De Zeekoe Guest Farm
Most visitors planning a trip to Oudtshoorn come to visit the Cango Caves or an ostrich farm and then think about where to stay. The family-owned and run De Zeekoe Guest Farm makes you just want to arrive and worry about planning later, with friendly advice and tips about things to do in the area that you’d likely never have discovered on your own.
Flanked by the Outeniqua Mountains on one side and the Swartberg Mountain on the other, De Zeekoe Guest Farm started with owner Paula Potgieter taking guests in during the busy Arts Festival.
Today, guests can choose between 16 opulent guest rooms, with glass sliding doors leading to a private balcony for panoramic mountain views, or one of four rustic wooden cabins out on the lake, where you can spot over 160 species of birds.
Located on the bank of the Olifants River, the 2000 hectare farm (named after the hippos that once lived there) offers guests the chance to see springbok, ostrich, cattle and interestingly meerkats, which form part of De Zeekoe’s conservation drive and offers great consolation for not seeing those long-lost hippos.
The large dining room, with outdoor area overlooking the river bed and vast untouched Karoo vegetation stretching all the way to the Outeniqua Mountains, serves traditional cooking with a Karoo twist, complemented with wines from De Zeekoe’s very own cellar.
Paula and Pottie, both ardent outdoor enthusiasts, were very welcoming, telling us about some of the attractions in the area to ensure we got the most out of our stay.
These included some of the best back roads that they’ve cycled themselves, the majestic Swartberg Pass and Gamkaskloof or Die Hel as it’s become known, a hidden valley in the heart of the formidable Swartberg Mountains that’s 20 km long and 600 m wide and home to the Gamka River, picnic and camping sites, several historic buildings and a curious history that you'll have to discover on your own.
With it's location on one of the world’s 17 hotspots with three overlapping flower zones, De Zeekoe Guest Farm has plenty activities on hand to offer, including horse riding, tours of the farm, meerkat adventure tours, long hikes, birding, fishing, canoeing, or just relaxing by the salt-water pool.
Nature-lovers can enjoy a tour with Louis Jordaan at nearby Minwater (which means Little Water), a private nature reserve situated 24km southwest of Oudtshoorn in the foothills of The Gamka Mountain. Louis possesses a wealth of knowledge of the Karoo veld and offers interpretive floral and plant tours, nature schools and excursions.
We arranged a meerkat tour and a trip to Cango Caves in the short time we had before the heavens opened, and a trip to the lake to check out the idyllic cabins - perfect for a romantic getaway or family vacation.
While the farm is not entirely eco-friendly, Paula and Pottie are certainly eco-conscious, with solar panels equipping the guest farm, an organic vegetable garden that supplies the restaurant with fresh herbs, vegetables, pomengranates and olives, and a commitment to employing local, untrained staff from the community.
It’s beautiful to see how our staff develop, we don’t get them from a college we train them ourselves - two of our girls now do the flowers, another works in the kitchen with no background in cooking but she’s developed such a falir for it. We try to keep them motivated, to ensure they feel good about themselves and their achievements.
In fact, De Zeekoe Guest Farm is home to some 20 families of workers who also utilise rainwater tanks and solar energy while Paula is very involved with the local school - aiming to raise money to rebuild it with the help of a trust formed by the adjoining Safari Ostrich Farm.
Paula is also open to new ideas - she’s keen to start harvesting her greywater and plans to start a community social upliftment programme by creating an arts and crafts centre, where waste materials can be upcycled.
That’s not all, believe it or not. An old hatchery is soon to get a new lease on life when it’s transformed into an eco-friendly backpackers and there’s even a luxury bush camp in the pipeline. With Paula’s clear flair for interior decorating and the warm hospitality of both the owners and staff, it’s hard to imagine this not being a resounding success.
De Zeekoe Guest Farm stands testament to the fact that luxury can be combined with responsible tourism and a deep and abiding love and respect for nature. So congratulate yourself on your ethical decision when lazing on your deck listening to the call of the Fish Eagle.
And at night when gazing at the glittering stars of the Karoo sky, you might hear the hoot of the very owl that Paula habituated. After all, as Paula says: “There is nothing that brings you as much peace as being in nature”.
De Zeekoe Guest Farm Quick Facts:
Accommodation type: Bed and Breakfast guest rooms (superior, deluxe, luxury and standard)
Or: Self-catering wooden cabins
Where: Just 7 km outside of Outdshoorn
GPS Coordinates: S 33 38 16 E 022 08 35
Sleeps: 2 (guestrooms) or 4 (cabins)
Rates: Rooms from R470 (standard) to R1000 (superior) per person including breakfast, Cabins from R590 per person per night sharing and R360 per person per night for 3rd & 4th person in cabin.
Secure Parking: Yes
Green in Africa Eco-rating: 3/5
+27 (0) 44 272 6721 or +27 (0) 82 584 9957 / (0)82 551 3019
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