De Hoop Nature Reserve – A detour worth taking!
As I mentioned earlier, it’s really a shame that we couldn’t have spent more time in Oudtshoorn but our schedule was stretched pretty thin. In fact, as much as I preach about pre-booking and making an itinerary before arriving, sometimes it’s better to not have a plan. That way if you find a beautiful place to explore you can take your time, and if you find a place that doesn’t have a whole lot to offer, you can move on. Well we had definitely diverged from the N2 a ways in order to get to Oudtshoorn, and we would be doing the same again in order to get to Bredasdorp. This time we would have to head in the exact opposite direction, South – way South. What is in Bredasdorp you may ask? Nothing. Literally, it is a pretty small place and there is no big tourist attraction to draw the masses. Why were we staying there? It was close to both Cape Agulhas and De Hoop Nature Reserve. I looked on Google Maps, found a town that was nearby and decided we would stay there. It was a risky move I will admit, but I was SO please with our accommodations, but I will talk about that in a bit.
7:30 am – Depart Oudtshoorn
8:45 am – Breakfast in Mossel Bay
12:00 pm – Arrive in Bredasdorp
2:00 pm – Arrive at De Hoop Nature Reserve
7:30 pm – Dinner at Nacht Wacht Restaurant
We left fairly early to get a head start on our long day. I knew going to Oudtshoorn would take us off track completely, but it was obviously worth it! In order to get to Bredasdorp we would need to drive all the way back to the N2 and then further South (around an hour more). We initially just wanted to go from the N2 straight to De Hoop, but alas, for some very strange reason, there is no way to get to De Hoop without going first to Bredasdorp and then doubling back both east and north. It was silly, but I had read a lot about the beauty of the park and it was better than sticking around Bredasdorp. The drive from Oudtshoorn was 3.5 hours but by the time we stopped for gas and ate breakfast in Mossel Bay, it was more like 4-4.5 hours. A long slog, but the view was constantly changing and I got an opportunity to hop behind the wheel and drive the winding path through the Little Karoo.
When we arrived at the picturesque farm known as Nacht Wacht, we had a bit of difficulty tracking down our lovely host Karen, but once we did she showed us to our enormous cottage.
Once more we had more than enough room for the three of us with a giant living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and upstairs loft with an additional two or three beds. We didn’t waste much time in the cottage though because we wanted to make the most of our day. We knew it was too late to squeeze in both De Hoop and Cape Agulhas so we asked Karen what she recommended. Without hesitation she told us we HAD to go to De Hoop. We asked where we should go to eat dinner in town and she suggested that we eat at the restaurant on site (which we didn’t even know about until we drove up and saw all the signs). So we made a reservation for 7:30pm before loading up with sunscreen and then, off we went! Unfortunately, to get to the reserve it was an hour and a half drive on a questionable gravel road and we kept worrying that we had missed our turn because there weren’t any really official signs for the park unit we were right at the gate. We paid R40 each to enter and then we were off! Within the first 10 minutes we spotted some exciting wildlife:
A bontebok grazing in a field! I noticed that we had passed by Bontebok National Park earlier, so I was glad we were able to see these beautiful antelope after all. But my favourite sighting was this:
We spotted a male and female ostrich cross the road with their 8 babies! Yes that’s right, a family of 10 ostriches! IN THE WILD! I couldn’t believe it! And look how adorable those little babies are, trailing behind their dad. So that was pretty spectacular for me. As we continued along, we parked the vehicle and got out to have a look at the Indian Ocean, and the view was absolutely breathtaking :
The fynbos came in a multitude of shades of green, the ocean a crisp, sparkling blue and the sand so white and pure. It was breathtaking. We then followed a trail that was marked ‘sand dunes’ and we raced off to find them. I had never seen sand dunes, in fact, seeing those vast stretches of sand, shaped by the wind, was one of the big attractions for my lifelong dream of going to Egypt, so I figured this would be the next best thing! And what a sight it was!
We pretty much just snapped photos continuously because we couldn’t believe how unbelievably beautiful the area was.
Eventually we made our way down towards the beach and found that there were boulders carved by the power of the water, forming perfectly circular depressions that would fill with water and create little micro-habitats and tidal pools.
We were also fortunate enough to spot some African Black Oystercatchers. Prior to seeing them I didn’t remember the name but they are so distinct in appearance that I could recall seeing images of them.
We continued down the long beach and we were constantly amazed by the stunning rocks and waves. We spent a good hour or two just walking around and admiring the beauty of the area.
We finally tore ourselves away from this magical place and headed back to our cottage to make sure we arrived back in time for dinner at the Nacht Wacht Restaurant (http://www.nachtwachtrestaurant.co.za). We showered and walked down to the cute little white building where we were greeted by a lovely lady named Nellie. We were the only people at the restaurant and had Nellie’s full attention. It became clear after we ordered our beverages that Nellie was not only our hostess, but also our server and chef! She was truly a wonder woman! As with the Olive Tree, the menu had been specially made up for the night and while all of the dishes sounded superb, I went with the only vegetarian dish – the gnocchi in a rich cream sauce. Delicious. Dan was practically in heaven whilst eating his meal; to start a nacht wacht salad (greek salad with mixed fruit) and his main dish was the smoked pork neck with sweet mustard sauce and a side of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with garlic and a bed of vegetables blanketed with butter. Yes, he was a happy man.
After gorging ourselves, and Jessi’s second glass of wine, we all walked back to our cottage to enjoy the creature comforts of the quaint farm cottage. What a fantastic day. To anyone who was considering a stop at De Hoop Nature Reserve (http://www.capenature.org.za/reserves.htm?reserve=De+Hoop+Nature+Reserve) I could not recommend it more. And if you are lookingfor a place to stay, definitely go to Nacht Wacht, it was such a great finish to an unforgettable day trip.