From Malgas Pont to De Hoop

The name De Hoop was not inspired, as you would think, by the Cape of Good Hope further along south. Believe it or not, it was named after a stud farm called Hope where Spanish, or Andalusian, horses were bred. The farm was eventually bought by the Cape Administration to create a conservation area. And today the fynbos that has adapted to the limestone-based soils of the coast — known as lowland fynbos — is more fêted than reintroduced rarer wildlife species such as bontebok and Cape mountain zebra. De Hoop has the largest concentration of alkaline-happy fynbos species than any other conservation area. Oh, and talking of being fêted, of course there’s that famous Whale Trail. 5 days, 55 km, hundreds of Southern Right whales to dob out from the dunes. But make sure to book a year in advance.

That’s not what my story’s about, though. It’s about having fun crossing the Breede River on the hand-pulled Malgas Pont (if you approach the De Hoop Nature Reserve from the northeast). This is a dying tradition and you can’t do it anywhere else in the country. Then you can move on to those silky rippled sand dunes, some of them 200 metres high; to sea the colour of Indian turquoise; to the vlei with its flamingos and pelicans and spoonbills; or the sandstone Melkkamer manor house and cottages dating to the 1800s which you can stay in.

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