Upgrades at Rocherpan Nature Reserve on the West Coast are as pretty as the surroundings. The new developments are considerate in design, too – from the family-size eco-cabins to the wheelchair-friendly boardwalks. Wild’s Arnold Ras spent the night and did some exploring.

CapeNature’s idyllic Rocherpan Nature Reserve has recently launched four brand new self-catering eco-cabins. Further upgrades include a new bird hide, upgraded picnic facilities and an extensive network of wheelchair-friendly boardwalks.

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The front-view of one of Rocherpan’s new self-catering eco-cabins. Pictures by Arnold Ras

The four eco-cabins, named after birds that are regularly seen in the reserve, form part of the second and final phase of upgrades at Rocherpan. The reserve boasts more than 183 bird species, so the new cabins were quite fittingly named Coot, Moorhen, Egret and Shoveler. Shoveler was where I would lay my head. Bags in hand I followed a boardwalk all the way to my cabin. The boardwalks are designed to accommodate wheelchair users and double as protection for the incredible West Coast plant life.

Rocherpan wheelchair access

New boardwalks mean visitors in wheelchairs can access any of the four new cabins with absolute ease. Picture courtesy of CapeNature

I was greeted by the sight of a spacious deck and built-in braai overlooking the pan and hundreds of birds. The view is simply mesmerising. The four cabins are surprisingly private and you’re aware of only sounds from the vlei and the Atlantic Ocean in the background. Inside a spacious living area awaited. Adrian Fortuin, reserve and conservation manager, explained that the units were designed in such a way that people using wheelchairs can move around easily.

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A West Coast fire and some boerewors are the only things missing from this picture!

It was a cold West Coast day when I visited but there was a fireplace waiting to be christened. Wood and fire-lighters are available at reception for your braai needs or, as in my case, to warm desperately cold feet. I stayed close to the fire, but in summer months windows and doors can be left open with no fear of mosquitoes and other flying insects – all are fitted with screens to open and close as you please.

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The bathroom is fitted with a disability-friendly shower.

Each unit can sleep up to five people with two spacious bedrooms (one double bed and two single beds), and a sleeper couch in the living room. What impressed me most was the bathroom and the reserve’s water usage policy. Water is a scarce commodity in these parts and several measures ensure that as little as possible is wasted. The tap water is collected rainwater and should be boiled before drinking. The waterless toilet is absolutely ingenious. It treats and stabilises waste through dehydration and evaporation, changing it into a dry, compost-like material. Naturally, I was worried about the smell, but the design of these toilets creates continuous airflow through an external chimney. A scoop of compost (in a bucket next to the toilet) when you are done takes care of the rest. There’s a shower (no bath) to make the best use of available water and signs at all water outlets in the cabins encourage visitors to use water sparingly.

Russell Vollmer, the founder of CapeAble (a disability consultation organisation) and a quadriplegic himself, was closely involved in the upgrade. “Tourism for people with disabilities has been neglected worldwide, but South Arica and the Western Cape are doing a fantastic job. Now visitors in wheelchairs can use the boardwalks, access the cabins and bird hides, and can even get to the beach more easily. There might be things we can’t do, but there are a lot of things we can do!”

The upgrades offer a particular experience for all, able and less-abled.

– Dr Razeena Omar

At the launch CapeNature’s CEO, Dr Razeena Omar, said CapeNature aims to constantly upgrade its tourism products. Rocherpan’s facelift was carried out with great sensitivity, constantly keeping in mind the reserve’s fauna and flora. “The upgrades offer a particular experience for all, able and less-abled: hiking to the beach, bird hides, mountain biking and more. Rocherpan is now one of the top eco-tourism destinations.”

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The upgraded picnic site at the reserve’s beach lookout point. Here visitors can braai, enjoy whale watching or take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean at Rocherpan’s very own private beach.

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Birders, the new bird hide is not only well-hidden for ample photo opportunities and not disturbing the birds, but is big enough for eight people in wheelchairs.

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Looking at Rocherpan, I can see why visitor numbers to CapeNature’s nature reserves have increased by 39% compared to the previous year. It’s simply put a stunning location, perfect for a romantic getaway or families wanting to escape the madness of modern life. This gorgeous West Coast reserve is a birder’s dream and a soulful opportunity to truly get in touch with nature.

How to get there

Rocherpan is situated 25km north of Velddrif on the coastal road. Velddrif can be reached on the West Coast Road (R27), which starts in Cape Town and takes you through Milnerton before passing Bloubergstrand, Melkbosstrand and Langebaan.


Off-peak: R950 for 1-4 people, and R150 per additional person.
Peak: R1,250 for 1-4 people, and R150 per additional person.

Peak season is during Western Cape school holidays and public holidays, as well as on the day before and after holidays.

For accommodation and permit bookings contact CapeNature on +27 (0)21 483 0190 or send an email to [email protected].