UNESCO Heritage listed De Hoop Nature Reserve - Guide for First Time Visitors

South Africa is a country of outstanding beauty. Her people, her colours, her scents make her one of the most perfect travel destinations ever. One of South Africa’s secrets is her biodiversity. How fantastic is it, that if you go on a road trip through the different provinces of the country, you will travel through eight different biomes? These are different ecological life zones, that have the same geography and climate, and in which plants and wildlife form an ecosystem. De Hoop Nature Reserve is home to the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Guide for First Time Visitors to UNESCO Heritage listed De Hoop Nature Reserve The Touristin

Coming from Cape Town, one will have to drive through the Hottentots (Khoikhoi) Holland Mountains via Sir Lowry’s Pass just after Somerset West to reach the Overberg region. The Overberg region, that is picturesque small towns, world-class wine, and farmland, with canola fields as far as the eye can see, under a wide sky that is sometimes dotted with big fluffy Cumulus clouds.
You find the De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Overberg near the southern tip of Africa, east of Cape Agulhas on the Garden Route. The De Hoop Nature Reserve covers an area of about 35,546 hectares, plus approximately 25,300 hectares of marine reserve. The land was declared a nature reserve in 1957, and two and a half decades later, in the 1980s, the National Party government expropriated further privately-owned land for nature conservation (and for a military testing range).

When you arrive in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, you receive the friendliest of welcomes, it shines through that all people who work here, do this passionately and with all their heart. Every little detail of the park and your stay will be explained to you, and that with a big smile. I secretly hope South Africans go out into the world to explain their hospitality tricks to other establishments.

The rich biodiversity and the over 70 kilometres of pristine coastline make the De Hoop Nature Reserve a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 19 kilometres of wetland, the vlei, that stretches across the reserve, puts it on the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance. It is not only the nature that is been cared for. The De Hoop Nature Reserve puts the local community at the heart of their business, they partner with local communities, and create jobs and long-term opportunities, and strengthen the local economy, and with that create great places to live and play.

The Indian Ocean, the sand dunes, wetlands, over 1,500 species of fynbos (out of the total number of 9,000 in the whole Floral Kingdom), bats, mountain trails, more than 260 species of birds, Cape vultures, Cape mountain zebras, bonteboks, striped field mice, dassies (rock hyrax), cape otters and ostriches, baboons, southern right whales, rock pools full of magnificent creatures, and views for days are waiting to be discovered by you. Let out your inner Alexander von Humboldt and see how many different birds and fynbos you get to identify. I imagine one would probably need months for exploring the nature reserve. Travel slow, remember it is all in the detail.

A break here will put you in a serene state of mind. If you are looking for a romantic getaway, a nature and wildlife experience, a foodie adventure and a digital detox, this is the place for you. Nature is all we need. De Hoop Nature Reserve is sure to leave a lasting impression on all those who visit.

What to expect from the De Hoop Guide for First Time Visitors?

Visit the breath-taking landscape of the UNESCO Heritage listed De Hoop Nature Reserve, learn about nature and meet locals, and get up close with the wilderness of the Overberg. It is here that it becomes apparent once more that we as humans have to conserve nature in all its diversity and protect the lands and waters so that it can still be the home of humans, and all other creatures big and small in the future. Every one of us can (and should) help to conserve nature and the biological diversity. Humans tend to often forget about nature. We have become disconnected from nature. When we sit in enclosed offices with a view of other offices, and there is not even a single tree in sight, nature is so far away.

According to a WWF report, humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, and it doesn't look as if we (generally speaking) would want to stop this development any time soon. Humans need nature to survive, biodiversity needs wildlife. Deforestation, overfishing, and pollution is all part of the problems we are facing, and it is all homemade. We need to buy and consume less and start living a conscious life. The more time we spend in nature the more we love and understand. It comes natural to humans to protect what we love.

Visit De Hoop to not only recharge your batteries but to also learn about nature, wildlife, and biodiversity. Join me on a hike to look at Cape vultures and find out how many mountain zebras are left in the wild. Go rock pooling, meet the magnificent creatures of the ocean, jump aboard an eco-boat and stay in old stables in style, eat sublime vegetarian food and drink locally grown wine. I show you where to count the stars in the unpolluted night sky.

