The Western Cape provincial government, via its conservation arm, CapeNature, has concessioned off and privatised the tourism rights to some of the province’s prime real estate – the Melkkamer farm complex at De Hoop Nature Reserve, the lodge at Koppie Alleen in the reserve, and two virgin ‘greenfields’ development sites at Koppie Alleen.
Up for grabs in the multimillion-rand deal is the 10-bed Koppie Alleen lodge and ‘two 10- or one 20-bed’ greenfields development sites nearby, to be utilised for ‘commercial or private use’.
Already under construction and opening as early as next month is a ‘five star, 10-sleeper commercial villa’, Morukuru Ocean House, which will be hired out with a chef and staff for between R65 000 and R70 000 a night.
The lodge is about 1km east of Koppie Alleen, De Hoop Investments managing director, William Stephens, confirmed from Stanford yesterday. He was reluctant to put a value on the various other investment options, but confirmed that a Dutch investor had spent approximately R30 million developing Morukuru.
A ‘commercial opportunity’
Also up for use as a ‘commercial opportunity, a boutique lodge or for private use’ are the fully equipped and furnished eight-bed Melkkamer Manor House, the eight-bed Melkkamer Foreman’s Cottage and the six-bed Melkkamer Vlei Cottage.
All three are on the shore of the De Hoop Vlei, declared a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 1975 because of, among other things, its ‘numerous species of wintering and staging waterbirds’.
CapeNature spokesman Justin Lawrence confirmed yesterday that ‘a public-private partnership at Melkkamer and Koppie Alleen has been approved by the CapeNature board’. Stephens’s company – one the partners behind the commercially- and privately-run reserve – has been in partnership with CapeNature for several years already, managing the hospitality side of the reserve through The De Hoop Collection.
He said: ‘Ideally we want someone to take over the Melkkamer facility and do a small boutique lodge there, separate to the main De Hoop accommodation.
Alternatively, if someone wanted to have exclusive private use of Melkkamer, they could do that if they were happy to pay the concession fees – or they could do a mixture of the two.’
Originally the Cloete family farm
The Melkkamer farm was originally owned by the Cloete family in the late 1800s, but the manor house and cottages date back to 1904, when racehorse breeder and former Springbok rugby player and cricketer, John Henry ‘Biddy’ Anderson bought the farm from one Phillipus Myburgh.
Anderson designed the gabled Melkkamer Manor House himself, based on a house he had seen in Ireland. It is built from locally quarried limestone, and the imported materials, like the stained glass windows, the cast iron gutters, teak veranda pillars and fireplaces, were brought to Sir Lowry’s Pass by train, and from there to De Hoop by ox wagon.
In the early 1930s, farmer Amen van Blommestein – who built the Birkenhead Hotel in Hermanus – bought the Melkkamer farm from Biddy Andersen’s widow, who retained life residency rights. Van Blommestein’s son Philip and his son Amen (Amie) continued to farm the Melkkamer until 1984, after it was expropriated by the apartheid government the year before.
The De Hoop Nature Reserve covers a land area of about 35 546 hectares, while the marine portion covers an area of approximately 25 300ha. While the original reserve was declared in 1957, it was only in the early 1980s that a vast swathe of privately owned land was expropriated by the National Party government, partially for conservation but mainly as part of the Armscor Overberg arms testing range.
By Tony Weaver. Source: Cape Times