The Southern Right Whale has made the De Hoop Reserve in South Africa one of the world’s best land-based whale watching areas.
De Hoop Nature Reserve’s popularity amongst visitors as one of the best land-based whale watching sites often means its cultural-historical importance goes unseen. Not many realise that in the stretches of this rolling green reserve, you can also experience the remains of a bygone era. That’s why the internationally funded TRACSYMBOLS project is exploring the exciting historical sites found within De Hoop’s borders, unearthing artefacts that date back to the Stone Age.
Potberg and Melkkamer are historical homesteads that have been preserved in De Hoop’s reserve, on which the TRAC SYMBOLS team have conducted most of their enlightening work. While this reserve is the flagship of CapeNature, preserving an area of around 36,000 hectares, it is these small areas that speak into the land’s cultural-historical significance.
The team of the TRACSYMBOLS project have investigated these sites to discover that people lived in the De Hoop area thousands of years ago, during the Stone Age. TRACSYMBOLS is a project with a very specific aim – they explore how fundamental behavioural innovations emerged among early humans in both southern Africa and Europe, and then assess how much their environments influenced these developments. So through the analysis of unearthed tools, skeletons and artefacts, this skilled team have translated the symbols found in the De Hoop reserve to understand that there were a nomadic Khoi people living in the area many, many years ago.
Perhaps the best way for visitors to step into this world that TRACSYMBOL is discovering, is by the De Hoop Trail. This fully catered luxury trail is a 3 night adventure throughout the entire stretch of De Hoop Nature Reserve, in which a talented guide will take you on a walking trip of birding, game viewing, fynbos investigations and marine sightings. At only R4900 per person sharing, the trail can host 12 people at any time, who all get unexpected fine dining during the two full days walking. You will pass right through the Potberg and Melkkamer areas, hearing grand old tales of the areas and being shown around their historical sites of discovered artefacts and ancient symbols. For those cultural enthusiasts with a flair for adventure and a touch of the wild, this is the ideal trip to fully experience what De Hoop has to offer.
It really is always a “best time” to go, as Professor Chrisopher Henshilwood and Professsor Francesco d’Errico of TRACSYMBOL have surrounded themselves with a fantastic team and are always discovering new things to show off. Combining new methodology and field research to test their hypothesis that environments influenced the cultural development of early humans, they are ever conducting new archaeological excavations in De Hoop’s reserve, using innovative methods to analyse the symbols that they find and reconstructing the cultural life of humans from a bygone era.
De Hoop Nature Reserve offers more than the popular sighting of a breaching whale or the beauty of a common Eland… it gives us a look into the mystical past and our African beginnings.