It was late afternoon when we finally arrived at Morukuru – after an arduous, traffic-logged drive escalated by a puncture in Bredasdorp. A sea of smiling faces, warm hand shakes and refreshing rose-water cocktails welcomed us as we alighted from our vehicle, lifting our spirits instantly.
Preempting our plight (mending a puncture over a weekend in time for our journey home!), Riehan Groenwewald, one of our hosts, said: “Don’t worry; we’ll plug up your tyre here.” And then Mari Bosman, the hotel’s admin manager, added: “At Morukuru, we can do anything” – words that would come to exemplify our entire stay at this out-of-the-world sanctuary.
Gourmet canapés on the beach at sunset?
With G&Ts three ways and fun-sized sand-boarding?
Whales on demand?
That’s what you’re here for.
All in a day’s work.
Welcome to Morukuru, a stylish eco lodge in what could be the most stunning setting in the world. Here are 10 reasons why we love it – and why it should feature on every nature lover and discerning traveller’s bucketlist.
The five-roomed hotel lies on a sliver of prime seaside real estate characterised by towering white sand dunes, limestone cliffs, striking fynbos – and a stretch of Indian Ocean that becomes a playground for around 30 southern right whales every year between August and November.
Inspired by its isolated seaside setting, Dutch owners Anke and Ed Zeeman wanted their lodge to reflect, complement and, most importantly, respect its surrounds, while maximising the stunning whale-watching opportunities, and encompassing the relaxed indoor-outdoor lifestyle.
Which is exactly what architect Nicholas Plewman did. Morukuru exquisitely delivers all the trappings of a the luxe life while keeping its footprint feather light. Due to its remote location, the hotel is fully off the grid: electricity is generated by solar panels (with a backup generator for cloudy days); hot water is produced by pellet burners and the entire lodge has water-based underfloor heating.
Whales (and wildlife)
De Hoop offers the best land-based whale-watching in the world. Fact. This year saw a new all-time record for whale sightings: 1 116 whales on one day (that’s almost three times the number counted at the same time in 2017)! But, there’s more to this seaside sanctuary than marine mammals. The neighbouring 36 000-hectare De Hoop Nature Reserve is home to the biggest herd of eland in the world, Cape mountain zebra, bontebok, ostriches, and over 260 species of birds, including the rare Cape Vulture. We spotted two endangered oyster catchers during a morning walk to the rockpools.
The five immense and beautiful rooms (four face the ocean, and one boasts mesmerising dune vistas) were designed by Dutch interior designer Janine Butter, who has used nature’s tranquilising palette as her inspiration to create chic, modern, serene spaces that complement the landscape. Floor-to-ceiling sliding doors open onto a narrow balcony, revealing a 51-kilometre stretch of beach and the ocean beyond. A sea-facing daybed, cosy fireplace and lounge area make it hard to leave your room. Our three-year-old son was very taken with the hidden TV that pops up – 007 style – at the flick of a switch.
The limestone-clad bathrooms are beautifully designed, with touch-sensitive taps and an oversized shower head that makes bathtimes bliss…
And there are two communal tea-and-coffee nooks decked with everything you need to enjoy the perfect cuppa: rusks, biscuits, and a cosy dune-facing nook with a well-stocked bookshelf and comfy chairs.
After easing into the day with a bowl of granola, pain au chocolat or a tasty omelette, there’s the option of joining Riehan (or one of the other guides) for a marine walk, relaxed dune stroll, or an excursion to the nature reserve. There’s no pressure to go along, but the guides are fonts of information, so it’s well worth it.
If you’d prefer to explore on your own, the lodge has a fleet of bikes available.
Wining and dining
The food offering is superb – which is by no means a given in this remote neck of the woods. Highlights include the lamb cutlets that we enjoyed on the first night, the deconstructed bobotie for lunch, and the beef ravioli.
The lodge opened in June 2018, and already the team beams with infectious enthusiasm. From Vusi, Romeo and Admire in the dining room to Elliot who took care of our every whim, and Nicholas who lit our fire every night, to the ever-helpful Lawrence, it feels as if every member of the staff is committed to making your stay memorable.
There’s so much to do
From swimming, snorkelling and sand-boarding to fynbos hikes, marine walks, bike rides and picnics on the beach, there’s loads to keep you relaxed (and busy). And, of course, there’s a pooldeck, complete with a Jacuzzi – the only place to be on chilly evenings…
There are very few places on earth that are untouched and untainted by commercialism. De Hoop is one of those rare, hidden gems. With the tranquilising ocean ahead, the salty sea air and fynbos-dotted sand dunes all around, you can’t not be enveloped by nature’s overriding sense of calm.
All the extras
The attention to the finer things is ultimately what makes a getaway stand out. At Morukuru, it’s all in the details. Some of our highlights were:
The outdoor hot-water tub waiting for us after our blustery marine walk
The rice milk in the fridge (as an alternative to dairy)
The complimentary use of all outdoor equipment (snorkels, masks, water shoes, wetsuits, mountain bikes, sand boards, ponchos, gumboots, beach umbrella, towels)
The hot-water bottles at turndown
It’s for all these reasons – and, of course, the magnificent whales – that I’d return to Morukuru in a heartbeat.