I’d always wanted to do a self-drive safari. I’d been to plenty of big game parks, the likes of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, Lake Nakuru and Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, and South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, but always as a passenger in a tour vehicle. I watched the drivers carefully on these trips; taking note how they snuck up on a rhino, or reversed out of the way of a family of trumpeting elephants, or inched past sleeping lions, or faced off with cape buffalo. I’m not sure how well I would have performed in similar scenarios. Takes some practice, I imagine, and some nerve. That’s why De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Western Cape region of South Africa was the perfect spot for my very first self-drive safari. It has no elephants, no lions, no cape buffalo, no rhinos. No dangerous animals at all really (there are a few leopards, but only shy ones).
But if there are no elephants or rhinos or lions, is it worth the bother?
What animals can you see in De Hoop?
The animals of De Hoop Nature Reserve
There are zebras to start with. And these aren’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill Plains Zebras; these are Cape Mountain Zebra. You can pick the two apart by their stripes; Cape Mountain Zebras have narrower, more numerous stripes (you can compare them to the regular Plains Zebra here, and you can compare them to Grevy’s Zebra here).
Cape Mountain Zebras are also the smallest of the zebras, and they live in just a few small pockets in South Africa. They were almost hunted to extinction, and while it’s good news that their population is slowly rebounding, there are still less than a thousand in existence.
Next up are the eland, the largest of the antelopes. These are Common Eland, which can weigh up to 1,000 kilograms. They’re only outsized by the Giant Eland of western and central Africa, which is the largest antelope of all.
There are plenty of ostrich strolling around the reserve. We were lucky enough to witness the elaborate mating dance performed by one male ostrich, and his excited, elated strut after he was given the green-light by the female.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is one of the few places you can find bontebok. This species of antelope was almost hunted to extinction, but the population is recovering nicely thanks to the emergence of several key reserves such as De Hoop.
Other animals you might spot include baboons, rhebok, flamingos, and mongoose.
One of the best things about there being no lions, cape buffalo, and elephants in De Hoop is that it is perfectly safe to get out of your car wherever you like. The animals don’t tend to stick around for long though if you do decide to get out of your vehicle.
De Hoop coastline
If you get tired of looking at animals you can go for a walk along the coast. It’s a wild, storm-battered, isolated part of the country; a great place to focus on your sense of self, and perhaps contemplate your next self-safari experience.
Practical information and how to reach De Hoop:
De Hoop Nature Reserve is located in the Western Cape region of South Africa, about 250 kilometres from Cape Town. It takes about three to fours to drive there from Cape Town; with some gravel roads to negotiate once you have exited the highway (I managed this in a tiny 2WD car without difficulty). Read more on De Hoop Nature Reserve here.