Clichéd terms like “Jewel of the Western/ Eastern/ Northern Cape” don’t usually do much to excite me. They are more often than not PR driven ploys to get people excited about just another little town, hotel or resort that they’re trying to sell.

When I was recently invited to De Hoop Nature Reserve, however, I tried my best not to roll my eyes at that very description. Friends and family that had been there couldn’t stop gushing about the place, and numerous blogs and travel site were also in awe. So I decided not to judge too soon.

And I’m happy to say, that for once, the good old “jewel” analogy really did live up to its expectations.

Even the scenic drive from Cape Town to De Hoop is enough to make your heart happy and I was once again reminded that we live in such a beautiful, blemish free part of the natural world.

From the vibrant colours of the pastures and canola fields, to the roaming cattle that never fail to excite passersby (“Oooh look at the little baby cows!” I shrieked to my boyfriend), the three hour drive was a surprisingly pleasant start to the trip (especially considering that we had chosen the one summer weekend when the heavens poured down on us.)

The rural roads were practically over flown and filled with hundreds of potholes, but still, we were really adamant to experience this “jewel”.

And wow, is there a lot to experience! We spent the day walking along the endless coastline of sandy beaches and even snorkeled in the light rain.

And the amazing sky high dunes are probably the best whale watching spots I’ve ever come across. De Hoop is also apparently a bird watching and hiking paradise, two activities that we were unfortunately unable to do because of the weather.

But, despite the rain’s best attempts at getting us down, we sat by the fireplace and drank wine, ate chocolate and listened to the hundreds of birds chirping till late at night.

The accommodation ranges from rondawels overlooking the vlei, to cottage style “Opstal” houses enclosed by magnificent milkwood trees.

The stylish, simple decor isn’t too over-the-top and keeps with the old school feel of the whole reserve. The Fig Tree Restaurant serves yummy, hearty food (I had a great Zuchinni soup and Prawn Curry) and their wine list is also great, considering that they’re more than an hour away from the nearest town.

Oh and another jewel? The people! From the woman that opened the main gate for us in the freezing cold middle of the night, to the waiters at the restaurant, it’s people like them that make a trip like this even more worthwhile.

Click here for a Gallery of the De Hoop Nature Reserve.
The De Hoop Collection
Tel: 0861 33 4667 or 021 422 4522
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