De Hoop Nature Reserve
Only 45 minutes from Mermaid Guesthouse lies a special nature reserve situated in
the Overberg region, near the southern tip of Africa. De Hoop Nature Reserve is approximately 34 000 ha in size and one of the largest natural areas managed by CapeNature.
It is a favourite destination for hikers, cyclists, bird watchers and during the winter and early summer months, whale watchers.
The adjacent De Hoop Marine Protected Area, which extends three nautical miles (5
km) out to sea, is one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa and provides a sanctuary for a vast and
fascinating array of marine life.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is situated east of Bredasdorp, approximately 260 km from Cape
Town. The reserve may be approached from either Bredasdorp or Swellendam. The last 50 km of either route is along
A typical Mediterranean climate prevails in the region; summers are warm and winters
mild. The annual rainfall is about 380 mm and August is usually the wettest month. Sea mists also occur. The most
frequent summer winds are east, west and southeast, while westerly and southwesterly winds prevail in
De Hoop Nature Reserve forms part of the world's smallest and most threatened plant
kingdom - the Cape Floral Kingdom. Fynbos is the dominant vegetation group and is largely confined to nutrient-poor
soils in the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape. It is adapted to fire and drought and is defined by four
- proteas - tall shrubs with large leaves
- ericas - heath-like shrubs
- restios - wiry, reed-like plants which are always present in fynbos
- geophytes - bulbs that store moisture in fleshy underground organs.
De Hoop is important for the conservation of lowland fynbos for it has the largest
conserved area for this rare vegetation type. The Bredasdorp / Agulhas and Infanta area has an estimated 1500 plant
species of the approximately 9 000 species found in the Cape Floristic Region.
De Hoop's many terrestrial habitats support a diversity of animal groups. The marine
environment is likewise home to a variety of life forms.
The reserve has 86 mammal species. Most notable are the rare bontebok and Cape
mountain zebra, as well as eland, grey rhebuck, baboon, yellow mongoose, caracal and the occasional
Marine mammals such as dolphins and seals occur in the waters off the coast and
southern right whales calve and mate in the sheltered bays of De Hoop each year between May and December. At least
250 species of fish occur in the marine protected area.
De Hoop is famous for its variety of resident and migratory bird species and more
than 260 species have been recorded on the reserve. The De Hoop Vlei attracts large numbers of water birds. The
only remaining breeding colony of the rare Cape vulture in the Western Cape occurs at Potberg.