A luxury five-star eco-reserve set between mountains and sea in the Overberg region just 2 hours from Cape Town, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve lives loyally by an ethos of sustainability, harmony and immersion in nature. An ideal place for a healthy dose of soulful regeneration and reawakening of the senses, with an array of aptly themed land and ocean-based activities to choose from.
As written for Amadi Travel.
In The Beginning
It was in 1991, when the Lutzeyer family while on a camping trip to the area, first set eyes on a small farm on the fynbos covered slopes over-looking Walker Bay. Instantly enamoured by its beauty and unable to get the idea of establishing a bed and breakfast on the site out of his mind, it was only three years later that Michael Lutzeyer sold his business interests in Cape Town to pursue his dream. In no time at all he was attracting visitors from across the globe to stay on the property.
Since then, through a combination of ‘hard work, enthusiasm, vision and strong family cooperation’, the Lutzeyers have transformed a modest farm into a world leader in progressive luxury tourism, brought change to the lives of community members and accrued 2500 hectares of botanical and wildlife treasures. The journey has brought rich reward – and many eco-tourism accolades along the way. Guests are today invited to immerse themselves in the unique vegetation and ancient milkwood forests from the luxury of the well-established and celebrated Grootbos lodges and villas. Throughout the evolution, Michael has been passionately driven to create a tourism product that drives conservation, creating a unique family-owned eco-destination at the Southern tip of Africa.
Luxury Eco-Conscious Accommodation
Accommodation at Grootbos is offered at the five-star luxury Garden Lodge, Forest Lodge and in the two exclusive villas.
Garden Lodge was the first to launch under the Grootbos banner. With heavy wooden beams and a homely feel, the 11 private one- and two-bedroom freestanding suites are set down a pathway of milkwood trees and open onto wooden decks that offer uninterrupted views towards Walker Bay. The reception area, swimming pool and restaurant are ideal for lingering, while the lush landscaped gardens, barista bar, playroom and library are warm and welcoming. Garden Lodge is perfect for families with children.
Set high on a hill with 180-degree views across the fields of fynbos, Forest Lodge has 16 luxurious free-standing suites reached by magical paths that lead through an enchanted forest. Their contemporary design and décor speak of sophistication and serenity, with outdoors showers, baths for two and cosy fireplaces made for romance. The restaurant, lounge with its splashes of colour, and boma add to the appeal, while the infinity pool and its spectacular ocean views are a winning drawcard.
The two exclusive-use private villas, 4- and 6-bedroom respectively, offer unforgettable stays and are the ideal choice for the discerning traveller. The intuitive service includes a dedicated chef, butler, vehicle and guide. Secluded and extremely private in pristine surrounds with their own swimming pool, wine cellar and fully equipped gym – they are indulgence personified.
Culinary Experiences and Fine Local Wine
Drawing inspiration from the Cape Floral Kingdom and with the ocean on their doorstep, the Grootbos chefs create world-class cuisine that celebrates the setting. With an emphasis on freshly sourced ingredients, some grown on the reserve, other sourced from nearby organic farms, the flavours are the hero. Add to that wine from the renowned Overberg region, which continues to impress with its award-winning estates, and you are in for a culinary feast.
Food and wine pairing is offered in the Grootbos wine cellar, and the highly trained sommeliers are always on hand to guide the guest’s choices. Michael has curated an incredible wine collection based on years of purchasing wine at the most reputed industry auctions and Grootbos has its own signature label that was proudly produced at the southernmost wine region of Africa – ‘The Last Syrah’.
Cape Floral Kingdom
The Grootbos Private Nature Reserve boasts a remarkable 868 different plant species, with six recent discoveries testament to the phenomenal biodiversity of this extraordinary biome. There’s abundant birdlife, over 20 mammal species, numerous amphibian and snake varieties – and if you’re lucky you’ll spot a tortoise on your walk – or a leopard in the mountain by night.
South Africa’s Western Cape is one of the richest in the world for plant biodiversity with over a third of the plant species occurring in what is known as the Cape Floral Kingdom, a thin strip of vegetation that runs from Cape Town along the coast towards the Eastern Cape. Incredibly, about 70 percent of these 9 600 plant species grow nowhere else on Earth. Grootbos is custodians to a portion of this botanical wonderland, with fynbos varieties dominated by the Proteacea, Ericaceae, Restios and Asteraceae families.
Grootbos derives its name from the original Milkwood forest, the ‘Grootbos, which means the big thicket. Of the ten 1000-year-old Milkwood forests of its type left on earth, three can be found on Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, and worryingly there are also the only ones that enjoy protection.
