritage site but it is also just a three-hour drive from Cape Town.  

If I haven’t already convinced you to go there, here are 20 reasons to visit the De Hoop Nature Reserve:

De Hoop: The ultimate Western Cape weekend getaway

*The De Hoop Collection / Cape Country Routes hosted my stay and provided my meals and activities but all thoughts and opinions are my own.


1. The wildlife

Some of the animals you can expect to see here include:

  • Big Bucks (or Eland):
Eland at wander the bush
Photo credit: Sarah Crone

  • Little bucks (or 'Bontebok' - I’m a city girl, okay?)

Bontebok at De Hoop Nature Reserve

  • Zebras:
(Photo provided)

  • Humans dressed as unicorns: 
Girl in unicorn onesie on four-poster bed


  • And, of course, the majestic dassie, which I still maintain is the Western Cape’s most underrated mammalian treasure!
A dassie
Photo Credit: Captureson Photography 

The De Hoop Nature Reserve is said to be home to over 86 species of mammals of which the bontebok and eland seem to be the most common and clearly also the least shy, often coming right up to our accommodation, especially in the evening. I definitely wasn’t expecting so much wildlife right outside my front door ...and bedroom window.


2. The birdlife

With 260 bird species, from the huge ostriches to the waterbirds on the vlei, De Hoop is a paradise for bird-lovers. Due to an unusually heavy rainfall this season, the vlei was quite flooded during my stay and the usually abundant birdlife was sadly absent. I was disappointed that there were no flamingos but at least I brought my own: 

Plastic flamingo looks out over vlei
Rodrigo Flamingo searching for his family

Guided bird walks are also available for those with a special interest in birds (real ones). 


3. The vultures at the Potberg Vulture Colony 

If you’re up for a drive and a short hike up a hill, you can visit a viewing platform that looks out over the Potberg Vulture Colony. This is said to be the last remaining breeding site for the Cape Vultures in the Western Cape.

Potberg Vulture Colony platform, Overberg

Apparently, playing dead is not the best way to attract the vultures but it was worth a try. Thankfully, there was no shortage of vulture sightings even without my assistance.

Woman pretending to be dead to attract vultures

The picture I managed to take to prove that I was there and I saw a vulture:

Cape Vulture soaring

(And no, it doesn't quite do the experience justice.)


4. The wildflowers and plant-life

De Hoop is home to 1500 plant species. I was fortunate to visit in spring and was surprised by the variety and colours of the wildflowers that I saw on one of my walks. I later found out that the De Hoop Nature Reserve is the home of certain species of endangered fynbos, with some living only within its boundaries. If rare and unusual plant species interest you, you won’t be disappointed. 

Wildflowers at the De Hoop Nature Reserve


5.  You can go on a game drive 

There are a number of ways to experience the animals, birds and plant life of De Hoop and one of them is by vehicle. Qualified field guides are on hand to drive you around on an open safari vehicle. I’m ashamed to admit this as a South African but this is the closest I have come to going on an actual safari. 

Game drive on safari vehicle


6. You can go on a hike, a game walk or even just frolic among the animals

At the De Hoop Nature Reserve, anything carnivorous seems to be small and elusive so you can wander among the animals unafraid of being eaten. In my time at De Hoop, I did both a two-hour hike and a 15-minute frolic. 

Close to the Opstal area where we were staying was a landing strip that just seemed to have animals on it at any given time: (If you squint you can see them in the background.) 

Frolicking among animals at the De Hoop Nature Reserve
Seeing wildlife on foot = incredible

Cartwheels among animals at the De Hoop Nature Reserve
Seeing wildlife on your hands = overcomplicating things.

FYI: When you behave like this in public, the animals will skeef you out as much as adult humans do.
Warning: / Pro-tip: Be careful not to stand (or handstand) on the dung!


7. You can ride a mountain bike trail  

I didn’t do this one as there was just too much to do and I ran out of time. (I think I might have to go back.) With a number of bike trails, you can bring your own mountain bike or rent one from reception. Guided bike rides are also available with qualified field guides.


8. You can sail along the vlei on a guided eco-boat cruise 

Quite a number of the 260 bird species that you can see at De Hoop are water birds, so a cruise along the vlei gives you the opportunity to get a better view of them. There was definitely no absence of sights to see on this trip, from animal life along the vlei, some birdlife and even the architecture of the heritage guest houses on the other side. 

While the usual birdlife may have been scarce during my visit, the sunset showed up in a big way and certainly did not disappoint.

