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Issue 6
Africa Travel> Issue 6
UPDATED: August 27, 2014
A Whale of a Time
Few other reserves offer as complete an outdoor experience as De Hoop in the Western Cape – sea, sand, floral kingdom, game and mountains
By Jo Kromberg

Wildlife on your doorstep at De Hoop Nature Reserve (COURTESY OF DEHOOPCOLLECTION.COM)

All along the magnificent Overberg on this cloudy Spring day on route to De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Western Cape of South Africa, the yellows, greens, greys and purples that only nature can conjure up, unfolded all around us.

Like ever-changing color filters, the wind-blown clouds cast different lights and effects on the already picturesque and undulating landscape, stocked with vineyards, corn fields, canola fields, hills and valleys as far as the eye can see.

We find the turn-off to the aptly named Hemel-en-Aarde valley just before one enters the sea-side resort town of Hermanus. It means Heaven and Earth and in many ways this area may be summed up in clichéd, even Biblically lyrical terms. It is a resplendent piece of the earth, resonating with sensory images, sounds and smells.

The winding road takes us to Creation Wines. 'Hemel-en-Aarde' falls under the appellation of Walker Bay and is divided into three wards: Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. Creation takes pride of place in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge where, as our charming hostess and proprietor Carolyn explains, their vineyards are planted some 350 meters above sea level. Here ideal soil types combine with the cooling breezes off the Atlantic Ocean (only a few kilometers away) to create wine growing conditions rivaling the world's best.

De Hoop is a great place for whale watching

After a spectacular lunch – and some of the best wines I've tasted in years – we continue our journey to De Hoop Nature Reserve. Stone Age people resided in the De Hoop area thousands of years ago. These nomadic Khoiinhabited the southern Cape and their middens are evident today. This region is a World Heritage Site and a treasure-trove of natural assets. At about 36,000 hectares, it is the flagship of Cape Nature. The De Hoop Marine Reserve was proclaimed in March 1986 and extends a further three nautical miles off the coastline.

Our first night is spent at one of the self-catering cottages; whitewash-walled fisherman-style houses characteristic of the Western Cape Coast. It is ideal for a family and friends getaway, the cottages are well appointed and provide guests with a home-from-home setting.

But it is the intriguingly named "Koppie Alleen" (Hill Alone) where we stay the following evening that is simply awe-inspiring.

Nestled amongst the magnificent fynbos, home to countless birds and antelope, the self-catering Koppie Alleen has the elusive combination of privacy and direct access to the sandy beaches. Built in the local fisherman-style, the cottage boasts four-poster beds with crisp white linen and mosquito netting. The Mediterranean-style living area has a huge indoor fireplace for chilly Cape winters. The protected outdoor area looks onto the beach, with sun-loungers, umbrellas and a barbecue area for alfresco dinning and relaxation. Evenings spent at Koppie Alleen recall a time when the romance of firelight and paraffin lanterns was commonplace. It is perfect for a long, lazy family vacation. There are four beautiful double rooms with everything provided and two gorgeous bathrooms. There is no electricity, which makes it a unique adventure for jaded city kids. There are also numerous games to keep them entertained for hours. This is of course, over and above the wonderland of eco-systems waiting to be discovered in the area together with a variety of antelope, giraffe and zebra in the park.

We wonder off to the beach in the last light of early summer. It's difficult to describe the notion of time standing still, standing on the rocks and watching about 14 humpback whales frolicking in the sea before your eyes. For anyone badly in need of a vacation that offers something different, De Hoop offers that and so much more.



Getting there:

There are no direct flights between any cities in China and Cape Town, but South African Airways offers daily flights between Beijing and Johannesburg. From Johannesburg there are hourly flights to Cape Town from where it is advisable to rent a car to get to De Hoop. Contact De Hoop directly or speak to your local travel agent.

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