Ask me about my idea of a wonderland and I will describe to you a place where mountains roll across sand dunes into the ocean. Hiking trails take you through ancient milkwood forests and 4×4 safaris bring you ever-rejuvenating fields of fynbos. Where the sea breeze cools the air as it blows over a bay bursting with frolicking whales, where there are coastal caves to explore and horses to ride.
A place where luxury is unsurpassed and every detail considered, from the comfort of the suites to the consciously sourced food and genuinely friendly service. A place where local vineyards trump the wine list and the honey is harvested on-site, one where you are left in complete awe of nature. And where the community benefits with the arrival of every welcome guest.
Or I could just say – Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.
Situated in the Overberg between Stanford and Gansbaai, the 2500ha Grootbos boasts a remarkable 765 plant species, abundant birdlife and resident antelope. It truly is a unique family-owned eco-destination at the Southern tip of Africa offering a choice of five-star luxury accommodation.
Garden Lodge was the first lodge to open at Grootbos and is warm and child friendly. The private stone suites are set down a pathway through milkwood trees and open onto wooden decks with uninterrupted views towards Walker Bay. There is a games room off the reception with a pool table, foosball and numerous activities to enjoy, most with a connection to nature. A petting farm has ducks, rabbits and the most impressive potbelly pig. An outdoor play area and pool provide all the delights you and your family could desire. Garden Lodge has just undergone a complete rebuild.
Forest Lodge, on the other hand, is the epitome of contemporary sophistication, from the chic rim-flow pool to wooden rafters, its design embraces the natural surroundings. Stone, glass and natural light abound. There are areas to be quiet in, counters for drinks and chats, a Champagne Bar, in and outdoor dining. Wooden carvings, voluptuous couches, comfy cushions, manicured lawns and cool blue waters. Suites have opulent bedrooms, large lounges, wooden decks and outdoor showers. Here is an escape to the spoils of romance.
The Villa stands alone and can host up to 12 guests in its six suites. Offering you the flexibility of your own private guide, chef and butler in this generously appointed space with one of the best private South African art collections you could find. Sheer luxury.
There are two restaurants offering a feast of Grootbos flavours produced under Chef Ben Conradie’s watchful eye. Ingredients are sourced from as close to home as possible, with the vegetables, herbs and eggs produced on the reserve. Breakfast is an indulgent feast, lunch a casual tasty treat and dinner a 6-course celebration.
Activities on the Reserve
Activities on the reserve include lingering at the pool, guided and self-guided walks through the milkwood forests and reserve, flower safaris into the magnificent fynbos, beach picnics and pampering treatments at the Bloom Forest Spa.
Whale watching is a highlight with hundreds of Southern Right Whale off this coastline between June and November each year. You have three ways to enjoy them, land-based whale watching with your Grootbos guide from De Kelder. Boat-based whale watching with Dyer Island Cruises out of Gansbaai or from the Air by flight over Walker Bay where the record has been recorded as 198 whales spotted in a 30-minute flight.
A must-do is a visit to the Klipgat caves in De Kelder. Formed millions of years ago through the erosive action of pounding waves and wind, the caves open up along the cliffs and were once home to Middle Stone Age people and later the Khoikhoi. Here the hunter-gatherers of the early day found their paradise. After a walk and exploring in the cave, there’s a good spot from which to take in the sunset.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, try horseriding through the reserve or for the more advanced, on the beach. There is the option of quad biking on a neighbouring farm and even Shark Cage Diving with Marine Dynamics off Gansbaai. But there is much more to Grootbos than the luxury of the lodges, the natural beauty of the reserve and the multitude of sensory spoils and activities.
The Grootbos magic extends beyond this to the education and enhancement of the community as well as conservation of its fauna and flora with the Grootbos Foundation and its Green Futures, Growing the Future, Future Trees and Spaces for Sport projects. I strongly recommend a guided tour to learn more. The Overberg region continues to impress with its award-winning wines and you can take a tour to visit some of the estates to learn more about the influence of the terroir which is best suited to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Creation Wines in the Hemel and Aarde Valley, under the care of JC and Caroline Martin, is a wonderful option for a tasting and food and wine pairing. Also South African industry great Anthony Hamilton Russell with winemaker Hannes Storm; known for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. If you can arrange a private tasting with Anthony in his cellar, you’ve tasted heaven. Hermanuspietersontien has made waves with winemaker Bartho Eksteen at the realm. The farm is situated near Stanford, with the wine shop and weekly Saturday farm market at the Hemel and Aarde Shopping Centre in Hermanus a must.
As I’ve written before ‘I am guilty of wanting everything. I just didn’t know what everything was until I started spending time at Grootbos’. From start to finish, the experience is faultless.
– The driving time from the Cape Town International Airport to Grootbos is about 2 hours.
– It’s always a good time to visit, especially whale season and for the spring flowers.
– You need at least a two a night stay.
– Ask to get your hands dirty and plant a tree, a worthy feel-good contribution to the Reserve.