A good dose of hope at De Hoop Nature Reserve

Posted by Anita Froneman on 8 July 2021

When cruising down the gravel roads in De Hoop Nature Reserve, the bontebok lazily look up from their grazing and for a mystical moment I made eye contact with one. It seemed at ease, and bontebok have reason to be with their numbers increasing nicely. That was not always the case.

The bontebok, a sub-species of blesbok, was once hunted so ruthlessly that only 17 individuals remained in the 1800s. A large population of this colourful antelope now roams within the De Hoop Nature Reserve near Bredasdorp, where the current headcount stands at 308, a glimmer of hope for the species that was nearly wiped out.

The Bontebok National Park near Swellendam is home to another 200 of these animals, after a drastic intervention to save them from extinction in 1931 that led to the establishment of the national park.

The bontebok in the reserve are part of the very few protected populations. Credit: De Hoop Collection

Bontebok conservation

Endemic to the Western Cape, they are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List, a step above endangered, so they’re not out of the woods yet. So to speak.

‘Most of the vegetation types that constituted the bontebok’s original habitat are classified as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered, resulting in 70% of the habitat being threatened.  Only <10% of the original extent of renosterveld within the natural distribution range of the bontebok still remains,’ says CapeNature.

Bontebok is a sub-species of blesbok, with very distinct colours. Credit: Bernard DuPont

At De Hoop, the bontebok have 266 eland, 19 Cape mountain zebra and 146 ostriches to keep them company. That is, besides the more elusive animals like riverine rabbits, porcupines and caracals that lurk around at night in the 36 000 hectares of conservation area. It is also a World Heritage Site bordering 70 kilometres of pristine coastline. As if that wasn’t enough to convince any visitor that they have, in fact stumbled upon heaven on earth, a 19-kilomtre vlei, which is on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, stretches across the reserve.

An eland striking a magnificent pose. Credit: De Hoop Collection

De Hoop Collection accommodation

So, eager to spot the beautiful bontebok and all the other treasures the reserve has to offer, a pair of traffic-weary travellers slunk into the accommodation at De Hoop Collection one wintry Friday evening after dark. Tired after a long week’s work and a three-hour drive from Cape Town, the relief of finding Hendrik, the manager making us a cosy fire in the room and serving a delicious dinner next to it is comparable only to drinking that first sip of coffee in the morning. You close your eyes and go: aaah.

Dinner by the fire? Don’t mind if I do. Credit: Anita Froneman

The suites are made up to feel classy and cosy at the same time. Credit: Anita Froneman

The suites are tastefully made up farmhouse style, complete with thatch roof and wooden flooring. The Victorian bathtub was the cherry on the cake for me. Imagine my delight the next morning when I discovered the tub has a view of the vlei where you can bird spot for hours. Then, when you’re all vlei-ed out, you can head to the beach and do some of the country’s best land-based whale watching.

The accommodation is unassuming and unobtrusive, yet contains the ultimate luxury. Credit: De Hoop Collection

Our suite had a spectacular view of the vlei. Credit: Anita Froneman

Every year, some 40% of the world’s southern right whales come to these shores to breed. Females and their calves swim in the clear waters, while males put on spectacular displays. As a marine reserve and World Heritage Site, De Hoop guarantees a safe nursery for these pods of visiting cetaceans.

Southern right whales are often spotted within the reserve. Credit: De Hoop Collection

There are numerous rock pools to explore during low tide. Credit: De Hoop Collection

Thundering around

You can easily walk the 800 metres or so to the beach if you’re feeling energetic. Or, if the wind is howling and the clouds look ominous like it did that particular morning, you hop into your very comfortable Ford Ranger Thunder and hit the road. Even if it is mostly just to show off. It isn’t mine, you see, just lent to me for the weekend.

This bakkie is BIG. Credit: Anita Froneman

It doesn’t just drive like a dream, either. It’s pretty darn sexy. The new 18-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels are finished in black, adding to its sporty character. The seats, dashboard, steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake are covered in black leather with striking red stitching, and it really is the meticulous attention to detail that gives it such a well-rounded look and feel.

One could argue it looks even better with a few splashes of mud. Credit: Anita Froneman

That, and the fact that it eats up dirt roads for breakfast. In fact, the gravel roads inside the reserve are so well-maintained that we had to exit the reserve to find some real mud, just to put this beast to the test. The results? Let me tell you: Flying colours. The high clearance and suspension let you take on any terrain.

The 4×4 is a bi-turbo automatic drive and features adaptive cruise control. Its safety features are impressive too, with autonomous emergency braking, forward collision alert and lane-keeping alert. Practical additions include a lockable Mountain Top roller shutter, for peace of mind when travelling with cargo. It’s spacious inside, with ample creature comforts like enough cup holders, a dazzling infotainment touch screen system that includes Bluetooth and my personal favourite: seat warming.

The scenery

De Hoop is the perfect place to switch off your phone and take in your surroundings. This sectioned-off little part of the universe is so remote and wild that its scenery is worth mentioning as a drawcard on its own. Wide open spaces, lush green fields, age-old fig trees and waves crashing against the rocks are all part of what makes the reserve so exquisite.

Koppie Alleen is the designated whale-watching spot. Credit: Anita Froneman

Mother Nature did not hold back. Credit: Anita Froneman

You can join one of their many guided tours on offer, or simply explore this glorious reserve on your own. Lounge by the pool while enjoying views of the vlei, stroll through the proteas and other beautiful fynbos or do some whale spotting at the beach.

The fig trees on the property have trunks the size of a car. Credit: Anita Froneman

Proteas in full bloom! Credit: Anita Froneman

Do this at De Hoop Collection

The swimming pool overlooks the vlei. Credit: De Hoop Collection

The reserve offers plenty of activities for every interest and fitness level. Contact them to learn more about:

-Walking trails

-Mountain bike hire

-Guided bird walks

-Marine walks


-Boat cruises

Other facilities include the tennis court, the boules court, the swimming pool and the Fig Tree restaurant.


Email [email protected] or phone 021 4224522

Or visit the website


Rondawels from R1,500 per unit, sleeps two

Suites from R2,100 per unit, sleeps two

View all rates here


30 African penguins released at De Hoop Nature Reserve

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