De Hoop Nature Reserve

Beach at De Hoop Nature Reserve

See diverse scenery, thousands of birds and tame animals at De Hoop Nature Reserve. We first visited to run the Whale of Trail Race and loved it so much we went back a second time.

Overlooking the lagoon at de Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Summary

De Hoop is 3 hours drive from Cape Town and I would recommend spending at least two nights to enjoy all it has to offer. If you enjoy birdwatching or want to visit the Potberg section of the park I’d recommend another night or two. We went hiking, running, on a lagoon boat trip, swam at the beach and more. If you need a good road map for this trip, see our recommendations.

How to get to de Hoop

The route to de Hoop Nature Reserve from Cape Town is through beautiful scenery. The last 40 km, shortly after Bredasdorp, are on a gravel road so it might take longer than Google suggests, especially if you don’t have a 4×4, though the road is good enough for a normal sedan.

Coming from the Garden Route area to the east, the fastest route is to continue on the N2 past Swellendam before heading south to Ouplaas on a good gravel road just after the Bree Rivier.

Arrive before dark if you can to watch sunset over the lagoon.

Hay bales on the R316 in South Africa.
Hay bales and mountains en route
Gravel road on the way to De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Gravel Road near de Hoop
Canola fields on the R316 in South Africa.
On the R316

The Campsite at De Hoop Nature Reserve

The campsite is on a clifftop overlooking the lagoon. A few of the sites are set further back into the scrub and woodland area but some have great views over the water.

The ablutions are clean and well-maintained and there is a kitchen area which contains stoves, sinks and a huge freezer.

On the De Hoop collection website, the campsites seem to be permanently marked as fully booked, but this is not the case. You cannot book them online but need to phone or email them (details on their own website).

Camping at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Lagoon and flamingoes in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Accommodation

Apart from camping (see above) all the other accommodation is quite pricy, though beautifully designed. See here for rates.

The rondavels are a fairly good deal and can accommodate up to two people. They are just next to the campsite and also have fantastic views over the lagoon.

Accommodation in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Cute cottages in main Opstal area

There are also some cute cottages and suites around the main area, some self-catering, that can accommodate up to six people.

Manor house in  De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Manor house
Cottage by the Lagoon at de Hoop in South Africa.
Cottage across the lagoon

On the other side of the lagoon, you can rent out an entire cottage or a huge manor house for up to eight people.

Eco Boat Trip on the Lagoon

Depending on the water level of the lagoon, 2 hour Eco Boat trips happen twice daily either early morning or early afternoon. We opted for an early morning cruise as apparently, this was the best time for birds. Indeed, we saw thousands of them, plus a few dassies on the rocky shores.

That afternoon we went on a medium-length flat hike along the top of the lagoon and back through the scrub. See the hike report for details.

Hiking at de Hoop

From short strolls to the 55 km Whale Trail (see end of page), there’s something at de Hoop for everyone. Three easy, flat loops start near the reception. They all start the same way and head along the edge of the lagoon with fabulous views and the opportunity to see many birds. They head back through the wildlife-filled scrub and fynbos at different distances along the lagoon. The shortest is 3 km while the longest is 13.5 km. Read our hike report for the longest, the De Hoop Lagoon Walk (Grebe Trail).

Two hikes start from the Potberg area (~45-minute drive from Opstal). The 5 km Klipspringer Trail is a circular loop through fynbos, and the more strenuous 10 km out and back climb to Potberg Peak has marvellous views.

At Koppie Alleen you can hike both ways along the coastline. Heading southwest brings you to the fantastic white sand dunes while turning northeast leads you to many picturesque coves and beaches with abundant opportunities for swimming.

Bird Watching in de Hoop Nature Reserve

De Hoop is a paradise for birders since it protects various ecologies all supporting different types of birds. Guided bird walks can be arranged at reception. See their bird checklist here.

At the coastline: 1) Hike the coastal trail northeast from Koppie Alleen (1-5 km) to find all sorts of shorebirds, including Black Oystercatchers. 2) Go on an Interpretative Marine Walk to spot more birds whilst also checking out the tide pools. These guided walks depart one hour before low tide and last roughly two hours. Book in advance.

On the lagoon: 1) Hike one of the three trails starting from near the restaurant (3-13.5 km). These lead along the cliffs above the lagoon where you will see thousands of birds. If you’re lucky you’ll spot night herons and fish eagles amongst many others. 2) Go on an Eco Boat Trip (see above). These boat trips (water level and weather dependent) depart several times a day. Expect to see tens of different species, from pelicans and flamingoes to spoonbills, kingfishers and many more. Book in advance.