And find out at what time of the year to best visit De Hoop, and whether you are going to have connection to a Wi-Fi net during your stay.

The De Hoop Nature Reserve is a place where memories that will last a lifetime are made.

Travel South Africa. De Hoop Nature Reserve Guide for First Time Visitors

Wildlife you might encounter at De Hoop Nature Reserve

Wildlife lives protected and in peace at De Hoop. Wildlife is wildlife. Please remember to not touch the animals, they might kick or bite you. Please do not feed wildlife and leave a large enough safety distance between you and them. Otherwise they will become problem animals. For example, baboons, baboons troop structures might be turned upside down, it pressures them to react, and they will associate humans with food and become a danger. You can spend hours watching magnificent wildlife in their true habitat, take photos and just live in the moment.

Cape mountain zebra

The Cape mountain zebra roamed the mountainous regions of the Cape Province of South Africa in large numbers. Hunting changed all that. They are often hunted for their skin. These days the overall number of Cape mountain zebras is at 1,700, and they are found in the protected Mountain Zebra- and the Karoo National Park, and in the De Hoop Nature Reserve. The stripes of the Cape mountain zebra run all the way down the legs to the hooves, whereas the belly is white. They were listed as endangered on the IUCN red list, but the population is increasing.


The bontebok, a brown antelope is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN red list. At one point it has been hunted down almost to extinction, with only a few left, and it is believed that there are only 500 to 1,500 left in the wild today.

Chacma Baboons

There are around 675 baboons in the De Hoop Nature Reserve. The word “chacma” is the Khoikhoi name for baboon, viz choachamma or choa kamma. They are large and hairy, with a large muzzle and a prominent forehead. Baboons are a thoroughly social animals that live in groups of up to 200. The males are at the top of the hierarchy, and they have their ways to signal to other males that an adult is present in the troop. Males are also easily spotted for their long canine teeth. Females form connections within their troop that can last for generations. Chacma baboons, who live in savannah woodland, steppes and sub-desert, montane regions, Cape Fynbos and Succulent Karoo areas of southern Africa feed on almost anything they find, as long as it is high in protein.

Humans pose a threat to the species, as they are taking away more and more of the monkey's habitats and interfere with their lives.

A Bontebok at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Cape Mountain at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa

Chacma baboon carrying her young baby at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Arrica

Ostriches at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Arrica

Experience Nature Up-Close at De Hoop Nature Reserve

Vulture Hike

The Cape Vultures are one of the largest southern African vultures with a total length of about 106 centimetres. The birds are light-white-grey-beige flecked with brown with black and dark brown wing feathers. Their bare face is surrounded by white downs. They are to be found in open grasslands and woodlands, from sea level to very high mountains (they breed in high cliffs), and they love to feed on freshly dead animals. The cape vultures are endemic to southern Africa and can be found in North West/Limpopo Provinces and Lesotho/Western KwaZulu-Natal/North-eastern Cape. Human behaviour led to a drastic decline in numbers of the Cape Vulture. Habitats have been destroyed, living conditions are tough, they die while flying into power lines, or from poison laid out by farmers who believe the birds attack their sheep. According to the IUCN red list there are only 9,400 Cape vultures left in the wild, and they are listed as endangered. Vultures are important for ecosystems, they feed on carcasses and stop spreading diseases. There is a lot to learn about these often-misunderstood birds.

The Western Cape’s last surviving colony of Cape Vultures (Gyps coprotheres) lives in the De Hoop Nature Reserve all around the Potberg Mountains. Today the colony of Cape Vultures is 200 birds strong. It is a joint effort. The local community, Cape Nature and the De Hoop Nature Reserve, everyone helped, and they achieved such a notable size.

Visitors who want to explore the region and see the vultures in their natural habitat, depart from the Opstal Area in the morning and together with their guide, they go for a 45-minute drive through endangered fynbos. The drive gives you a good idea of the vastness of the nature reserve. From Potberg, guests hike one hour through fynbos and up the cliffs to a viewing deck. It is a truly striking experience to watch (and hear) large groups of vultures swooping and soaring through the sky, some of them are so near, one can almost touch them (not that you would try that).

