This year has not been what we expected. Everything we anticipated this year was cruelly removed from our schedule including big birthday parties, weekends away with friends, holidays abroad, weddings. In 2020 life was cancelled! Sadly for some in more ways than one.
Recently I gave some thought to what I personally have been through in the past 9 months…. My sister and gorgeous nieces and nephews (super close cousins to my kids) emigrated, my son started high school, I started working from home (and homeschooling), we went into lockdown, we hardly saw friends and family and my dad died and I turned 40!
Not surprising then that I’ve been struggling with feelings of sadness and desperation, loneliness and grief, hopelessness and fatigue, depression and overwhelm. It’s all been too much! For the first time in my life I’ve been very worried about my mental health.
When an invite came through recently to spend a few days at De Hoop Collection in the De Hoop Nature Reserve it took me only a few minutes to realise I NEEDED this. My husband too was very quick to reply with an affirmative response, realising too that this was not just a weekend away – it was a reset button!
After months at home with very limited contact with the outside world, during one of the hardest seasons of my life, I really needed to hit the open road. Travelling is something that makes my spirit soar and my heart sing. I need it, often.
I need the horizon, the mountains, the sea, the savanna. I need the fresh country air and the subtle change of scent that a new destination brings. I need the sunrise and the sunset. I need a change of pace and an excitement for the new. I don’t think I’m alone in this love of travel, but I know my unique experiences are always more than just a holiday to me. Something inside me is reset with every trip I take.
As soon as we hit the highway and would our way via the back roads of the Western Cape I could feel my body relax. I allowed my mind to drift and think of nothing but the spectacular scenery. Any time of the year is perfect for a road trip through South Africa, but this time of the year is particularly lovely with yellow fields of canola lining the route and snow-capped mountains forming a backdrop.
I’ve always loved exploring South Africa and discovering hidden corners of this beautiful country. There is so much to discover that I feel fortunate to live in this land and would happily stay within the lockdown borders for a lifetime if I could move freely within them! There’s still so much I want to see!
Our destination on this trip was a lovely corner of the coastline located just past Cape Agulhas (the most southerly tip of the African continent!) in the Overberg. A few years back I visited De Hoop with my family and enjoyed the rolling sand dunes, beautiful birdlife and wildlife experiences with my 2 young kids (then aged 3 and 7!). As someone who loves to visit new places, I wasn’t sure I needed to return again, but I’m so glad I did! This time around I had an entirely different experience and I realised just how much there is to explore in a place you’ve been before. A chance to dig a little deeper and linger a little longer to fully absorb every moment.
The De Hoop Collection lies in a spectacular setting, bordering on a unique marine reserve and surrounded by a bountiful nature reserve, this is surely one of the Cape’s unspoilt gems.
A comfortable three hours’ drive from Cape Town on the world renowned whale route, the collection offers a wide range of accommodation types designed to suit all budgets. There is upmarket hotel accommodation, self-catering rondavels and cottages and fully equipped homes ensuring sufficient options for couples, families and groups.
My stay this time around was in a gorgeous suite, Cloete 2. A four poster bed swathed in mosquito netting and bathed in warm sunshine welcomed me on arrival and I immediately felt a sense of peace and tranquillity descend. This room felt like a sanctuary and I was only too pleased to have the private space and luxury of time to enjoy a few leisurely afternoon naps in its’ embrace!
Staying in a hotel suite has its’ perks – like delicious meals served every time your stomach starts to grumble! The on-site restaurant at De Hoop is a real win for those evenings when mom wants a break from cooking or dad wants time out from the braai! The food served at the restaurant is really great and we enjoyed some delicious meals and wines during our stay all served with a smile from the lovely local staff who took their Covid-19 precautions very seriously.
