A gentle dirt road to De Hoop Nature Reserve lullabied my digital fears into a peaceful state of panic, my palms got sweaty as the signal bars on my phone rhythmically disappeared.
Four bars. Three bars. Two. One. Zero.
Welcome to De Hoop.
I take a seat inside the Opstal lounge; berry-ginger refreshment in one hand, phone in the other.
I quickly catch up on social media; tweet this, Facebook that, hashtag everything. My legs anxiously bounce up and down as I wait for the signal to leave the digital world behind.
There is Wi-Fi at the Opstal and surrounding areas, but I won’t stay at the Opstal. I will stay at the Melkkamer Manor House across the vlei. Luckily there is Vodacom signal at the Melkkamer Manor House, unfortunately I have MTN.
In the distance I hear Mother Nature whisper in soft-spoken words, “Welcome to your digital detox, it is time to relax”.
De Hoop Nature Reserve – The Withdrawal
Near the Southern tip of Africa lies the Overberg kingdom boasting an unspoiled coastline, a rich biodiversity, small charming towns and a history dating back to the Stone Age. Off a dirt road not too far from Napier a welcome mat of Fynbos greets you with open shrubs and grazing zebras, a few Cape Spurfowls gather under the shadow of the big old meeting tree. Nature chirps loudly in your ear as you find yourself on a boat in the middle of a 17 km vlei at a World Heritage Site in the Western Cape.
Your phone is almost forgotten, somewhere in your bag, possibly at the bottom of the saline vlei.
The vlei is a researcher’s laboratory, a cameraman’s studio and Utopia for birdwatchers. A Giant Kingfisher dives for lunch and your digital discomfort makes a serene shift to the binoculars as a Fish Eagle’s call pulsates through the vlei. Dalfrenzo the guide passionately points out to a group of egrets and you realise, this is the place where you’ll switch off, plug out and disconnect your phone, this is the place where you’ll switch on, plug in and connect to De Hoop Nature Reserve.
De Hoop Nature Reserve Collection – Unplugged
A few meters from the vlei’s jetty you enter the sunlit sandstone Melkkamer Manor house; a Protea bouquet prominently sets the mood against the back-drop of a colourful glass-stained window. Oregan pine floors creak a bygone era under your feet and you take a step back in time as you reach for the high doorknob to one of the four luxurious en-suite bedrooms. This is where traditional farmhouse meets luxury; this is where luxury respectfully bows to the environment.
Every day in-house chef, Phillip Lottering, whips up a feast fit for a king and every night host Dalfrenzo Laing opens up a bottle of bubbly and Fynbos-infused gin. Strangers get acquainted and fill the Melkkamer Manor house with cheerful chatter around breakfast tables, over three course meals, on the big old stoep and in front of the fireplace. You connect the dots with tales from the 1800s, you link it to the 1900s and fill in the gaps with stories of Johan Henry Anderson, former Springbok rugby player, cricketer and Melkkamer Manor House designer and former owner.
At night the sky ignites the cosmos. You shut down and sink into the comfort of your bed with an open door and a roaming Eland outside; blissfully disconnected from the city lights and sounds, blissfully isolated from the rest of the world.
Day time steers your excitement to a whole new level with guided vlei walks, a gourmet picnic, quad-biking, spa treatments, a boat cruise and a visit to an unspoiled beach, Koppie Alleen. Your phone’s battery enjoys the breather; the search for signal is long forgotten and willingly ignored. Highly-trained guides eagerly point out, educate and share interesting bits from land to air to sea and chef Phillip’s craftsmanship accompanies you all the way. You snack on canapés on an eco-boat cruise, small wild indulge in the green and pelicans flap their wings on the horizon. People pass you on bicycles, day visitors frolick around in the waves and Whale Trail slackpackers make their way through coastal thickets.
In the middle of it all you stand; surrounded by Fynbos with the rising dunes on one side, a wondrous body of water on the other and in the noise of crushing waves and knocking Eland hooves you hear Mother Nature’s soft-spoken voice again “This is your digital detox, this is your time to relax”.
De Hoop Nature Reserve Collection is 3-4 hours from Cape Town and the accommodation ranges from self-catering to the luxurious Melkkamer Manor House across the vlei. MTN and Vodacom signal can be found around various areas (except Melkkamer Vlei Cottage and Manor House) and only the Opstal lounge has complimentary wi-fi. Besides self-exploring De Hoop, visitors can also book tours such as the guided vlei walk, eco quad biking, mountain biking, land-based whale watching (June to November), interpretive marine walks, star-gazing and the De Hoop Trail and Whale Trail.
Go on, book your unplugged session. It’s time for your own digital detox at De Hoop.
Read the Roaming Giraffe’s article on De Hoop and journey through her words and photos to find the pulse of nature.
Disclaimer: A special thanks to De Hoop Collection for hosting me at the Melkkamer Manor House. All opinions expressed are my own.
Watch the video below for a quick 2 minute glimpse into De Hoop Nature Reserve.
Magical moments and memories from a visit to De Hoop Collection in the Overberg.