Keep in mind, that this is a wildlife experience, there will never be a guarantee of how many vultures you are going to see during an outing. Enjoy the hike, look at beetles, the fynbos, the ever-changing skies and cloud formations, and you will surely have the best adventure. The walk up the hill appears so innocent and easy, but only until the muscle soreness in your legs the next morning tells you otherwise.

Information Vulture Hike: ZAR 550 per person (this rate includes a packed picnic backpack for you to carry). Guests have to be aged 12 and over. Overnight guests as well as day visitors to the De Hoop Nature Reserve are welcome. There is a minimum of two, and a maximum of ten guests. Please book the Vulture hike in advance. Please plan three to four hours.

Fynbos, rerns and wildflowers at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa

Cape Vultures in the Potberg Mountains in the De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa

Fynbos and hiking path in the De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa

Eco Boat Cruise on the De Hoop Vlei

The coastal lake, which is the habitat for numerous species of water birds, has varying levels of water and salinity depending on the season. The lake was formed after sand dunes blocked the course of the river. During the boat cruise you will get to see pelicans and large flocks of flamingos, cormorants, and herons, and if you are lucky you can even see Cape Otters which are listed as nearly threatened on the IUCN red list. Otters can be almost impossible to see, they seem very cheeky, and the one I saw from the boat swam passionately in and out of a cave, as if he would enjoy playing hide and seek. I had just as much fun, every time the otter reappeared, I let out a (silent) loud cheer.

Info Eco Boat Cruise on the De Hoop Vlei: The cruise takes place at 9am, 11am and 3pm, and guests meet in the reception area. Costs: ZAR 350 per Person. There is a maximum of ten guests. Please book in advance (at reception).

Flamingos and herons and pelicans on the De Hoop Vlei in the De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Pelican on the De Hoop Vlei in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Guided Marine Walk in De Hoop

Hiking and exploring coastal rockpools, kelp, sponges, limestone cliffs, rock formations, and sandy beaches together with a qualified guide who explains all the details of marine life forms enthusiastically, and never tires of answering questions. You won't have to put your head under water once, you will be able to get to meet so many different water creatures, however. After a while you will be more than surprised when you realize that there is a secret world out there in these intertidal pools and the ocean. This world is dependent on the wind and currents, on the tide and the large waves that crush on shore regularly.

Meet purple sea urchins, red anemones, periwinkles, limpets, dwarf cushion stars, starfish, reef worms and even octopus. Wear sunscreen, and sturdy shoes, and watch out for sharp rocks and sea creatures. If you pick any creatures up, please put them back exactly where you found them. You must imagine it like that, you live in Johannesburg, somebody picks you up and drops you off in the CBD of Cape Town. How would that make you feel when your whole domestic existence vanished in the blink of an eye?

Info Guided Marine Walk at De Hoop: The walk takes place at low tide, and guests depart an hour before low tide from the reception area. Please confirm the times with reception the day before the walk. Costs: ZAR 200 per Person. There is a maximum of 12 guests. Please book in advance (at reception).

The arms and face of a large Octopus in a rock pool in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa

Sea creatures in the rock pools in the De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Arrica

The rock formations on a beach in the De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa

Rock pool in the De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa

Sea creature in the De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa

Land-based Whale Watching from June to November at De Hoop Nature Reserve

Make your way to Koppie Allen in the De Hoop Nature Reserve. Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) migrate from their summer feeding grounds in sub-Antarctic waters, to their winter mating and calving grounds in coastal areas in higher latitudes. And together with New Zealand, South Australia, and Argentina, South Africa is one of these places. A southern right whale female gives birth to a calf every three years on average, and mothers with their calves come here seeking shelter. To give you an idea what to expect. In the 2018 season, over 1,116 whale sightings were made at De Hoop, and that is nearly three times the number of whale sightings made in the 2017 season. As always, we have to keep in mind that this is nature, no one can predict what visitors are going to see.

Some facts about the whales: They are 15 metres long and weigh 40,000 kilograms (a new-born weighs about 1,500 kilograms). On average they eat up to 1600 kilograms of food a day. They can hold their breath for up to an hour under water (don’t try this at home). They are swimming at a speed of 5 km/h. They are called Right Whales because they were the “right” whale to hunt.