Despite this being my first post-Covid trip, I was amazed at how easy and relaxed I felt. Your contact details and temperature were taken on arrival at the main gate and thereafter sanitizing happened frequently – especially when entering the reception or restaurant area. Turn downs and room servicing didn’t happen unless requested, but I found I didn’t miss them. Masks were worn in all public spaces, but once out in nature or in your room it was ok to remove them – and at De Hoop there is plenty of wide open space, making it the ideal post-Covid getaway!
Be sure to carve out some time during your visit to De Hoop to sit and relax here – inside next to the roaring fire, or outside overlooking the vlei.
They also are able to pack picnic baskets for alfresco meals in the reserve and I can highly recommend arranging one of these for your visit to Koppie Alleen or to enjoy on a hike.
The beauty of De Hoop is that you can choose to do as much, or as little, as you like.
Whether you prefer to spend your time soaking up the breathtaking scenery from the restaurant or pool and enjoying your cosy room all afternoon, followed by some fireside reading or if you would rather spend the day hiking, biking and running through the fynbos or along the seashore – you can do exactly what you please. There is something on offer for every sort of nature-seeker.
The De Hoop Reserve is a safe, outdoor destination with almost year-round sunshine. This is a natural paradise for all, but children of all ages will especially relish the freedom that comes with spending time in this space.
There is plenty of things for kids to do on the reserve such swimming in the pool, riding bikes, visiting the rock pools or playing tennis, croquet or boules. During the school holidays there are also daily activities on offer for the whole family to enjoy.
The endless beach, towering sand dunes, intertidal rock pools and diverse fauna and flora all provide a natural playground for kids to learn.
Few other reserves offer as complete an outdoor experience as De Hoop – sea, sand dunes, the vlei, a floral sensation of rare fynbos plants, diverse antelope and the Potberg Mountains.
I recall the incredible birdlife was a highlight on my first visit, but this time around I was blow away…. possibly something to do with the fact that I had much more time to enjoy the birds without a toddler in tow!
Twitchers will love watching the wading birds on the shores of the vlei or hiking in the Potberg Mountains to visit a colony of endangered Cape vultures. I was particularly entranced by the flamboyant flamingos!
During this visit I made it a priority to reconnect with nature – an ever effective reset button. I enjoyed daily walks through the fynbos enjoying the unique beauty of each plant and flower up close and through my camera lens! These 8km walks also meant that I had encounters with bontebok, eland, baboons and ostrich on foot.
Mountain bikers and trail runners will find De Hoop unmatched in terms of trail options thanks to the countless gravel roads and those who prefer the beach will find it hard to resist a visit to Koppie Alleen to catch a glimpse of the Southern Right whales who call these azure waters home for a few months every year – even birthing their calves in the calm waves. This vantage point is quite possibly one of the best places to enjoy land-based whale watching.
Lazing on the beach is another option to fill sunnier days, or, if you’re feeling more energetic you can choose to spend a few hours traversing some of the largest sand dunes in South Africa.
Something I didn’t get to experience this time, but will certainly sign up for on my next visit, is to join Dalfrenzo Laing or another one of the experienced nature guides to experience the seashore in a brand new way on the daily marine walk along the rock pools.
De Hoop delivered in so many ways – unmatched memories that I enjoyed included an evening round the campfire in the boma under a canopy of stars, an early morning meander to meet the resident flamingos and sundowners with a dassie overlooking the majestic vlei.
These wide open spaces, huge skies and fresh coastal air were exactly what I needed to reset my soul after all the stress of this year. More than once I found myself taking in a huge, deep breath so that my body and mind could slow down and realign.
De Hoop was the perfect place for me to rest and reset – allowing myself to get in step with nature and it’s natural rhythms once again.
Day visitors are welcome at De Hoop and guests may leave their vehicles at any time to walk or cycle anywhere in the reserve as long as they take care not to trample the natural vegetation.
De Hoop Collection is part of Cape Country Routes.
Discover the latest accommodation specials at De Hoop Collection.
On our way back to Cape Town from De Hoop we stopped off in Stanford to enjoy a river cruise on board the Lady Stanford! Highly recommended as the perfect pit stop on your way home.