14 September 2010 by Kate Turkington

A Whale of a Time

August to early December is whale-watching season in the Cape, and you may have heard that Hermanus and Wilderness in the Western Cape are good for whale-spotting. But do you know about one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets - the UNESCO World Heritage site, De Hoop Nature Reserve, also in the Western Cape?

Put the De Hoop Collection on your wish-list and head out from George or Cape Town towards Cape Agulhas, South Africa’s southernmost tip.

Officially the reserve is South Africa’s first private and public enterprise initiative between the De Hoop Collection and Cape Nature. As you drive through the main gate you’ll be astonished by the colours of the fynbos - pink, yellow, purple, coral - and then you’ll notice the rolling white sand dunes on the far horizon. This is where the southern right whales calve in De Hoop bay - watch them from the dunes as they breach, float lazily in the creamy-coloured breakers rolling in from the varied blues of the ocean, blow, and flip their huge tails up and over.

Choose to stay in a fully restored 1872 cottage overlooking the vlei, which is crammed with water birds of every kind, snuggle up in a cosy cottage (wood fires in winter), or go posh in an early 1900s grand manor house, perfect for family reunions or that business breakaway. Or go even deeper into the reserve and stay at cliff-top Koppie Alleen, an isolated four-bedroomed cottage with all mod cons and amazing bay views.

If you don’t feel like making your own food, then eat out at the Fig Tree restaurant, which serves scrumptious affordable meals. If you want to spend the day on the beach, ask for a packed picnic and a chilled bottle of wine.

Then investigate the rock pools at low tide, or join the whales and just hang out.


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