Vegetarian Friendly Dining at The Shed - aka The Fig Tree Restaurant

Light blue, reds, creams, candles, ocean-themed decorations, art works, sofas, wooden furniture, fynbos, and lots of coffee table books that inspire conversation about nature and conservation. The love for this region shines through every detail in this stylish decorated licensed restaurant which offers breakfast, lunch, and a set three-course menu for dinner (the menu changes every day).

Head chef Marcia Tyobeka, who sources ingredients foremost locally, creates sublime vegetarian options like for example the mushroom stroganoff. Everyone is welcome at this restaurant, and there are choices for the meat- and fish eaters of this world also. The wine cellar, in an old silo, has a choice of 3,000 wines; ask for locally grown wines and deepen the foodie experience. Try the Pinot Noir from Strandveld (only 79 kilometres away) or Creation Wines (only 135 kilometres away). The soil in this region is acid and coarse-grained, and you can taste that in the wines.

From the restaurant you have a wonderful view over the wetlands (the vlei). Enjoy coffee, tea and cakes in the lounge area by the fire place.

Information The Shed (Fig Tree Restaurant). Hours: 8am to 9pm. Dinner: Three course meal/per Person ZAR 325 plus wine. Please book in advance, especially during the summer season and on bank holiday weekends. 

The stylish interior design at the Fig Tree Restaurant in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa

Country style interior design at the Fig Tree Restaurant lounge area, with an open fireplace at the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Table decorated with fynbos and board game at the Fig Tree Restaurant lounge in the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Ocean inspired decoration at the Fig Tree Restaurant in the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Dinner at the Fig Tree Restaurant in the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Country style design at the Fig Tree Restaurant in the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Country style design at the Fig Tree Restaurant in the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Country style design in the lounge area of the Fig Tree Restaurant in the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Decorated table at the Fig Tree Restaurant in the De Hoop Nature Reserve

Where to Sleep in the De Hoop Nature Reserve

There are several options to stay at the De Hoop Collection, from luxury suites, to lovingly decorated family cottages to a space to pitch a tent, all is possible.

I highly recommend staying in one of the Opstal Suites, luxury bedrooms which sleep two people. Back in the days Pieter Cloete, the then registered owner, imported Spanish horses into the country, so that riders could ride up the coast further. The Vlei Suite, right next door to the main building, was originally a stable for these exact horses. Mister Cloete wanted to make sure they stay safe.

Beds are beautiful and comfortable; a mosquito net looks romantic and keeps the mozzies at bay.

The bathroom is furnished with a freestanding bath tub and a shower. The hairdryer is strong (so important). Products, such as shampoo, shower gel and body lotion are provided, and are by Charlotte Rhys, a South African green luxury cosmetic brand: All Natural & Non-Toxic Skincare. They are without chemical ingredients, animal or petroleum derivatives, completely free of harmful preservatives; with natural, organic and herbal ingredients; raw materials are bought in fair trade. Products are not tested on animals; the brand is vegan friendly, and products are accredited by Beauty without Cruelty.

There is a large desk where you can jot down experiences and thoughts into your diary or even start writing that novel you always wanted to write.

Tea and coffee making facilities are available at your convenience, and the mini bar gets refilled daily. Parking is available directly next to the suite.

On the one side of the suite one can open the whole stable entrance door and has the most magnificent view over the vlei. That is especially spectacular when the sun sets, and the vlei looks as if it was on fire. Remember you are in the middle of nowhere, so please do not leave the door open unattended, you don’t want to share the room with an inquisitive zebra, bontebok or ostrich. It might also happen that baboons come and visit. I have been told that I most certainly don’t want to experience what these fellas can do to a suite.

Information: Please see detailed info below.

The country and cottage style interior design of the Vlei Suite at the De Hoop Nature Reserve

The white and blue country and cottage style interior design of the Vlei Suite at the De Hoop Nature Reserve

The starry night sky over the Vlei Suite at the De Hoop Nature Reserve

What you need to know to travel to South Africa and De Hoop

Visa for South Africa

For detailed information please visit the website of the Department of Home Affairs of the Republic of South Africa.

