Marine Masterpiece

The new eco-sensitively designed LEKKERWATER BEACH LODGE in the Western Cape’s pristine De Hoop Nature Reserve offers a unique marine safari experience

Staying in such close proximity to the sea in the quiet of a mostly uninhabited marine reserve, you’re reminded why the word “crashing” is such an apt way to describe the sound of waves. It’s visceral; a fast-acting way to clear the mind. Falling asleep and waking up to that sound is one of the many reasons that Lekkerwater’s location on a six-kilometre stretch of private beach is so special. With dolphins frolicking in the surf metres away from your balcony, you realise what a privilege it is to be here.

Over the course of your stay, you’ll be reminded of the magic of this setting again and again, be it by learning about the area’s history (caves have been discovered with evidence of inhabitants from 65  000 years ago), exploring the rich biodiversity of land and sea on one of the guided walks, or having dinner on the beach under the stars. Then there’s the whale watching, where you’ll find the floor-to-ceiling view from your bed is one of the country’s land-based best. From July to November (and sometimes even early December), Southern right whales migrate to these warm waters from Antarctica to calve.

Not only does the shoreline offer ideal conditions for an incredibly rich inter-tidal zone, with rock pools exposed as the tides change, but the De Hoop Marine Protected Area extends the entire 46km length of the park and five kilometres offshore. Fishing and marine exploitation of any form are prohibited, creating an aquatic game reserve and giving new meaning to the name Lekkerwater (which translates as “good water”).

De Hoop’s transition to a reserve was not initially for conservation reasons. In the 1980s, the South African military and Armscor were seeking a missile-testing site, and expropriated about 60km of coastline (and large swathes inland) from farmers and holiday homeowners to make way for this facility. Later, the easternmost 46km of coastline and 34  000 hectares of land were deemed to be superfluous, and were ceded to Cape Nature to be managed for conservation purposes. That’s when De Hoop was created.

Here, in this secluded and remote setting three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Cape Town, then-president FW de Klerk decided to build his “Camp David”, which he used as a sanctuary while he was in office. After 1994, the management of the property was handed over to Cape Nature. Visitors to the area could rent it out – until 2015, when a storm lashed the coastline and a lightning-induced fire ravaged much of the reserve, including Lekkerwater.

It was then that Natural Selection took on the concession to create the first property in South Africa to join its portfolio of luxury lodges and camps on the African continent. The project wasn’t without challenges: despite having access to a long stretch of private coastline, the new design had to stay within the exact footprint of the original property, which demanded creative problem-solving when it came to the layout and the best ways of accommodating guests and staff.

The result is seven individual en-suite rooms, each with a private balcony and wood-burning stove, and a main lounge/dining area. As with all Natural Selection properties, the lodge has been built (and is operated) with consideration for the environment. The interiors prioritise relaxation and comfort, and feature neutral tones and shades of blue, as well as natural textures and local art. Artist James Dumo was commissioned to draw 19 original sketches for the dining area – they form a wallpaper timeline depicting the history of Lekkerwater.