The renewal of Rocherpan Reserve makes for a dynamic combination of land and marine activity along the shores of the Cape West Coast, just 25 km from Velddrift.  The area was established as a reserve under Cape Nature in 1967 and in 1988 the adjacent section of the Atlantic Ocean was declared a marine reserve.

Although modest in its original tenure as an overnight stop for birding tourists, this unique location of land, vleiand marine area offers a two metre-deep salt pan that developed as a result of its close proximity to the Papkuils River that rises 25 km away in the Piketberg.

Cape Nature project co-ordinator of Tourism Infrastructure, Wilfred Williams says the main aim of the improvement project was to enhance and maintain the reserve during all seasons, transforming it into a year-round attraction for nature lovers. Rocherpan’s natural “programme of events” along the Atlantic Coast brings prolific birdlife during hot summer months, followed by the whale season from June to October, as well as the colourful West Coast flower season from August to September.

The renewal process started with Phase 1 with the upgrading of two staff houses, a new road works system, new office building and stores, as well as installations for rainwater catchment for the entire project.

Water is fed by way of a reticulation system specially developed to feed rainwater to individual cottages from catchment areas, with an automatic replenishment system from large capture tanks into smaller, strategically placed, tanks. To further preserve this precious commodity, water meters were installed in every cottage that enable visitors to monitor daily water consumption in line with the reserve’s restrictions. Additional water saving measures installed are low flow shower heads, composting toilets, and the re-distribution of grey water to the indigenous garden surroundings.

Donovan Kirkwood, Cape Nature environmental consultant and ecology planner, says the project team prioritised staying true to the location’s roots by ensuring the lowest possible environmental impact throughout every stage of its redevelopment.

Architect Justin Cooke was appointed to “breathe new life into Rocherpan” – not only for the purpose of maximising the tourism potential of this exceptional natural setting, but also to preserve it in a sustainable form for the enjoyment of future generations. For Cooke, the old Aboriginal proverb “to touch this earth lightly” that echoes through internationally-acclaimed Australian architect Glen Murcutt’s significant contribution to architecture, is an inspiration when working in such delicate environmental settings.

Where possible, materials were re-used, and light-weight dry timber building materials of mostly alien species were sourced from sustainable certified sources in Cape Town.

Cooke’s design allows all new structures to have their long axis orientated due north to optimise solar control during summer, and to provide solar gain during winter months. He says existing structures were modified to open views to the landscape, so that interiors are bathed in an abundance of natural light, while also providing shaded and sheltered outdoor space with ample cross ventilation.


* The full article is in the October – November 2012 issue. Images: Danie Nel (