How to get to De Hoop Nature Reserve

You can reach the De Hoop Nature Reserve after a (roughly) three-to four-hour drive along the N2 from Cape Town. Roads from Bredasdorp as well as from Swellendam lead to the reserve.

From Swellendam: Drive on the N2 for 13 kilometres towards Cape Town, turn left onto a gravel road, signed Spitskop. Continue for about 45 kilometres until you reach a T-junction. Turn left at the T-junction signed Malgas/Infanta and travel approx. two kilometres before you turn right onto the De Hoop Pad signed Buchu Bushcamp/ De Hoop. It is seven kilometres from this turn-off to the Main Gate of the Park and a further eight kilometres to the reception.

From Bredasdorp take the R319 to Swellendam. Turn right after six kilometres, there is a sign posted De Hoop / Malagas / Infanta. Follow the gravel road for 35 kilometres until you see a sign to the right: De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Please note that all roads in the De Hoop Nature Reserve are gravel and are suitable for 2WD. Don't speed in the reserve, and watch out for wildlife at all times.

GPS Coordinates : 34°27’15.08” S | 20°23’58.63” E.

Conservation fee for De Hoop

Conservation fee for daytime visitors ZAR 50, and overnight stays ZAR 40 per person. The entrance is free to Wildcard holders (you would need to buy a yearly Wildcard membership). A wildcard membership is a must for any nature and wildlife lover. Gate hours: Saturday to Thursday 7am to 6pm. Friday 6am to 7pm.

Wi-fi in South Africa and De Hoop

You can get free Wi-fi in most restaurants, cafés etc. In the De Hoop Nature Reserve there is free Wi-fi in the Fig Tree Restaurant sitting area. Remember, you are here for the nature and to unplug from daily life. See whether you can manage without internet for the time of your stay. Take in the scenery, enjoy the delicious fresh food, and you could even talk to fellow tourists and nature guides. Talk to Dalfrenzo Laing, he can tell you all there is about nature and also the large wine cellar and its delicacies.

How to change money in South Africa

You can pay almost everywhere with a credit card, and there are also lots of ATM’s in the centre of villages and towns.

Best time to travel to De Hoop Nature Reserve

De Hoop Nature Reserve has a Mediterranean climate with cold, wet winters, with the most rain in winter, particularly in August and hot, dry summers. It is a year-round travel destination, and excellent for whale watching in the winter months. Bring sunscreen and wear protective clothing. In winter it is best to bring woollen jumpers, coats, gloves and a beanie to wear when hiking on trails and along the beach. There is no such thing as bad weather by the ocean, only the wrong clothes.

De Hoop Nature Reserve De Hoop Collection Overview

Resort address
GPS Coordinates: 34°27’15.08” S | 20°23’58.63” E.

Rooms at Vlei Suites from EUR 160 per Person, incl. breakfast and dinner
Type of Hotel
Boutique, romantic, design, eco-conscious.
Type of break
Romantic getaway, nature and wildlife experience, foodie experience, digital detox.
Yes, in Opstal Vlei Suite; please ask when booking.
Open fire place
Yes, in some rooms and cottages; please ask when booking.
Yes, in the restaurant and lounge area, it is as fast as lightning, and password protected.
Swimming pool
Yes, there is a swimming pool.
Yes, and the food is served either inside or on the terrace overlooking the vlei.

De Hoop Collection - the first private/public partnership in the South African hospitality industry - opened in the De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Western Cape in 2007. The De Hoop Collection is a member of Cape Country Routes (CCR), South Africa's leading group of owners operated and managed accommodation and activity establishments - more than 20 privately owned hotels, lodges and guest houses - located on the scenic and historic routes in the Western and Eastern Cape. All carefully selected for their character, charm and romance, they offer the best accommodation and activity options to suit every taste and budget. Please visit the website for more information. Visit De Hoop on Twitter and Instagram.

Country style interior design in the cottages and suites at the De Hoop Nature Reserve

From Berlin with love

The De Hoop Collection supported my research trip to South Africa. All thoughts are based on my own experiences and feelings.