Sunset on eco-boat cruise at the De Hoop Nature Reserve

If you play your cards right, they may even let you steer the boat. (The captain on the cruise ship I used to work on let me do this once but it was docked at the time so that probably doesn’t count).

Eco-boat cruise at the De Hoop Nature Reserve


9. Incredible accommodation 

My accommodation for the trip was the De Hoop Collection's Opstal Manor House. Having been built in 1771, it is definitely the oldest building I have ever slept in. 

The Opstal Manor House Sunset at the De Hoop Nature Reserve

In the kitchen, the home's original cast iron oven remains in place and the wooden beam that supports the roof is thought to have come from the "Krakatau" shipwreck.  The entire home is beautifully decorated with antique furniture to match the architecture. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack my crinoline so I had to make do with some more contemporary attire:

Girl in unicorn onesie
 

Together with a bathroom that's bigger than my bedroom back home and fitted with a clawfoot bathtub, this house could inspire the influencer in anyone! 


 
Not all the accommodation is from the 18th century. There are a number of more recently built suites, cottages and rondavels. The De Hoop Collection offers a wide range of options for different tastes and budgets. 


10. The Fig Tree Restaurant and its food

Overlooking the vlei is the De Hoop Collection's Fig Tree Restaurant and lounge area, complete with its pincushion flower arrangements and ambient music.  

The Fig Tree Restaurant at the De Hoop Collection
(Photo provided)

The outdoor seating area is the right spot for some tea and cake on a warm afternoon, while its comfortable indoor lounge area is the perfect place for a drink with your travel mates, uploading envy-inspiring pics on the free Wi-Fi or curling up by the fireplace on a chilly evening.

The Fig Tree Restaurant at the De Hoop Collection

From more sophisticated meals and desserts to simple bacon & eggs, all the food was amazing. 

Pro-tip: Try the pizza, you won’t be disappointed!


11. The wine from the silo cellar

De Hoop was once a farm and one of the two silos found here has been transformed into a wine cellar. As you may know, I don’t drink but I was introduced to a non-alcoholic sparkling wine that I’m going to have to source for myself now that I am home. If wine is your thing, you may also discover a new favourite in their vast selection. 

Silo wine cellar at the De Hoop Collection
(Photo provided)

12. You can get married

Wow, that went from 0 to 100 quickly! One minute we’re discussing wine and the next thing we’re planning a wedding?

I mean, I didn’t actually engage in this activity but it’s nice to know that it is an option.
Not only is it a beautiful place to have a wedding but the De Hoop Collection is fully equipped with everything you need to host and cater for your guests. Your wedding pics may even be photobombed by some eland! 


13. This infinity pool

(Photo provided)

It may have been a little too chilly for a swim but when you find yourself at a pool that looks like this, sometimes you just have to go full-influencer despite the weather!

Trying to be an infinity pool influencer in winter

(Other facilities include boules and tennis but my Instagram followers don’t care about those.) 


14. The stargazing 

Located a good distance away from other towns and cities, at De Hoop you can actually see the stars without the usual light pollution. We were also treated to a potjie (a South African dish cooked in a ‘potjie pot’ or cauldron) in a boma (a type of shelter around a bonfire). For my international readers, this is a very South African thing, and something you should definitely experience when you visit this country. 

Bonfire and potjie at the De Hoop Nature Reserve

The s’mores we made on the fire after the meal were not a distinctly South African thing but I enjoyed those too!


15. The rock pools and the ocean life that lives there

Together with my group, I was treated to an interpretive marine walk with a very knowledgeable guide. This guy would dip his fingers into a teeny rock pool and pull out 15 different things that we didn’t even realise were alive and squirming.

I was the only one in my group who brought what I thought were called 'water shoes’ (at least that’s what we called them in the Caribbean). Whether you call them 'reef shoes', 'aqua socks' or whatever, I highly recommend bringing some even if you get mocked for calling them by the wrong name.

Interpretive marine walk at the De Hoop Nature Reserve

The walk was timed to coincide with the low tide that morning and then we were treated to a picnic brunch afterwards with views of the ocean. 


16. The snorkelling

Like the wedding, I didn’t actually do this activity but this one I regret more. Don’t be like me, bring a snorkel! Based on what saw in those rock pools, I can only imagine what you can see in slightly deeper waters.


17. The beautiful beach and its sand dunes

At De Hoop’s beautiful unspoilt beach Koppie Alleen, you can frolic, be an influencer or lose all sense of shame and roll down the sand dunes. What a great way to exfoliate things you didn’t know needed exfoliation and take home some sand mementoes that you will continue to find in unexpected places for days! 
#worthit



18. Obviously, the whales

There is definitely a reason that a whale tale is in the logo for De Hoop. Every year 40% of the world’s Southern Right Whales come here to breed and as a result, the De Hoop Nature Reserve is considered one of the world’s best land-based whale-watching sites. 

