One of the Western Cape's most popular nature reserves, the magnificently rugged 60 000 hectare De Hoop Nature Reserve has the Indian Ocean lapping along its southern boundary and is a delightful destination to explore on foot, while mountain biking or quad biking.
Bordered by the Breede River to its north-east the reserve's landscape is a picture of fynbos, tall white sand dunes, aquamarine Ocean and white watered waves splashing against jagged time-worn rocks.
There is considerable evidence; including ochre, stone flakes from the making of stone tools and ostrich shell beads, dotted throughout the reserve that indicates early human occupation throughout all three of the stone ages.
European settlers first arrived in the area in the early 18th century and settled here as farmers. By the early 1800's almost the entire area was being farmed, a remainder of which can be seen in the Melkkamer farmstead on the nature reserve which has been refurbished and is now used for accommodation in De Hoop Nature Reserve.
The De Hoop farm was purchased in 1956 and proclaimed a nature reserve in 1957. Further land was included in the conservation boundaries in 1978, and the marine reserve which extends for 24 000 hectares was proclaimed in 1986. The final addition of land occurred in 1991 to make the reserve the full 60 000 hectare expanse that it is today.
While there are some 78 different mammal species found within the reserve, including Cape Mountain Zebra, Common Eland, Bontebok, Steenbok and other small antelope such as Cape Grysbok and Klipspringer.
A major game viewing highlight in the reserve is the Southern Right Whales that are seen just offshore in winter and spring, between the months of May and October. Each year thousands of these gentle giants travel down the coastline to these warmer waters to give birth to their young and to mate with their partners and their playful antics are a wonderful sight to behold.
At other times of the year it is the 259 different species of birds that draw visitors to the reserve and the Cape Vulture breeding colony at Potberg is the largest breeding colony in the Western Cape. Visitors are not allowed to approach the cliffs where the Vultures nest but they may be lucky enough to spot the birds in flight around the area.
Walkers will stand a good chance of seeing the Vulture and many other birds while exploring the Klipspring Trail; a 6 kilometre (3.72 mile) circular walking route in the Potberg section of the reserve. The area around the camp is considered another good location for bird spotting and when there is water in the vlei (lagoon) large numbers of birds can be seen on or near the water including Ducks, Waders and Herons.
Visitors to the De Hoop Nature Reserve will notice 6 distinct features when exploring the landscape. These 6 features include the coastline, the vegetated dune barrier running inland from the coast, the bare mobile dunes that move with the wind, the hard old limestone dunes and the hard course-grained sandstone found near to the Potberg section of the reserve.
Classified as part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, there are 6 distinct vegetation types within the reserve; all closely related to the type of soil they grow on. The reserve has at least 108 different species of plants in it, 40 of which are only known to grow in the area and are considered very rare. Visitors can look forward to seeing beautiful displays of Proteas, Restios and Erica's.