* This article originally appeared here on Traveller24.com
Outside a wild wind unfurled its energy at the exposed mountainsides, then ricocheted down to our unit at the palm of the valley. Through the glass walls, we watched the action unfold, but a roaring fire, glasses of red wine and a rather animated game of 30 Seconds meant we weren’t too bothered. In fact, whilst the elements raged outside, there was probably no place we’d rather have been than in the remote splendour of the Kogelberg Mountain range.
For those in need of a wilderness escape, in the Western Cape you’ve endless options – and a great place to start is the reserves managed by Cape Nature. Their dedication to conservation, sustainability and responsible tourism has continued to draw me to their collection of unique reserves. A group of friends and I were off to visit two of these reserves and excitedly were given a Q5 by Audi Center Cape Town to make sure we travelled in style.
De Mond Nature Reserve
The Q5 excitedly lapped up the dirt roads – she was seeming as excited as we were to be exploring some of the wildly beautiful spaces of Western Cape. A roughly three-hour drive took us through the Hottentot Mountains, then the open landscapes of the Overberg backroads. I found myself breathing slowly and deeply, a smile growing across my face: I was in my happy space. Our first stop was De Mond Nature Reserve, a coastal reserve embracing almost 1000 hectares. Ocean lovers will relish having kilometers of unspoiled beach to explore; the nearest coastal towns are a 13km walk in either direction. Various walks offer you the chance to explore the 11km-long estuary, fynbos dunes, and shoreline.
The reserve only has once accommodation unit – a homely three-bedroomed cottage nestled in the dunes, so by nightfall any day visitors leave, and you have the reserve to yourself. The cottage has an outdoor enclosed braai, and is only a two-minute walk from the estuary. Two boardwalks snake their way on either side of the estuary towards the ocean – built as part of the dune rehabilitation project. Another of the projects is an exciting new imitative in search of seahorse breeding grounds in the estuary.
The reserve also encompasses the gorgeous little village of Arniston, only a 30-minute drive away, making it a great half day trip. Visit Mien’s Tea Garden for a thoroughly local experience, and then head to the Arniston Cave – make sure to watch the tides, as it’s only accessible in low tide. If the ocean environment isn’t enough to calm your spirit, sneak in a massage and cocktail at the Arniston Hotel before heading back to De Mond.
Kogelberg Nature Reserve
From De Mond we were to exchange our coastal scenery for the imposing Cape Fold Mountains of Kogelberg. Our back-route journey took in the towns of Bredasdorp, Elim, Gansbaai and finally Kleinmond. Stocked up on supplies, we were off to Kogelberg Nature Reserve, considered by many to be Cape Nature’s premier offering. A staggeringly beautiful drive guides you through the mountains until you arrive at the Oudebosch Biosphere, a village comprising five glass-fronted eco units. They’re arranged around a center ecological pool, and all have unbridled views of the mountains that surround the site. The upmarket units are spacious and each sleep four people in two bedrooms. Solar energy and compost toilets are just some of the elements that help reduce the units’ impact on the environment.
One of the highlights of the location, is visitors are able to enjoy the Cape Floral Kingdom’s incomparable plant biodiversity – which has earned the site recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best way to explore this is through the various hikes on offer – which are some of the most spectacular in the Western Cape. The two highlights are the Oudebosch-Harold Porter hike taking you over one of the mountain ridges and then descending into the Harold Porter botanical gardens, and then the magnificent 24km Kogelberg hike that fully takes in the surrounding mountains.
Driving with Audi
The Q5 is the second biggest all-wheel-drive vehicle in their series of five. In May there was already some Q-fever in the media, and we couldn’t help but join in. Our Q5 was a 2.0 TD, and it’s Quattro 152Kw was everything we needed – and more. The cavernous boot happily swallowed all our bags and an undeniable elegance and luxury characterize not only the vehicle’s aesthetics but driving ability. Thanks again to Audi Center Cape Town for giving our journey such a powerfully refined and exciting edge.
Visit Cape Nature online to see their array of reserve options. Take advantage of their winter specials, with 40% off their regular rates until the 31st August 2018.