Something truly special has been introduced to the De Hoop Collection experience - an activity to enjoy while staying at De Hoop - one that will take your breath away - viewing endangered Cape Vultures up-close-and-personal - flying by, just below or just overhead... swooping, diving and circling in the sky.
Image by Peter Chadwick
De Hoop Nature Reserve - one of the Western Cape’s most beautiful and largest nature sanctuaries - is set within a World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Bredasdorp. Few other reserves offer as complete an outdoor experience as the De Hoop Nature Reserve does! From the ocean (the playground of the Southern Right Whales during whale season) to the sand dunes, the vlei (a Ramsar site), the diverse flora and fauna, the mountain trails, the more than 260 species of birds and over and above all that, the Cape Vultures (the only surviving colony in the Western Cape is situated on the Potberg Mountain in the Reserve) De Hoop is, without a shadow of a doubt, the ultimate location to visit.
Image by Peter Chadwick
And one of the best activities to experience while staying at De Hoop is to visit Potberg and hike up the Trail, (approximately 1 hour) to view the Cape Vultures near their breeding colony. On reaching a well planned vantage point - the vulture deck – you will see the vultures circling in the sky above the rocky gorge where they nest (for conservation reasons Cape Nature does not allow public access to where the birds roost).
Only at Potberg can you get this rare opportunity to see the Cape Vultures - huge, impressive birds with a wingspan of about two and a half metres, as they cruise by… sometimes so close you can hear the wind rushing under their wings.
“A trip to Potberg and viewing the Vultures is an absolute must, says Dalfrenzo Laing, a De Hoop Collection’s head guide, “to get to the trail, set amongst rare fynbos species and with unparalleled views over the ocean and dune fields of De Hoop, only takes an hour’s drive from the De Hoop Opstal reception and you’ll be accompanied by a Field guide who will explain more about the plant life and the vultures.”
The steep cliffs on Potberg Mountain provide the perfect habitat for the Cape Vultures; thecolony roosts and nests in a deep gorge. The cliffs and gorges are shared with Peregrine Falcon, Verreaux’s Eagle, Jackal Buzzard and Rock Kestrel, and close by the Black Harrier nest on the fynbos flats and Martial Eagles make occasional over-flights.
This colony of about 200 vultures has grown in the last decade from about 100 birds; many experts believed they wouldn’t survive – and it’s true they were almost wiped out because of destruction of their natural habitat, an increase in farming, as well as poisoning.
“It is because Cape Nature embarked on raising awareness and educating local communities that the vultures are now seen as a real asset in the area. Interestingly the birds no longer scavenge on natural prey, such as the Eland and Bontebok which occur in good numbers in the nature reserve - they instead feed on livestock carcasses - with the Overberg being a sheep and dairy farming area and where the farmers are now very positive and proud of “their” vultures, some have created “vulture restaurants” where the carcasses of livestock are taken to a safe location and the birds can feed without being disturbed”, Peter Chadwick, well respected conservationist photographer, explains.
The farmers also keep a watchful eye out for any sick vultures; when one is found it is taken through to the Bredasdorp vet clinic and treated at no cost. As soon as the vultures are well enough they are returned to the colony and released. This ‘joining hands’ with the farmers and community played a positive role in the protection and conservation of the Vultures for, without the help of the farmers and the community, the vultures would probably have died out some time ago.
Bookings for the “Vulture Experience” can be made at the Opstal Reception; a nature guide accompanies guests to see the vultures at 9am; R550 per person (a picnic backpack is included in the rate); maximum 10 guests (minimum 2); guests must be age 12 and older. On arrival at Potberg guests are served tea, coffee and rusks, then they walk up the Potberg trail to the viewing deck and of course, there are other Bird species to be seen along the way for those guests who are keen birders. Day visitors are welcome. Prior arrangement and bookings are essential, in order to avoid disappointment.
With all this on offer, together with scrumptious food, caring attentive staff and the 10 year Birthday celebration of De Hoop Collection’s hospitality, you are guaranteed a wonderful experience. De Hoop Nature Reserve is a winner all the way.
Activities at De Hoop
Guests of all ages and tastes will find something to do at De Hoop: Families can enjoy all the usual home comforts plus family oriented fun activities on offer - wonderful birding opportunities, nature lovers will enjoy the interpretive rock pool and Fynbos walks, extensive hiking and mountain biking trails or a runningtrail (25km route); tennis or boules and remember, for the younger members of the family there are baby-sitting services available - and don’t forget, Winter is whale season at De Hoop.
And if you should need ‘time out’ for a bit of pampering, remember there is that ultimate escape (with a variety of revitalising Beauty and Body treatments) at the Spa @ De Hoop, an exercise in understated luxury, situated in the beautiful surrounds overlooking the vlei. Day visitors are welcome at De Hoop: guests may leave their vehicles at any time to cycle or walk anywhere in the reserve, as long as they do not trample the natural vegetation. Birding, hiking, mountain biking and snorkeling are rewarding activities. The Fig Tree Restaurant is open all day offering delicious local fare including picnic baskets for alfresco meals.
About De Hoop Collection
The De Hoop Collection opened in the De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Western Cape in 2007 under the creative and entrepreneurial hands of Carl Trieloff and William Stephens, renowned for their successful Madikwe Game reserve developments. In a spectacular setting, with conservation aspects managed by Cape Nature, the reserve offers a wide range of accommodation types designed to suit all budgets. The Reserve, in the Overberg region, is a comfortable three hours’ drive from Cape Town on the world renowned Garden and Whale routes - the ideal stop-over en route from the Cape Winelands to Plettenberg Bay. Visitors to the De Hoop Collection enjoy unparalleled peace and tranquillity in what must be one of the Cape’s last unspoiled gems.