While it was very hard to capture on camera, there is something incredibly awe-inspiring about looking out over the vast ocean and seeing one of these majestic creatures popping a nose, a fin or a tail out of the water every few seconds, with the occasional blowhole spray. When one breaches the water surface, it’s especially exciting!  

Whale watching at the De Hoop Nature Reserve
So I may have photoshopped this image but this is what it felt like, okay?

19. You can drive there from Cape Town and who doesn’t love a road trip?

The De Hoop Collection is located just three hours away from Cape Town and also three hours from George. It’s far enough away to feel like you’re on holiday and yet close enough for a weekend escape. You can make stops along the way to places like Pringle Bay, Stanford, or Hermanus or use it as a stop on the way to George, Knysna or Plett. 

You can also make a stop at the De Hoop Reserve as a day visitor but beware that visiting without staying here is a bit like playing with a puppy and then trying to give it back. 


20. And finally, the sunsets

One of the things I miss the most about De Hoop is its sunsets. Whether you’re on a boat on the vlei, dressed up for dinner at the infinity pool, or anywhere else, it’s hard not to be winded from the sight of these colours taking your breath away.

Sunset at the De Hoop Collection

Other helpful information for visiting the De Hoop Collection:

Where is De Hoop:

The De Hoop Collection is in the Overberg region, a three-hour drive from Cape Town. You can find a map to the De Hoop Nature Reserve here.

De Hoop Weather:

  • The Overberg area of the Western Cape has a Mediterranean climate. The temperature here ranges from a high of 26°c in the summer, with an average of 22°c, to a minimum of 8°c in Winter, with an average temperature of 12°c. 
  • It receives rainfall throughout the year but most of it occurs in Winter, between June and August.
  • Though the direction may change with the seasons, one should be prepared for windy conditions year-round as well with winds reaching speeds of 60 km/h or more in winter.
Like the rest of the Western Cape, pack for ‘three seasons in one day’ weather. 

De Hoop Water Temperature

Being about an hour away from Cape Agulhas where the oceans meet, there is a mix of Indian and Atlantic Ocean currents. According to the guide we had on our marine walk, the water temperature depends on the currents. I would suggest packing both a wetsuit and a cozzie* just in case. 

*For my international readers ‘cozzie’ is short for ‘swimming costume’ which is our term for a bathing suit. If you think that’s funny, we also refer to traffic lights as ‘robots’. 

Koppie Alleen at the De Hoop Collection

What to pack:

  • Sunscreen 
  • A hat that won’t blow away too easily
  • Binoculars
  • A bicycle (if you have one and you don’t want to rent one)
  • Walking shoes
  • Water shoes / reef shoes / aqua socks
  • A snorkel and wetsuit (if you have)
  • A bathing suit (for the beach or the infinity pool)
  • Bug repellent (depending on the season)
  • A jacket 
  • Scarves and beanies (for the colder months)

You can also swing past another Cape Country Routes destination on the way

The holiday isn’t over until you get home so you might as well prolong the vacation as long as possible.

The De Hoop Collection in the De Hoop Nature Reserve is part of the Cape Country Routes, a group of owner-operated and managed accommodation and activity establishments located on scenic and historic routes in the Western and Eastern Cape. Also falling under this umbrella is Lady Stanford River Cruises.  

Posing on the Lady Stanford on the Klein River, Western Cape

We stopped in the quaint small town of Stanford on the way home for a leisurely cruise down the Klein River. This eco-friendly riverboat accommodates up to 26 people at a time. We took in incredible sights of the countryside with a scenic mountain backdrop and spotted some beautiful birds along the way. More than 250 bird species can be spotted here including Fish Eagles, Flamingos, Blue Cranes, Kingfishers, African Darters, Grebes, Herons, Osprey or the African Harrier-Hawk. 

Plastic lawn flamingo / Travel toy looks out over the Klein River from the Lady Stanford
Rodrigo loved seeing his cousins.


I would like to say thank you to the De Hoop Collection and Cape Country Routes for hosting me.

You can find out more about the De Hoop Collection at their website or via email (res@dehoopcollection.co.za) 
Find out more about Lady Stanford River Cruises and other notable accommodation and activity establishments at the Cape Country Routes website or by emailing them at bookings@capecountryroutes.com.

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