In the mountains: 1) Hike the Klipspringer (5 km) or Potberg Trail (10.5 km) while looking out for Cape Vultures, Verreaux Eagles, Peregrine Falcons and more. 2) Go on the guided Vulture Experience. Be led by an experienced guide up to a viewing deck to see Cape Vultures while also looking out for other birds. This trip leaves in the morning and lasts roughly three hours. Pinic included. Book in advance.

Activities at De Hooop Nature Reserve

See the de Hoop Collection website for a full list of activities. These include:

  • Hiking
  • Bird Watching
  • Eco Boat Trip
  • Swimming at the Beach
  • Game Drives
  • Interpretative Marine Walks
  • Mountain Biking
  • Vulture Experience
  • Whale Watching
  • Stargazing

At the Beach

Vegetation and Koppie Alleen at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

You can access the beach at Koppie Alleen where there is a small parking lot. It’s about 12 km from the main area, and make sure to look out for wildlife on the way.

If you head east (left) from the parking area you reach the coastline with cove after cove filled with white sand and the sparkling ocean.

Sandy cove at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Sandy cove at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

You can hike out and back along the coastline here, go swimming, have a picnic and watch the birds.

Cormorant in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Seagulls in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Black oystercatcher in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

If you head west (right) from the parking area you enter an area of white dunes that fall directly into the ocean. You can walk along the coast for roughly 6 km and either return the same way or head around the road back to the car park.

Person on white sand dunes by ocean in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
White sand dunes by ocean in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
White sand dunes and ocean in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Around The Opstal Area

Mountain zebra in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Bontebok in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Eland in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Hare in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Ostrich in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Spurfowl in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

The Opstal Area is the main area where you find check-in, most of the accommodation and campsite, the Fig Tree Restaurant and swimming pool. Additionally, it’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset and sunrise.

Infinity Pool in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Lagoon in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Sunset over lagoon in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Sunset
Sunrise at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Sunrise

Flora and Fauna at De Hoop Nature Reserve

The vegetation at De Hoop Nature Reserve varies from scrub to coastal sandveld plants and proteas.

Vygies in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Vygies near the beach
Protea in South Africa.
Protea in the scrub

Many of the animals – ostriches, eland, mountain zebra, bontebok – are very tame and can be seen easily around the main Opstal area.

Ostrich family in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Visitors at the campsite
Eland herd in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Eland among some old stone walls

The Potberg Area of de Hoop Nature Reserve

Mountains of Potberg, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
From the top of Potberg Mountain

The Potberg section of De Hoop Nature Reserve is a 25 km drive from the main Opstal area with fantastic mountainous scenery, quite different from the rest of the reserve.

The main reasons to visit this mountain area are for hiking or on a guided Cape Vulture experience. The vulture experience departs in the morning and lasts roughly 3 hours, including an hours hike to the vulture viewing deck. This must be booked in advance.

Two hikes depart from here, the 6 km Klipspringer Trail or the more strenuous 10 km out and back climb to Potberg Peak.

The Whale Trail at de Hoop Nature Reserve

The Whale Trail is a gorgeous 5 day, 55 km hike in de Hoop Nature Reserve. It starts in the Potberg section through scenic mountains before reaching the beautiful coastline. You need to book a permit online with Cape Nature in advance.

If you’re short of time, another option is to enter the Whale of Trail race and run the route in one day, or as we did, run the shorter 35 km version.

It was a great experience and we ran through super-diverse landscape, from the mountainous Potberg section and to the incredible coastline.

Whale of Trail Race, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Beach on Whale of Trail Race, South Africa.
Person and ocean on Whale of Trail Race, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Two runners in Whale of Trail Race, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Two runners in Whale of Trail Race,  in South Africa.
Two runners at the finish line in Whale of Trail Race, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

FAQS

Where is de Hoop Nature Reserve?

de Hoop is a 3-hour drive east of Cape Town, on the southern coast of the Western Cape, South Africa.

How do I get to de Hoop Nature Reserve?

From Cape Town to de Hoop is a beautiful drive. The last 40 km, shortly after Bredasdorp, are on a gravel road so it might take longer than Google suggests, especially if you don’t have a 4×4, though the road is good enough for a normal sedan. om the Garden Route area to the east, the fastest route is to continue on the N2 past Swellendam before heading south to Ouplaas on a good gravel road just after the Bree Rivier.

Is de Hoop Nature Reserve worth visiting?

de Hoop Nature Reserve is definitely worth visiting. Even though it’s not a national park, I think it’s one of the best places to visit in South Africa for the scenery, wildlife and nature.

Is de Hoop a national park?

de Hoop is a nature reserve managed by Cape Nature. It is not a national park.


Discover more of South Africa with Chasing Ostriches: A Two Month Road Trip through South Africa

De Hoop was the first stop on our two-month road trip around South Africa which we wrote up as a book, Chasing Ostriches*. Discover many other amazing places in South Africa and see more photos here.

Bontebok, in South Africa.
Bontebok in the morning light

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