BACK-TO-NA­TURE HOL­I­DAYS

Living and Loving - - CONTENTS -

In an ef­fort to get her kids back to na­ture, Bron­wyn Mul­rooney be­came an eco­tourist and sought out three fam­ily-friendly des­ti­na­tions that pro­vide the per­fect an­ti­dote to tablets and TV.

De Hoop Na­ture Re­serve, Over­berg

Ven­ture off the N2 past Wit­sand, bum­ble your way down the dirt road through sprawl­ing farm­land towards the ocean, and just where the pas­tures give way to scrubby coastal bush, you’ll find a lit­tle piece of par­adise called De Hoop Na­ture Re­serve.

We ar­rived as the sun was about to dip be­hind the dunes, which left just enough time for the kids to pick up a cou­ple of bikes from re­cep­tion and ex­plore the Op­stal area.

Op­stal lies at the heart of De Hoop. It com­prises a vast plain criss-crossed by wide dirt roads, all safe for bud­ding cy­clists, and fre­quented by buck and os­trich that don’t even give kids a sec­ond glance.

De Hoop is home to 85 species of game, in­clud­ing the rare bon­te­bok, more than 260 bird species, and an in­cred­i­ble mix of habi­tats, from wet­lands and fyn­bos to the coast and a 70km stretch of pro­tected In­dian Ocean just off its shore.

With all this nat­u­ral di­ver­sity to its credit, you would ex­pect a mul­ti­tude of ways to ex­pe­ri­ence it. Well, this is where the De Hoop Col­lec­tion re­ally shines – with sev­eral ex­cel­lent guided (and mostly kid-friendly) ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer.

We wasted no time get­ting stuck in, and set off for a guided ecoboat cruise along the vlei the next morn­ing. The kids took great de­light in watch­ing the birds, es­pe­cially the great white pel­i­cans with their over­sized beaks and the greater flamin­gos that had re­cently ar­rived on their an­nual mi­gra­tion from up north.

Af­ter lunch, we hit the wa­ter again. This time at the beach for an in­ter­pre­tive ma­rine walk with guide Adolf von Moltke. I think it’s safe to say, noth­ing will pre­pare you for this ex­pe­ri­ence. Af­ter a short walk along the dunes, Adolf stopped, turned and said, “Wel­come to De Hoop”. Be­hind him, the dunes dropped away to re­veal an ex­pan­sive beach­scape of bril­liant white sand. Beyond that were at least 13 south­ern right whales re­lax­ing in the warm In­dian Ocean.

Our party of 12 fell silent. I knew De

Hoop was home to the best land-based whale watch­ing in South Africa, and I knew it had a rep­u­ta­tion for ex­cep­tional whale ex­pe­ri­ences, but that mo­ment, on that beach, took our breath away. Even the chil­dren were aware of the im­mense priv­i­lege of shar­ing the same space as these amaz­ing an­i­mals.

Adolf led us down the dunes

(well, the kids rolled down!) and onto the rock pools where urchins and sea anemones share the warm wa­ters with starfish and oc­to­puses.

The chil­dren couldn’t get enough of ex­plor­ing the trea­sure-filled wa­ters. As the sky melted into a fiery sun­set, we left the whales, but not be­fore one bade us farewell with a mag­nif­i­cent breach clean out the wa­ter.

The De Hoop Col­lec­tion’s kids’ evening hol­i­day pro­gramme in­cludes hot choco­late and s’mores around the fire fol­lowed by a noc­tur­nal scor­pion hunt, which in our case pro­duced ex­cited sight­ings of Cape ba­boon spi­ders, a por­cu­pine and two scor­pi­ons – although the five-year-old thought the Daddy Long Legs was most in­ter­est­ing.

En­joy­ing the sun­set over the la­goon af­ter some se­ri­ous bike rid­ing at De Hoop. De Hoop has a spec­tac­u­lar set­ting. The chil­dren get to ex­plore the rock pools at De Hoop in an im­mer­sive learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Our first glimpse of the whales; even the chil­dren were spell­bound.

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