Tucked away behind the Potberg Mountains you’ll hardly believe this vast expanse of land with its captivating fauna and flora exists. Down in the valley De Hoop Nature Reserve beckons, experience the tranquility of nature.
Only three hours from Cape Town in the Overberg region, near the southernmost tip of Africa along the world renowned Garden and Whale Routes. It’s a destination favoured by hikers, cyclists and bird watchers the early winter and summer ideal for whale watching. Few other reserves offer as complete an outdoor experience as this. Sea, sand dunes, the vlei, a floral sensation of rare fynbos plants, diverse antelope and the Potberg Mountains. Nothing less than a three night stay will do.
Experience it best in the lap of luxury at the Melkkamer Manor house. Fully-catered 5-star service in a beautifully restored “Ostrich Palace” built from indigenous limestone. The perfect destination for discerning guests who seek the privacy of sole-use villa accommodation, comprising four magnificently appointed en-suite bedrooms. All meals are included and prepared in the manors kitchen by a private chef with butler service the ideal base for a tailor-made De Hoop experience complete with a private guide and transportation.
Catch the morning sun while enjoying a delicious breakfast on the spacious veranda overlooking the cottages and wetland area called, the Vlei, a Ramsar site and birders paradise. Observe wading birds on its shores while setting off on the vlei trail, workup and appetite and have lunch on the banks.
Sumptuous gourmet cuisine accompanies your entire stay. Highlights include white chocolate Panna Cotta, delectable Coconut shrimp at the expert hands of Executive Chef, Marcia Tyobeka, a sheer genius with vegetarian dishes being a vegetarian herself.
With a very rich history, favoured by government officials as a well kept secret it only opened to the public many decades later. The Potberg Mountains are home to the only remaining breeding colony of the rare Cape vulture. Hikers and cyclists have close-up encounters with Bontebok, Cape mountain zebra, eland, baboons and ostrich. The many terrestrial habitats support 86 mammal species, most notably the Grey Rhebuck, Yellow Mongoose, Caracal and the occasional Leopard. Famous for its variety of resident and migratory bird species more than 260 species have been recorded.
The adjacent De Hoop Marine Protected Area extends three nautical miles (5 km) out to sea, one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa. Providing a sanctuary for a vast and fascinating array of marine life mammals such as dolphins and seals occur in the waters off the coast and southern right whales calve and mate in the sheltered bays of De Hoop each year between May and December. At least 250 species of fish occur in the marine protected area. When to go Summer time preferably at the new or full moon when the tides are high enough to expose the magnificent rock pools at the coast line.
World-renowned as one of the best land based whale-watching spots this coastline is transformed into one of the world's most important nursery areas for southern right whales. Whale watchers regularly stand in awe at the sight of more than 50 of these sea giants lying a mere kilometre from the coast.
The perfect after dinner experience, stargazing, merely a few metres from the lights of the manor house enveloped in total darkness with nothing but the night sky glittering above. As if watching a PowerPoint presentation in a dark room the stars loom so bright and close a luminous green laser beaming up touching the stars.
South Africa is right above the Antarctic a mere 15 degrees from the prime meridian the galactic centre of the milky way providing a view of billions of stars. So how many times can you point at something and say it’s literally out of this world, twice, the large and small Magellanic clouds arguably the most amazing objects in the night sky anywhere in the world.
Easily mistaken for ordinary clouds they are big, white, and puffy, until you realize they are in the same spot night after night two entirely different galaxies visible with the naked eye. So close they appear much bigger than anything else visible from Earth. The larger cloud is a gigantic view of the fourth largest galaxy in the universe.
Circumpolar constellations appear closer to the North and South Poles and are only visible in its corresponding hemisphere staying above the horizon all night orbiting the poles. The southern hemisphere has 11 including six first-order magnitude stars, whereas the northern hemisphere only has five none of which are very bright. The Southern Cross is the brightest and most iconic constellation in its Hemisphere.
Within the Southern Cross, the Jewel Box Cluster showcases colourful stars that look like precious stones twinkling in the night sky. The colours come from a red supergiant amongst very bright blue supergiants and other brilliantly coloured stars, some of which have luminosities 80,000 times that of the sun.
Other constellations include Vela harbouring a neutron star, the Vela Pulsar, rotating 11 times per second its intense magnetic field emits audible pulsating radio signals. Centaurus boasts the greatest number of visible stars. Next to the Jewel Box is Omega Centauri, the second brightest globular cluster in either hemisphere with the most massive concentration of stars orbiting the centre of the Milky Way. Looking at the white strip of the Milky Way across the sky.
Because it is brighter in the southern hemisphere and the dark nebulae within it are more pronounced. Situated between the two brightest stars of the Southern Cross is the most prominent nebula the Coalsack. A brighter nebula, the Eta Carinae Nebula, is home to the most massive star in the galaxy, Eta Carinae, which is one of the most exciting stars because it is unstable and thought to be the next star to die in a supernova.
In addition to permanent constellations, the southern hemisphere hosts rare astronomical events, such as total solar eclipses. Only visible from a tiny percentage of the Earth’s surface and therefore requiring travel to very specific places. Last month’s solar eclipse was only viewable from northwest Australia.
The reserve provides nature lovers and the outdoorsy with unique comfortable overnight accommodation situated at spectacular locations. East of Bredasdorp the reserve can also be accessed via Swellendam and is an ideal stop over enroute from the Cape Winelands to Plettenberg Bay.