Our natural resources are declining, and over-consumption is having a catastrophic effect on our environment, including our current pandemic. Isn’t it time to move towards a more meaningful definition of luxury and spend time reconnecting with ourselves and tuning into our natural surroundings? It’s not necessarily about being geographically or physically remote or travelling to the ends of the earth. It’s more about the feeling a place generates and an opportunity to gently disconnect from digital distractions, slow down, and let go of our high-paced life. Morukuru Beach Lodge invites you to do exactly that.
You know you are going somewhere quite special as you traverse the 54km dirt road to the reserve gate. There is a further 15km through stunning natural fynbos and dramatic glistening white sand dunes rising to your right.
Morukuru Beach Lodge is a luxury, off-grid lodge voted in the Condé Nast Traveler awards as South Africa’s Best Hotel 2020. Quite a reputation to uphold. The lodge sits in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site just east of Africa’s southernmost tip in the Overberg, only three hours from Cape Town. Morukuru offers endless views of sea, sand, dunes, set within a floral sensation of rare fynbos plants, with roaming antelope, bontebok, Cape mountain Zebra, Eland, Baboons and Ostrich, and deserted coastline, just for starters!
Arriving with an anticipatory feeling of excitement, the promise of possibility in the air. It’s home for the next two nights. There is nowhere else to go – but I think we’ll like it! First impressions look good. Morukuru’s setting is unreal. Perched on a bluff surrounded by coastal fynbos, Nick Plewman’s contemporary Eco lodge blends into its dramatic, remote surroundings. Built-in roughly hewn local stone with acres of glass, it faces the staggeringly gorgeous Indian Ocean that welcomes us with its intense panorama of turquoise hues. Dramatic blinding white dunes rise to the right. We can’t wait to explore.
The reserve extends over 34,000 hectares with a marine protection zone that stretches 55 kilometres and reaches 5 kilometres into the ocean. The reserve forms part of the world’s smallest and most threatened plant kingdom – the Cape Floral Kingdom; it’s one of the most pristine areas of fynbos in the world, with many plants endemic to De Hoop. There are also more than 260 species of birds on the reserve, best seen along the 6km De Hoop Klipspringer Trail, and, incredibly, when the vlei floods, there can be as many as 30 000 birds here at a time, including the threatened and near-threatened lesser and greater flamingo, white pelican, chestnut-banded plover, and Caspian tern. Other highlights are pairs of African fish eagles and, if you are lucky, the appearance of the Cape clawless otter. There are 250 species of fish, and dolphins and seals can be spotted year-round merrily frolicking in the bay. Distinctive porous limestone formations lining the beach covered in muscles, barnacles, and reef worms make rich pickings for the black oystercatchers. There is a ginormous beehive ever in one of the limestone rocks near the lodge.
Morukuru takes its name from the Tamboti Trees growing in abundance on the river banks in the forested Madikwe Game Reserve, the Morukuru Family Bush Lodge. Although it is a Milkwood tree that greets you at Morukuru, the Milkwood or “Iron-wood” tree is a protected Southern African coastal tree, with dense foliage, blackberries, and small, foetid, greenish flowers. Fittingly the energy of the Milkwood tree is thought to bring a deep sense of connection and belonging. You’ll know you’ve arrived when the tree is in bloom – the sour smell is very – “distinctive!”
The lodge is entirely off-grid, there is some WiFi, but why not lock your phone in your safe! Morukuru’s design creates a mood of calm and tranquillity set within beautiful natural surroundings. It’s all about looking outside. The ocean-facing suites, dining room, and upstairs bar all have front-row views of the incredibly changing sky and waters of the Indian Ocean. The range of blues is breathtaking. In winter, the whales’ spouting, breaching, and tail-flapping action provide non-stop action through the winters when the southern right whales arrive from Antarctica to calve.
The iconic Whale Trail runs 55km from Potsberg, home to the last remaining Cape vulture colony in the Western Cape, to Koppie Alleen Beach. With only five suites, one of which is the honeymoon suite, it’s an intimate hotel or a fabulous house rental for friends and families. After checking out our fellow guests – it’s all a bit hushed! We accept an invitation to lunch followed by a guided fynbos walk with the charming and informative Admire who takes us along the clifftop through the fynbos, returning via the beach, working up our appetites for more exploration.
The minimalist scandi’esque interiors have a contemporary-cool vibe—light floods in, washing the natural timber and pale unpolished granite. Jewell toned natural textiles add a pop of colour and freshness in splashes of turquoise, green and yellow, juxtaposed with Nguni rugs and leather and colourful accents. The suites invite you to linger. Floor-to-ceiling glazed doors open to a balcony and allow natural air conditioning.
The honeymoon suite is at the back of the building with fynbos views and a private deck, with a roughly hewn double-ended stone tub. All suites have a wood-burning stove and a deliciously inviting day bed built into a large framed box window. Bathrooms have super luxe showers and oval-shaped tubs with ocean views. Cleverly the sliding doors conceal cupboards while providing privacy should you require it. With the option of sand boarding, private picnics, bird watching, mountain biking, hiking, nature drives, and guided fynbos and coastal walks, plus stargazing, spa treatments, and Whale watching through the winter months, you are unlikely to get bored! There is, of course, the option to opt-out and just chill.
Day 2 starts with a yummy breakfast followed by a coastal walk along the rocky shore exploring the crystal-clear rock pools with Admire. Seeking out urchins, anemones, and giant chitons to limpets, sea cucumbers, and the thousands of mussels that encrust the rocks. Luckily, you’ll spot the rare African black oystercatcher, some Caspian terns, and seagulls. Ending with a snorkel in the Stilgat tidal pools, better known at the Hippo Pools. The lodge has all the equipment you will need, water shoes, and snorkeling gear.
A picnic lunch in the dunes is followed by exhilarating and addictive dune boarding until it’s time for well-earned sundowners served on the dunes as the sunsets. Sundowners are served daily in a location dictated by the weather, [mainly the wind], including the recessed deck at the front of the lodge, complete with a glowing fire pit, the rooftop bar or terrace, the beach, or in the dunes. Leisurely dinners of eland, ostrich, and other equally delicious locally sourced delights follow, with the evenings ending in a star-studded finale. The stargazing is mesmerising.
The best bit, the fun and social activities lead to some serious bonding [and drinking] with our fellow guests, and further adventures have been plotted and planned for the near future. Incredibly two of the guests live in our street. It’s a very small world. A morning nature drive spotting early risers foraging in reserve is followed by our breakfast back at the lodge, and sadly it’s time to leave. We could happily move in and leave civilisation as we know it behind forever, well almost! I will return; in fact, I must – to spend days watching the whales, from my box window, my very own eagle’s nest. And for my nature drive for which I was missing in action, which had nothing to do with the night before!
Find out more about Morukuru Beach Lodge, click HERE
All images and story written by Anji Connell ACID+Anji Connell Interior Design.