Set in the Cape’s De Hoop Nature Reserve, Morukuru Beach Lodge is the first and only five-star lodge within the 88,000-acre coastal concession. Here, you won’t find lions or elephants—animals we commonly associate with trips out to the South African bush—but rather antelope, birds, whales, and vast vistas of sand dunes that cascade into the ocean. It is one of the most secluded and breathtakingly beautiful reserves in the country, making it a favorite of avid adventure-goers. A measly three-hour drive around the tip of the continent from Cape Town, the reserve is as accessible as it is unique—and with the opening of Morukuru, it’s more enticing than ever.
The intimate Relais & Châteaux lodge has just five glass-fronted suites—four boasting ocean views and one overlooking the tumbling dunes. Each has been brought to life by Dutch designer Janine Feikes-Butter, who has created compelling Scandi-meets-Africa interiors replete with warm wooden ceilings and floors, oversized leather chairs, and bright flecks of color on the walls. There are fireplaces everywhere—from the outdoor patio’s ocean-facing firepit to the restaurant’s glass circular fire drum—to keep guests warm as temperatures dip on chilly Cape evenings. Parts of the day are best spent enjoying a glass of fine local wine in the cozy bar before devouring a three-course dinner of freshly caught fish, locally sourced meat, or seasonal veggies at the sea-facing restaurant. And if you settle in from June to October, it’s highly likely you’ll catch sight of the Southern right whales making their annual migration from the restaurant’s prime vantage point.
And while the hotel is certainly plush, you don’t really come here to hole up in your well-appointed room; you’re here to spend time exploring the reserve’s wild corners. To that end, there are numerous activities on offer, from biking to hiking through the distinctive Cape fynbos (the type of local vegetation that characterizes the region) to marine walks. In addition to spotting some of the Big Five, avid safari-goers can search for over 350 species of bird, bontebok (a type of antelope with dramatic brown and white coloring), Cape mountain zebra, and, if you’re lucky, the illusive Cape leopard. Let’s not forget that the reserve is located on the ocean, so snorkeling is also high up on the to-do list. After a dip in the ocean, return to the hotel and soak in the swimming pool or hot tub—perhaps with an aromatic fynbos-infused cocktail in hand.