Two affordable Cape winter stays

Posted on 5 June 2018

Visiting the Cape’s nature reserves in winter can be blissful, try one of these two for your next winter escape.

Nature in its purest form at De Mond Nature Reserve. Image by Ondela Mlandu


1. De Mond Nature Reserve

The drive: Cape Town to De Mond Nature Reserve

Distance: 210km via the N2, travelling time 2h40 (allow 3 hours, or more, if you plan to stop along the way)

When a group of strangers meet for the first time, who knows how the interaction may be. There could be serious conflict or they could get along like a house on fire.

Cape Nature was kind enough to invite a few members of the media, including myself, to visit two of their nature reserves – De Mond and Kogelberg Nature Reserves.

Four strangers set off in an Audi Q5 (last year’s model was awarded the best premium mid-size SUV title in the annual CAR Magazine’s Top 12 Best Buys in February this year) on the N2, for a week long adventure, to arguably the most exciting part of the province, where if you are lucky enough – you could be surrounded by whales. Southern right whales migrate into the Western Cape’s coastal waters to nurse their young annually and can be spotted from May to Novevember. Humpback whales and many dolphin species also frequent these waters.

We all have different expectations when it comes to road trips. I wanted to experience the sounds and views of nature and be with outstanding travel companions. Fortunately for me, I had both. On this trip I had a chance to taste my first Peregrine pie from the Peregrine Farm Stall, as we stopped in Grabouw for a leg and lunch break. I’ve always been an advocate for Eastern Cape Shamrock pies, but they have a huge competitor now, according to my taste buds. Shortly after we had all had something to nibble on, we proceeded to De Mond Nature Reserve.

A seven kilometre morning hike at De Mond Nature Reserve was one of the best ways to start the morning, learning about fauna and flora on the reserve. Image by Ondela Mlandu

De Mond is located between two coastal villages, on the south westerly part of the South Coast, near Arniston and Struisbaai and was proclaimed a nature reserve in 1986. This coastal reserve is situated a few kilometres from the mouth of the Heuningnes River. It is here that you find vegetation ranging from succulents and grasses clinging to sand dunes to milkwood forests and saltmarshes. Mammals that can be found at here include gysbok, steenbok and grey duikers and many avid birders are drawn to the area to witness the rare African black oystercatcher and the graceful-looking blue cranes.

The Strena hiking trail at De Mond Nature Reserve allows you to experience both the beach and rugged indigenous terrain. Image by Ondela Mlandu

We spent two nights here, at the rustic De Mond cottage, along the Whale Coast. The cottage comes fully equipped with three bedrooms (bedding included) and a shower (bring your own towels). There is also a fire place, electricity and water, but be sure to bring enough drinking water with you. We spent the rest of the afternoon at a special viewpoint, where the sea was a startling cool, deep blue and we watched the sun go down. Here, we made a toast to the beginning of new friendships.
Price: De Mond Cottage (Sleep 6) 1-4 persons per night Peak season: R2290 (for 2-4 people), R325 per addional person per night. Off-peak season (winter special): R1440 (for 2-4 people), R325 per addional person per night.

Cape Nature’s 40% Winter Special runs until 31 August 2018.

The walk: From De Mond Nature Reserve to Waenhuiskrans in Arniston.
Distance: 7km, 1h30

Waking up to a sky that resembled a palette of different shades of pink was a highlight for me. We all eagerly whipped out our cameras and cellphones to get those Instagram worthy images. From the cottage you could breathe in the fresh, salty tang of sea air. An appointment with the manager of De Mond Nature Reserve, Adrian Fortuin and his wife Wynonna to do the Sterna Trail was the order of the day. The Sterna is a seven kilometres trail that led us through the dune forest before following the beach to the river mouth. Fishing enthusiasts had already cast their rods, hoping for morning catches.

Roman Beach in Arniston, the main swimming beach along the Whale Coast. Image by Ondela Mlandu

By midday, re-energised by the release of endorphins after our walk, we were ready to explore more of the area. The small village of Arniston is a short distance from De Mond Nature Reserve and Adrian had stongly highly advised that we make a stop there. We hopped back into the new Audi Q5 from the Audi Centre in Cape Town. The car delivers a smooth ride and proved its prowess while gliding through the sand and manourvering easily over the rocky terrain as we approached the Arniston Caves.

Arniston is surrounded by two nature reserves, De Mond and De Hoop and both reserves form part of the Cape Nature family. This peaceful fishing village is also known as Waenhuiskrans (meaning wagon-house cliff) by the locals. The name is derived from a cliff containing a huge cave that was speculated to have enough space for a wagon and a span of oxen. The caves at Waenhuiskrans are best seen and safer to visit when the tide is low. I would not encourage a visit to the cave if you are claustrophobic as you may find it rather dark and a bit nerve wrecking.

The walk to the spectacular cliffs and Arniston caves is worth doing. Image by Ondela Mlandu


Also Read: Road Tripping in South Africa

2. Kogelberg Nature Reserve

The drive: De Mond Nature Reserve to Kogelberg Nature Reserve

Distance: 154km, 2h20 (allow for 3 hours if you intend on taking pitstops)

Leaving De Mond the next morning, we headed south to the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, situated off the coastal road (R44) near to Kleinmond, where sections of the Cape Fold Mountains cascade into the sea. The 18000 hectare nature reserve was proclaimed as a Cape Nature reserve in 1987.

The Kogelberg area has great floral wealth, and is affectionately known as Cape Floral Kingdom. There are approximately 1800 plant species including the marsh rose and although the area doesn’t have many large animals, there are antelope such as klipspringers and grysbok, and dassies and baboons are a common sight.

The drive to Oudebosch in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve will leave you speechless. Have a camera in hand, to make a time lapse of the scenery. Image by Ondela Mlandu

It’s at the Oudebosch eco-friendly cabins, in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, that we rushed in like excited school children on camp to find our bedrooms. These cabins were introduced to ensure environmental conservation and feature vegetation on the roof that act as insulation to keep the rooms cool in summer, while indoor fireplaces heat the cabins in winter.

There are five self-catering eco-cabins, which sleep four people each and consist of two bedrooms (one has an en-suite bathroom) an additional bathroom and a kitchen, lounge and dining area.

There is no camping or picnic facilities available at Oudebosch but day visitors are welcome to book one of the hiking trails. Day visitors require a permit to hike within the Reserve, which should be carried with you when hiking. Permits are available from Cape Nature or can be purchased at reception, on arrival. We hiked the Oudesbosch to Harold Porter trail, which provided splendid views of Betty’s Bay tucked between the mountains.

Kerry Kopke enjoying a cup of coffee outside our cottage named Iris. Image by Ondela Mlandu

Five days later and wonderful connections were formed. Nature has a glorious way of bringing people together. Isn’t it just wonderful?

Price, excluding conservation fee: Iris, Everlasting Daisy, Erika, Fire Lily, Marsh Rose (5 Units, each sleeps 4) Peak season, R2300 for 1-2 persons per night, R340 per extra person per night. Off-peak season (Winter special): R1170 for 1-2 persons per night, R340 per extra person per night, excluding school holidays.

Cape Nature’s 40% Winter Special runs until 31 August 2018.

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