Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is the kind of place you never knew was missing from your life until you’ve experienced it. It’s a sort of African kingdom overlooking the sea. Only 2 hours outside of Cape Town along the stunning “Whale Coast” through Hermanus, it’s a glorious bubble of nature safaris, candle-lit dinners, horse-back excursions, whale-watching outings, historical tours & community outreach projects.
Between Stanford + Gansbaai near Hermanus, Cape Town, South Africa.
It’s rare that one gets a chance to sip on a glass of chilled Chenin Blanc whilst overlooking fields of wild Fynbos & the gorgeous view of Walker Bay in the distance. I hadn’t done it till last Saturday, have you? Greeted by an iced facecloth after a long drive up from the Eastern Cape, I was a hot mess handled by staff who knew just what I needed before I did. I get the feeling they’re like that with everyone, which is what makes Grootbos in a league of its own. I was soon ushered to a stunning dining room for a 3-course lunch, but couldn’t take my eyes off things around me. Every last breath of this resort has gone into preparing a proudly South African experience for travellers from all walks of life, in the way that the signs of hard work have been tucked out of sight. From the gorgeous displays of Fynbos (including South Africa’s King Proteas) carefully prepared in polished silver vases, to the white hand-wrapped hand towels & scented oils burning gently in the bathrooms & wooden corners of the lodge. Glass display cabinets house delicate & pretty fashion items. Glossy books on Africa & its Fynbos butterfly out on a coffee table near the fully-stocked bar leading out to the pool.
Stand Out Meals
+ Duck liver parfait with pineapple & vanilla compote
+ Grilled ostrich fan fillet with maize, tomato relish & rosemary jus
+ A dessert of smoked Kleinriver Stanford cheese with homemade compote
+ Red glass of Beaumant Pinotage 2011
+ Crunchy calamari served with a rich cucumber salad & marinated glass noodles
+ Smoked salmon & avo en-croute with blue cheese dressing
+ Seared ostrich with vegetable crisps
+ Mississippi mudcake
There are various things to do during your stay, including guided excursions (on water, on land & in the air!) as well as wine tours & spa treatments.
My Daily Excursion: Nature Safari
On my second day I enjoyed a stunning 4×4 safari through the reserve, learning all about Grootbos’ natural vegetation of indigenous South African Fynbos. My tour guide for this, Alberto, was particularly enthusiastic & well-versed in just about every plant & flower there was. The pinnacle of this 2-hour excursion was a stunning picnic on top of a mountain – “God’s Window” he called it.
More on Accommodation
Nestled in Milkwood forest beneath glorious green canopy’s & surrounded by Fynbos & mountains, who could ask for more? With flashy décor, my cottage even housed a downstairs! After exploring all of it, I was hot on the heels of my grand bed bedecked with huge orange & white cushions beckoning me to collapse into it. With three different accommodation venues; namely the Garden Lodge, the Forest Lodge and the Villa Luxury Accommodation, Grootbos has something to offer for everyone. My luxury suite is ideal for families, with a spacious bedroom & en-suite bathroom (upstairs and downstairs), a separate lounge with tea & coffee making facilities, a minibar, a cosy fireplace & a DVD player for in-room entertainment. To top it all off, it opens out onto a private outside deck overlooking Walker Bay.
Daily Excursion #2: Lodge Outreach Projects
The visionary excellence that owner Michael Lutzeyer has devised leaves other 5-star resorts in its dust as Grootbos hurdles forward into a green & socially-responsible future. It’s core philosophy of conservation linked with social development is what has driven them to launch projects which contribute to creating sustainable nature-based livelihoods amongst local communities. Grootbos Foundation’s main goal is the upliftment of the local community & the Walker Bay region. Established in 2003, it’s achieved a lot in its 10 years! What stood out to me was its Green Futures initiative.
What is it?
A Horticulture & Life Skills College that provides an annual training programme to 12 unemployed young adults from the Gansbaai area. Grootbos gets locals from the community to come in & train in nature conservation, after which the students are awarded a nationally accredited certificate in horticulture & are assisted in work placement.
The sale of plants & provision of landscaping services by the students provides income to the college. In this way, through their labour, students pay for their tuition & create a self-sustainable business model. Every year, 3 of the best students are given the opportunity to visit & work at the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK.
Since the inception of the course, 90% of the graduates have found employment on completion of the course. This is testament to the success of this unique training model developed by Grootbos personnel.
“Growing The Future”
Growing The Future Project is another fantastic initiative that Grootbos created following such success in the Green Futures project.
What is it?
This Organic Food Production & Life Skills certification course provides an annual training programme to 8 unemployed women from the Gansbaai area. The course is fully subsidised – the students receiving transport, tools, uniforms & all their study materials, as well as a weekly stipend to cover their living costs. To top it all off, Grootbos buys back a large portion of the produce created from the students for use in all the meals you enjoy as part of your stay. In fact, 100% of the herbs used in the kitchens of Grootbos are produced by Growing the Future. The project also supplies Grootbos with all their organic eggs, honey, pork & vegetables.