I’d never seen a starfish in its natural environment before. Nor a sea anemone, sea urchin or abalone. Even though I’d been on many land-based wildlife-viewing safaris, this was my first time witnessing the aquarium under the sea and I was mesmerised. As you may have guessed, I am not a snorkeler. We were on a marine walk at De Hoop Nature Reserve with Admire, our eagle-eyed guide from Morukuru Beach Lodge, who was pointing out the vibrant underwater wildlife in the rock pools to us at low tide. And even though it wasn’t the best time of the month to view them, our sightings were rich and rewarding.
Part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, the world’s smallest and most threatened plant kingdom and a UNESCO World Heritage site, De Hoop Nature Reserve is a spectacular 36 000 ha reserve in the Overberg region of the Western Cape. The complete length of the De Hoop coast is a Marine Protected Area where fishing and removal of marine organisms are forbidden, and its wetlands are of international importance. This gives rise to some of the richest examples of intertidal ecosystems in the province. It is also one of the best land-based whale-watching spots in the world, particularly between July and November, when Southern Right Whales come to this pristine Whale Trail coastline to mate and give birth.
Amid this natural sanctuary, overlooking the ocean, and surrounded by striking coastal fynbos, towering sand dunes, and limestone cliffs, you will find the five-star Morukuru Beach Lodge and Morukuru Ocean House, both completely off grid.
Part of the Morukuru Family, which includes the exclusive Morukuru Lodges in Madikwe Game Reserve, these fabulous eco-lodges raise the bar when it comes to beach houses. Indeed, Morukuru Beach Lodge was named the best resort in South Africa (and No. 8 in the world) in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2020, and South Africa’s leading beach hotel 2020 in the World Travel Awards These are exceptional achievements considering that the lodge only opened in 2018!
While Morukuru Ocean House is an exclusive-use four-bedroom private beach house, Morukuru Beach Lodge is a five-suite boutique lodge, ideal for couples or small families – like ours. The public spaces, as well as the spacious open-plan suites, seem to extend into the fynbos and the ocean beyond – with the help of full-length glass windows and sliding doors – while the nature-inspired decor complements the surrounding landscape.
We stayed in an Ocean View suite. The extra-large bed dominated the sleeping area, concealing a 007-style television in the footboard, which popped up and down at the touch of a button. (The kids will be thrilled to see this).
On the other side of the suite, was a cosy lounge and desk area with a fireplace and the coolest daybed, tucked into a bay window and doubling as a kids bed. My son loved it! If you have more kids with you, additional roller beds are brought into the room – it’s certainly large enough to accommodate them.
Fruit, cookies and candy awaited us – to be enjoyed with drinks from the complimentary non-alcoholic mini-bar and the Nespresso machine. We were provided with luxurious bath robes, plush navy slippers and a very thoughtful treat of Theravine sleep balm upon turndown.
The bedroom was flanked by a walk-in en-suite bathroom and dressing room area, which was larger than a standard hotel room in other places. It featured a stand-alone bathtub, rain shower, tons of closet space and locally produced Rain amenities.
As much as you would want to stay in your luxurious suite all day, the outdoors beckon equally. Marine walks and whale-watching are not the only activities here. On our first afternoon, we went on a nature drive. The reserve is home to some of the largest populations of endangered bonteboks and elands in the world and we saw many of them. We also saw grey rheboks, ostriches, flamingos and blue cranes. If you’re lucky, you may see the Cape Mountain Zebra too.
The following morning, we went on a nature walk where we learnt about the indigenous flora and fauna before proceeding on a walk along the beach, where we saw the rare African Black oystercatchers.
Next up was sandboarding on the dunes which was great fun, especially for my teenage son. This was followed by sundowners and snacks on the beach.
Other options include snorkelling, twitching, hiking, mountain biking and special activities for younger kids. The hotel courtyard has a swimming pool and a hot tub, and there are board games and books to keep guests occupied in inclement weather. Staff will suggest activities depending on the weather, the season and the guests.
In between all these activities, we were fed three beautiful multi-course gourmet meals a day.
Whether you’re looking for a family holiday destination, a romantic getaway or a laid-back retreat, these stunning lodges tick all the right boxes. The isolated surroundings and unsurpassed vistas across the fynbos-fringed dunes to the Indian Ocean will make you feel as though you have this exquisite wilderness almost all to yourself. The setting, accommodation and service are top-notch and the activities are refreshingly different. It’s perfect for a social distancing – or any other type of holiday. Leaving this hidden jewel was the hardest part, especially when a pod of dolphins came to bid us farewell.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is situated roughly between Cape Town and Knysna on the Garden Route. The drive there will take you between 3 and 5 hours, depending on the weather, the traffic and your vehicle. Or if you can afford it, you can charter a 1-hour private flight.
A 4X4 is better suited for the gravel roads to and in the reserve but a sedan will take you there too, albeit more slowly.
Covid measures are in place including pre-screening, temperature checking and serious sanitising.
Children of all ages are welcome at Morukuru Beach Lodge.
Wi-fi is available throughout the lodge.
Things you must do in South Africa