SOUTH AFRICA'S 'CAMP DAVID' BECOMES EXCLUSIVE LUXURY RETREAT
A mere three (and a bit) hour drive from Cape Town, in the eastern, most exclusive sector of De Hoop Nature Reserve, is Lekkerwater Beach Lodge at De Hoop.
Undoubtedly one of the most glorious coastal reserves in Africa, the area’s extraordinary beauty and blissful seclusion led ex-President FW de Klerk to choose the location for his ‘Camp David.’ The reserve is also famous for some of the best whale watching on the planet when, from July to November, Southern Right whales and their offspring flock here in their hundreds from Antarctica. It’s not simply whales either and you’ll also spot sizeable pods of dolphin and all sorts of marine life in this – the ultimate, land-based marine safari.
Lekkerwater itself (literally meaning ‘the place of good water’) offers a homely and comfortable beach experience in a magical setting. Each of the seven rooms are located right on a six-kilometre stretch of private beach, complete with stunning rock pools and fish life. Activities-wise, we’ve got walks with experienced naturalists, an array of fynbos to be discovered, a plethora of marine life to be explored, and a rare vulture breeding colony to be spotted (and that’s without mentioning the whales!)
The seven rooms at Lekkerwater Beach Lodge are positioned along six kilometres of pristine white sand. Our dream was for the spectacular vistas to take centre stage and each is fronted by floor-to-ceiling glass windows that overlook the Indian Ocean and marine life ahead. Each is positioned perfectly for a unique view over the surroundings, and small verandas outside provide the perfect spot to soak up the magic. Inside, the rooms take inspiration from the natural beauty of the reserve and are earthy and comfortable. A wood-burning stove takes away the chill in the winter mornings and evenings and each has an ensuite bathroom with amenities.
At the main area, expect the same fabulous views and a wraparound deck from which to enjoy them from. An interactive, open kitchen is at the heart of the lodge and guests will dine, family-style, at the indoor tables or outside, feet-in-the-sand style, on the beach.
De Hoop is something of a secret for most visitors – and South Africans themselves. Located just over 3 hours away from Cape Town, De Hoop is a proclaimed Provincial Nature Reserve, administered by Cape Nature, and is one of the largest in their portfolio at 34,000 hectares (around 75,000 acres) in size. Directly offshore is the De Hoop Marine Protected Area (MPA) which stretches for 46 kilometres along the coast from west to east and over 5 kilometres out to sea. This MPA is an extremely important fish sanctuary where no fishing is allowed.
The reserve is a glorious melee of fynbos and beach, sand dunes and wetlands, all framed by the dramatic Potberg Mountains and the Indian Ocean. It is of course famous for whale-watching, but the landscape itself is just as magnificent. The area is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, classified as a World Heritage Site in 2004, and everywhere you turn you’ll find all manner of plant species, flowers and ecosystems. In fact, 12 of those species are found nowhere else in the world! And the best bit of all? As no one else knows about it, you’ll have the stunning reserve all to yourself…
If there’s one animal associated with De Hoop, it would be the whale. From July to November (and sometimes even early December), southern right whales migrate here from Antarctica in their hundreds – even thousands. They’re not alone either. Just offshore is the De Hoop Marine Protected Area, essentially a game reserve in the sea where there can be no fishing or marine exploitation of any form and as a visitor at De Hoop, you’ll spot carefree pods of dolphins and all sorts of marine life. The good news is that whale numbers are climbing and in 2018, a total of 1116 whales were spotted in the annual September aerial count, almost double the average numbers for this time of year.
Inland, on the rolling grassy plains, you may be lucky enough to spot a rare Cape mountain zebra, bontebok, rhebok and even eland. Leopard and caracal are also said to live in the area but are much harder to spot. It’s also one of South Africa’s most important birding areas with over 260 recorded species in the reserve!