On this trip Paula stayed at the De Hoop Collection Nature Reserve and had a lovely time in the historic Melkkamer Vlei Cottage. Go to their listing to make a booking for a wonderful weekend in the De Hoop Nature Reserve.
The first time that I had been to De Hoop Nature Reserve was on a primary school camp and, a few years later I visited the reserve again with my family. I remember capturing some fun moments on my old Nikkor film camera: zebra stripes, ostrich necks and the small figure of my little sister surrounded only by white dunes. Something about the imagery of the place, my mixed-up memories and happy souvenirs made me want to go back.
"It's not that far." I thought to myself, "Just a few hours' drive out of Cape Town." With anticipation I arranged a week-end away near the southern-most point of Africa. It wasn't long before we set out on the N2. It carried us through landscapes of canola in full flower, hoops of rainbows and fields dotted with sheep and lambs.
We turned southwards at Caledon and enjoyed a relaxed drive through Napier and Bredasdorp. The tar road ended there and a well-maintained sand road took its place. A few hills and dips later we entered the De Hoop Nature Reserve. Inside the reserve we found the reception area for De Hoop Collection. Our self-catering accommodation wasn't nestled here at Opstal amongst the other cottages on the eastern side of the vlei - rather we had to drive around the body of water to the far side to reach the larger and more private cottages.
Half an hour later, at the historic Melkkamer Vlei Cottage, we were warmly welcomed by the staff. They had already lit the fire and ensured that we had everything we needed before departing. The cottage has four rather large bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a cosy lounge and a kitchen that you can really move around in.
When we got the hang of the gas stove, we started cooking our supper by lantern light. We easily found everything we needed and before long we were sitting in front of the warm fire with red wine and a decent home-made supper. Just behind us we could hear the birds getting ready for the cold night around the vlei. If you visit these cottages in winter, you'll have nothing to worry about; the beds are certainly warm, large and very comfortable.
In the morning, we enjoyed the view of looming clouds and green fields with the shutters open. The weather didn't promise anything short of rain that day. Since we were only staying for the weekend, we had to make the most of it.
Dressed for adventure we took the 45-odd minute drive to Koppie Alleen. There were plenty of potholes, but our little Polo didn't complain much. We had to drive very slowly anyway, and just as well, or else we wouldn't have seen that caracal, or that mongoose.
August and September are the best months for whale-watching, and De Hoop Reserve is one of the best land-based whale-watching spots. From the time we first set eyes on the sea, Southern Right whales and their calves were breaching and spouting in the waves just a few hundred meters from the shore.
We continued whale-watching while we took a scenic walk along the coast, pausing to investigate the wide variety of flora along the way. We ate our lunch on the beach and spotted some dassies watching us from the rocks nearby.
Unexpectedly, we got caught in a sudden downpour of rain and hail on the way back to the car. Soaked through, we decided we had nothing to lose and took another walk; this time on the dunes. This landscape gives you the feeling of being miles away from civilisation in almost an instant. The curved hills of sand dunes are strange and captivating.
In the late afternoon we arrived back at the Melkkamer Vlei Cottage. The staff came to check on us and brought more firewood to light our fire. We supped in front of the fire again that night and spent some time chatting and roasting marshmallows before another comfortable, cosy sleep.
It was Sunday before we knew it. As far as check-out mornings go, this was a good one. After a thorough read through the bird book on the coffee table and a simple breakfast with a peaceful view, we packed up our things. On the way to the reception office, we spotted plenty of different birds, a zebra, some eland, ostriches, cape francolin and herd of bontebok nursing calves.
Within a few hours we arrived home feeling relaxed and happy, our minds fresh with pleasant memories. The cosy, comfortable cottage, friendly staff, wide variety of fauna, flora and scenic landscapes made our stay at De Hoop a really great weekend away.
If you'd like to go to the De Hoop Collection Nature Reserve, for a weekend amongst nature make sure to go to their listing and make a booking.