MAY saw the opening of Natural Selection’s first property in South Africa, Lekkerwater Beach Lodge in the De Hoop Reserve. The intimate property sits isolated on a six kilometer stretch of beach in the glorious De Hoop Reserve, east of Cape Town.
Just as the whales arrive in the warm Indian Ocean waters, so Natural Selection opened the doors to their newest property, Lekkerwater Beach Lodge. Each year hundreds of Southern Right Whales migrate from the colder Antarctic Ocean to give birth to their young in the warmer Indian Ocean waters in front of Lekkerwater.
The rooms at Lekkerwater are perched on a cliff just meters back from the coast line, affording panoramic views of the ocean ahead, allowing dolphin and whale watching right from your bed. The Southern Right Whales are seasonal visitors, but year-round pods of dolphin play in the waves right outside the lodge.
Throughout the lodge the dramatic views do the talking. Each of the seven rooms has floor to ceiling glass doors which can be opened to let in the coastal breezes. The décor drew its inspiration from the environment and each room has a bespoke piece of art by South African artist Jemima Sargent.
The seven paintings depict a species from De Hoop’s wildlife, both on land and out to sea. Each bedroom has its own original painting and nothing on Jemima’s canvases stands still, from the tiny sugarbirds fluttering across the paper, to the swooping oystercatchers, the bobbing seals or the graceful southern right whales. For cooler evenings there is wood burning stove in the room which keeps the bedrooms snug and warm.
The main area offers 180-degree views of the coastline with vast, panoramic windows which open up and blur the lines between outside and in. A large communal table dominates the interior space, intended to bring guests together over meals to chat and share stories. The internal courtyard offers a more secluded space for relaxed meals and a ‘calm zone’ for relaxing by the swimming pool. Where possible, the furnishings were sourced from local suppliers. There are towels from the Barrydale Weavers, ‘Love Seats’ made from recycled wine barrels in Plettenberg Bay and mats from a women’s empowerment project, Thandi Collection, in KwaZulu Natal.
The lodge was designed to leave as light a footprint on the environment as possible. Entirely solar powered, the lodge has been built with as little cement as possible. The bedrooms are exclusively built from commercially grown soft woods and are supported off the ground by just six foundation pillars. The grey water treatment plant is the latest technology so that the water that leaches back into the soil is as pure and as free of contaminants as is possible; and the lodge operations are striving to be single-use plastic free.
The property also has a very strong sense of historical place. The summer house and “Camp David” of the former South African president FW De Klerk, this is where he negotiated the end of apartheid and debated quietly behind closed doors the country’s new constitution. No doubt Nelson Mandela’s name was discussed many times here.
But the area’s history stretches even further back than that, just five miles to the east is the Klipdrift cave and shelter where recently some of the earliest evidence of modern human beings was unearthed, dating back between 64,000 and 100,000 years. The area’s story is told in a striking wallpaper which dominates the only wall in the main area. Created using nineteen original sketches drawn by the Cape Town based artist James Durno, it depicts the history and natural history of Lekkerwater from 100,000 years ago until today.
Activities at De Hoop revolve around the tides and the thriving intertidal zone of the Marine Protected Area offshore that stretches 3 miles out to sea. Mornings can be spent exploring the rock pools and learning about the myriad of species which call the shallow waters home. From colourful starfish to urchins and octopuses, the rockpools support an astonishing variety of marine life.
Afternoons are often spent exploring the fynbos eco-system. De Hoop forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a World Heritage Site of close on 9000 plant species, with De Hoop alone boasting around 1,500 species of plants and flowers – and 15 of those species are found nowhere else in the world. Birding is also rewarding for both amateurs and keen twitchers with over 260 species having been recorded. Relaxing with a book in the sunshine or strolling up the beach at your own pace is also an option.
The food at Lekkerwater is a celebration of South Africa’s traditional dishes. Home cooked and hearty, everything is sourced locally and focuses on wholesome, tasty dishes. Bobotie is served one night and then the next night enjoy a beach braai (BBQ) with feet in the sand and South African lamb chops on the fire. Wines are also sourced locally, many from nearby Agulhas, Elim and the Hemel en Aarde valley and plains that make up the Overberg Region and home to South Africa’s finest pinot noirs and other fine wines.
Natural Selection’s ethos is rooted in conservation and 1.5% of all revenue from Lekkerwater Beach Lodge goes straight back to conservation projects. Lekkerwater Beach Lodge is working with the country’s leading shark experts, Chris and Monique Fallows to facilitate their studies.