When I was invited to spend a weekend at De Hoop Collection in August, my first though was “yay, whales and white sand dunes!”. I think I’m not the only one that has this image of De Hoop. And, yes, they do have some of the best land-based whale watching in the country, and stunning white sand dunes provide a perfect backdrop.
But there is so much more to De Hoop. As it happened, we spent a perfectly wonderful weekend doing all sorts of things except watching whales and rolling on the dunes.
Here are my 5 reasons for loving De Hoop that do not involve whales and white sand dunes:
The De Hoop Vlei is one of the first Ramsar Sites of international ecological importance in the Southern hemisphere. The vlei is host to some 260 bird species, including the rare Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Tchagra, Aghulas Longbilled Lark and White Pelican. When in flood, the vlei supports up to 30,000 birds.
The best way to experience the diversity and abundance of bird life at the vlei is on one of the guided Eco Boat Cruises. A knowledgeable guide will introduce you to the wonders of the vlei, and you will be treated to tea, coffee and fresh pastries along the way.
- Fynbos walks
The fynbos at De Hoop didn’t look like much at first sight. Large areas are covered by Renosterveld, which loosely translates to “rhino field” in English – possibly because its dull, grey colour is similar to the colour of a rhino. But once we got closer, a world of wonder opened up! Colours and shapes, tiny little insects and the fragrant smell enchanted us. Rensoterveld is also one of the most threatened types of vegetation in the world, and comprises only 2% of all vegetation in the Cape Floristic Region. A rare treat indeed.
- The food
During our weekend at De Hoop, we feasted on more delectable meals than I could count (more on that in no 5 below). But my absolute favourite meal was the one at the end of our fynbos walk. On top of a cliff, overlooking the De Hoop vlei, a table had been set with a checked table cloth and laid with a picnic lunch. Although it was a grey day with a bit of a drizzle, it was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had. The smell of the fynbos, the sound of the birds and the Best Quiche Ever (recipe coming soon here). The berry pavlova pudding made every single girl in the group abandon their healthy eating plans. Oh, and what better way to start a meal served al fresco in the fynbos than with an Inverroche fynbos-infused g&t?
- The wine
You probably don’t know this, but De Hoop Collection has one of the finest wine lists in the Overberg region! It contains well-known brands and small boutique vineyards. My favourite finds for the weekend were Sijnn’s crispy white wine and Domaine des Dieux’s romantic Rose of Sharon bubbles.
Sijnn is a new vineyard between the tiny hamlet of Malagas and Cape Infanta, at the mouth of the Breede River – a place called Sijnn by the original Khoisan inhabitants.
Domaine des Dieux is a young vineyard located in the up-and-coming Hemel en Aarde district. The maiden vintage of Rose of Sharon (2007) was released to the public in 2011.
- Melkkamer Manor House
I purposely saved the best for last; the historic Melkkamer Manor House. Situated in a secluded location across the vlei, it is like something out of a fairy tale. We slept like princesses in four poster beds, took hot baths in Victorian tubs, lounged in front of roaring fires, all while being waited on by our private butler (and sommelier) and chef. There were delectable little canapees, hot scones, hearty stews and sweet desserts. There was also hot chocolate, freshly brewed coffee, cider, wine and gin from the Overberg region. There were hot water bottles in our beds when we snuggled in for the night, stargazing and ghost stories by the fire. It was perfect!
There is plenty to chose from at De Hoop in terms of accommodation (ranging from camping and simple self-catering to luxurious suites). As for activities, the whale watching and sand dunes are obviously not to be missed. Neither are the guided walks on the beach and through the rockpools. There is also hiking, mountain biking, birding, stargazing and much more. It’s a perfect place for both families, groups of friends and romantic getaways. For the Ultimate Experience, get a group of 8 people together and rent the Melkkamer Manor House (and do take the full service option – you will feel like kings and queens!).
The fine folks at De Hoop Collection have given me a prize to give away, so for your chance to win a 2-night, midweek stay for 4 people keep an eye on the My Slow Journey Facebook page!
My visit was courtesy of De Hoop Collection, but (as always) all opinions are my own.