As a South African family living in the Western Cape of this multifaceted county, we find ourselves quite literally spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing family-friendly getaway destinations with an eco-friendly slant. One of the spots we visited with our daughter (Alexandra, 3) that made a lasting impression on all of us was De Hoop Nature Reserve & Marine Protected Area outside of Bredasdorp, on the southern coast near Waenhuiskrans.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is situated slap-bang in the middle of the Cape Floristic Region, which is a protected area that safeguards the all-important Cape Floral Kingdom. We decided to visit this particular reserve because we wanted to learn more about the incredible biodiversity of this important slice of our natural heritage, and in the process, we found out that De Hoop is a great destination for families with kids.
Here are a few practical tips for families who want to introduce their children to nature in an eco-conscious way on a trip to De Hoop:
INSIDER TIPS FOR FAMILIES HEADED TO DE HOOP NATURE RESERVE
Have your spare tyre ready!
The road to get to De Hoop is a well-used dirt road with a flinty character, and is known to cause flat tyres. Make sure that your spare is pumped and ready to go! If you do get a flat, there is a little workshop set up on the farm that will take a look to see if they can patch it. Otherwise you’ll need to make a stop in Bredasdorp or Swellendam before you head home or continue your travels
Stay in the rondavels if you want to keep costs low
If you want to keep your costs low when you travel as a family, opt for the camping sites or a stay in the rondavels along on the edge of the De Hoop vlei. It’s pretty basic, but you’ll enjoy the same access to the beautiful grounds and activities as visitors who stay in the fancy digs.
Having all your meals at the restaurant can quickly get pretty pricey, but we made do by planning. The rondavels don’t have kitchen facilities, but you have a fridge and a braai area. We packed some rolls, cheese, milk, tomatoes and boerewors to braai. You may want to take along a sharp knife and a cutting board though. Necessary provisions like milk, bread and wood are available at the little shop next to the restaurant. (Parent to parent – keep the kids out of there! There are lots of delicious treats and attractive curios, and they will drive you bonkers.)
Another thing - the ablutions at the rondavels are open-air showers and loos, so you have to be cool about doing your thing al fresco (but that’s a travel experience that comes highly recommended in and of itself). If you’ve got a toddler on your team who may not be down with showering, pack a small Kommetjie that you can fill with warm water, and give them a sponge bath inside the rondavel.
Opt-in on at least one guided excursion
De Hoop has a great variety of guided excursions that have been tailored to immerse guests in this awesome environment. We decided on the Guided Eco Boat Trip, and it was wonderful. Our guide was super knowledgeable and told us all about the fauna and flora of the area, and shared fun bits of history about the area as well.
VERY IMPORTANT: If you’re travelling with children, have a chat with the person at the booking desk before you get your heart set on a particular excursion. We were keen on the Interpretive Marine Walk, but our daughter was a little too young to go on that, and we hadn’t brought along the right kind of shoes (amphibian trainers are best). On other outings, management prefers that families with children book a time slot when they can go alone, so the youngsters don’t impede on the experience of older couples, honeymooners etc. The boat trip was one of those, so we booked a very early one and got great sunrise views (and very tasty freshly baked Danishes!)
Take along bikes if you can
There are mountain bikes for rent on the farm, but if you have your own, take it along. De Hoop is a great place to cycle and there are plenty of free-roaming animals that you can see this way. If you’re not the cycling type, pack those hiking shoes – you’re going to want to take plenty of walks. It’s just absolutely gorgeous, and any second you spend inside will be wasted.
Be ready to be out of cell phone signal range
There is Wi-Fi at The Fig Tree restaurant, but other than that reception is spotty at best – which is exactly what we wanted! If you do have to keep in touch with someone back home or at work, give them the number of the front desk in case of emergencies. Other than that, put away your cell phone and unplug for a while. We took along a digital camera, so we could turn off our phones completely.
Winter is a great time to visit
Wintertime along the southern coast of South Africa is something magnificent. At De Hoop Nature Reserve, this is the time of year when the indigenous fynbos veld soaks up the much-needed rain that wafts in from the Indian Ocean in fragrant sheets. This is also when the majestic Southern Right whales make their way to the marine protected area to calve and rear their young for those first important weeks after birth. So don’t be shy to book your visit at this time.There you have it – a few top tips for families who are headed for a stay at De Hoop Nature Reserve on South Africa’s southern coast. Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or Instagram (@skryfyster) if you would like to learn more about our experience. Alternatively, you can simply contact the reservation team directly to book your stay. It really is something every eco-conscious South African family and tourist should do at least once.