Being an online journalist means I often have a bit of weird existence. It’s an existence where I feel like I have to be constantly switched on and sharing my every ‘Instagram worthy’ move. It’s an existence which has me constantly glued to my smartphone and always itching to switch on my laptop to check my emails. So, you can imagine that I was a little bit weary when I was invited to spend a weekend at the oh-so-remote De Hoop Nature Reserve, where cell-phone signal is hard to come by. But, as the weekend drew closer and my schedule grew crazier I began to feel excited about leaving a strong cell signal behind me and disconnecting for two full days. The drive to De Hoop is a long but beautiful three hours, where every twist and turn allows you to release more and more stress, and by the time you drive through the gate of the reserve you know you’ve arrived somewhere quite magical.
The most magical thing about De Hoop is that it allows you to get back to basics and truly get away from it all. Sure, the wide variety of accommodation options and activities offered by The De Hoop Collection in the reserve offers plenty of luxury for guests to enjoy but you cannot escape the feeling of tranquility and divine simplicity of the spot. And, I’m not just talking about cell-phone signal here – even if you had perfect signal you wouldn’t be tempted to spend a single second gazing at your smartphone screen.
From guide-led nature and marine walks to mountain bike trails, hiking, quad biking, and a luxurious Africology Spa there are enough activities at De Hoop to keep you occupied for days. Our group was lucky enough to experience a thrilling mountain bike ride through the reserve where a De Hoop guide was on hand to share his extensive knowledge of the reserve and its fauna and flora with us. A night of star gazing was another memorable experience at this remote reserve where the sky is allowed to shine bright, free from the light pollution of the city. And, if the weather allows you can always enjoy a swim in the resort pool, play a game of tennis at the tennis courts, or head down to the Koppie Alleen beach for a stroll and a picnic.
If hunger strikes, make sure you pop into the De Hoop restaurant for a bite to eat. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily as well as excellent coffee and hot drinks in the lounge area throughout the day. My group and I enjoyed a delicious lunch at the eatery and absolutely loved it. The food was divine and I loved that they offered a wide variety of traditional Cape-style meals with a modern twist as well a selection of classic favourites like Hake & chips, burgers, and grills. I enjoyed a divine bobotie served with a poppadum while the boyfriend tucked into a fresh Hake & chips, both which were cooked to perfection. The eatery at De Hoop is always a vibrant place to be – especially if you’re sitting in the outside courtyard area which is often packed with guests and frequented by a troupe of resident baboons and their babies.
As for the accommodation, we were lucky enough to spend two magical nights at the Melkkamer Vlei Cottage. The lovely old stone cottage overlooks the stunning De Hoop vlei and has four beautiful bedrooms and two separate bathrooms with showers. The cottage also boasts a separate sitting room, dining area and fully equipped kitchen with a cosy fireplace. While the idea that the cottage has no electricity might seem like an inconvenience that is in fact, the most magical and charming part about staying in this quaint little cottage on the vlei waterfront.
During the day we were too busy in the reserve to notice that our home for two nights had no electricity and after sundown we lit our braais, bathroom visits and night time chats using good old fashion paraffin lanterns. The kitchen at the vlei cottage is powered by gas and we had no issues using the gas fridge to keep our food fresh and the gas stove and oven to cook a good fry up for breakfast each morning. Having no electricity, and no way to charge our phones made us feel like we had more time to read, explore and chat and for me it was a welcome change to my ‘switched on’ life at home.
If you’re looking to spend a quiet weekend, filled with quality time with your family and friends then the self-catering Vlei Cottage is the place for you. The Melkkamer area of the reserve is accessible only by ferry (or a very long, arduous 4×4 drive) so it feels even more exclusive and excluded from the rest of the De Hoop reserve. Of course, if you want to visit the other side of the vlei for activities or something to eat then the staff at De Hoop are always happy to zip you over to the other side for an hour or the day, as long as you return by sunset.
Speaking of the staff; the staff at De Hoop are beyond compare. It was clear that the spirit of De Hoop had permeated each and every staff member we encountered and we found them to be beyond friendly and helpful at all times. In fact, some five-star resorts and hotels can learn a thing or two from De Hoop when it comes to how staff should treat their guests!
The Melkkamer Vlei Cottage is priced from R3000 per cottage per night but De Hoop also offers a wide range of accommodation options starting from R910 per night for a 2-sleeper Rondawel. For more information on De Hoop Nature Reserve and De Hoop Collection accommodation visit the De Hoop Collection website.
I also got the opportunity to check out the new Spa @De Hoop while I was there. Click here to read my full review of the spa at De Hoop Nature Reserve.
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After years of working as an Editor and writer for popular websites like Joburg’s Darling, Cape Town’s Darling and Joburg.co.za, Crystal left her sanity and an established career in lifestyle journalism behind to follow her dream of creating a website for the intellectual and discerning woman. Today she spends her time chasing the thrill of being the first to know about ‘the next big thing’. She’ll try anything once and has been known to put her body, hair and health on the line – all in the name of research.