De Hoop Nature Reserve
The 34 000-hectare De Hoop Nature Reserve is situated just over three hours’ drive from Cape Town, the capital of the Western Cape province of South Africa.
In addition to conserving 34 000-hectares of indigenous fynbos and coastal ecosystems, the reserve includes the De Hoop Marine Protected Area (MPA). Proclaimed in 1985, the MPA – essentially a nature reserve in the sea – stretches for 46 kilometres along the coastline and five kilometres out to sea, creating a marine conservancy of 289-square-kilometres.
Fishing and harvesting of any marine life is prohibited within the MPA, and in the decades since it was proclaimed the De Hoop MPA has become a vital breeding ground for regional fish stocks, while also creating an oceanic haven for Southern Right whales.
Each year these majestic cetaceans – once hunted almost to extinction – migrate north from Antarctica, taking advantage of the warm Western Cape waters to calve and mate, before migrating south in the early-summer. In the peak whale season (July-November), expect to see Southern Right whales as well as less-common Bryde’s and Humpback whales. Large pods of dolphins are also often seen surfing the breakers close in-shore.
Inland the biodiversity is no less impressive, with more than 1500 species of indigenous fynbos plants identified. De Hoop forms part of the Cape Floral Region, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, and the reserve conserves the largest area of lowland fynbos in the Western Cape.
Whilst a visit to the De Hoop Reserve is not a wildlife experience, it is home to more than 86 species of mammal, including the endangered bontebok, Cape mountain zebra and eland, the largest of the antelopes. Though Cape mountain leopard and caracal call De Hoop home, these shy cats are rarely seen. The main focus on this Reserve is the gorgeous fynbos, extensive walking trails and marine life.