A Curated Collection of Activities
The reserve’s unique location offers the opportunity to slow down and truly discover the environment from your suite or deck, as well as its natural and cultural heritage through a collection of carefully curated activities.
Known for their unique 4×4 open-air flower safaris, traversing the reserve with your knowledgeable guide will teach you about the incredible birds, plants and animals that occur in this diverse floral region. The fynbos covered mountainside brings the fascinating story of the vegetation and forest to life as you touch, smell and see the natural miracles that surround you.
A popular activity 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 people. Here the hunter-gatherers of early day found their paradise, with gains from the sea and freshwater that trickled down from the mountain. The experience includes exploration of the cave, and is best savoured at sunset.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, horse riding through the reserve offers a different and welcome perspective. Alternately, walk through the ancient Milkwood forests, or on the desolate coastal dunes marked by wind weathered patterns, adding your footprints to the fine bleached granules that flow under resilient shrubs and vegetation. Picnics are readily arranged for beachgoers.
Beyond the shoreline, whale watching is a treat as hundreds of Southern Right Whales base themselves in the bay between June and November each year. You have three ways to enjoy them; land-based viewing with your Grootbos guide from De Kelder, boat-based whale watching out of Gansbaai or from the air by flight over Walker Bay where the record stands at a sighting of almost 200 whales in a 30-minute flight.
Out of season, join a purpose-built eco-friendly cruise with experienced marine biologists and guides in search of the Marine Big 5 – whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins. For some quiet time, there’s a spa set amidst the serenity of Milkwood trees at Forest Lodge that offers a range of beauty and wellness treatments to be indulged in.
The Grootbos Foundation
There is more to Grootbos than the luxury lodges, unspoilt beauty of the reserve and multitude of sensory spoils provided by the lodge activities. The Grootbos magic extends to the education and enhancement of the adjacent community, as well as the preservation of its fauna and flora through The Grootbos Foundation. A guided tour can be arranged for guests wanting to learn more.
As a tourism product driving conservation while running vocational training, sport for development, early learning centre and entrepreneurial development, Grootbos reaches over 9 000 community members. The foundation addresses poverty by providing skills training opportunities and have full-time employees caring for the 2000+ indigenous trees they have planted. The commitment to the environment, to food security projects, training and education has led to an impressive impact on local Gansbaai communities.
New additions are a botanical art outreach program that celebrates artists from around the world and invites them to spend time on the reserve, capturing the floral diversity to the canvas. Also, a collaborative insect surveying research project, based on the invaluable role that insects play on a functioning ecosystem. Wildlife monitoring is on-going, with a special interest in tracking the activities of nocturnal wildlife such as the leopard, a flagship species for conservation.
What we love about Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
The sense of space, opportunity to reconnect with nature and lessons taken from the diversity of the endemic ecosystem. The reserve’s close proximity to Cape Town and how it can easily be included into a Cape Town and Garden Route itinerary. That no decision needs to be made between coastal or land-based, as at Grootbos you have both.
That a stay at Grootbos is booked on a fully inclusive basis, with activities and meals included, meaning that once guests arrive they simply relax into the surrounds to be spoilt by the team. Michael Lutzyer and his family’s passion and natural instinct in guiding the reserve’s evolution to one of the most awarded luxury eco-lodges in Southern Africa, as well as their unwavering commitment to the surrounding community.
By simply booking a stay at Grootbos, you’re contributing to the invaluable work done by The Grootbos Foundation.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is located just outside Hermanus in the Overberg, Western Cape. Cape Town International Airport is only a two hours drive away and services countless international and domestic flights. Road transfer can be arranged from there or from Cape Town, although many guests do opt for self-drive. A landing strip is available to guests preferring to arrive by helicopter or light aircraft.
As recommended by AMADI, a conscious luxury travel brand that designs journeys for like-minded travellers across Africa. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve offers the perfect retreat to nature, with a minimum of three nights stay recommended. Connect with AMADI for additional details and assistance with your travel arrangements.
Caption. The infinity pool at Forest Lodge is the ideal place from which to soak up the views across the reserve.
Captions. 1. Garden Lodge was the first to launch under the Grootbos banner. 2. Dining under the Milkwood trees in a fairyland atmosphere. 3. At Forest Lodge, the spacious bathrooms invite indulgence. 4. An aerial view of Forest Lodge with the suites tucked between the ancient Milkwood trees. 5. Ultimate luxury, a Forest Lodge suite opens onto a wooden deck with private plunge pool.
** Some pics supplied.