Grootbos sits on the ruggedly beautiful Whale Coast, close to the southernmost tip of Africa. One of National Geographic’s “Unique Lodges of The World”, this magnificent reserve spans fynbos-covered hills, Milkwood forests and secluded sandy coves.
Many clients who’ve yet to visit Grootbos Private Nature Reserve associate the name with whale watching. And yes, it is undeniably exhilarating watching a whale launch its massive body out of the ocean, then fall back down with a mighty splash! Which is why it’s noteworthy that whale watching is just one small part of the exceptional holiday experience at Grootbos.
Whales, Forests & Fynbos
The name Grootbos comes from an Afrikaans word meaning ‘big forest’, and refers to the reserve’s ancient Milkwood trees (which can live to be a thousand years old!). Then there’s the staggering diversity of the Cape floral kingdom: a recent survey revealed a remarkable 765 fynbos species at Grootbos, 100 of which are endangered and six that had never been discovered before.
The waters offshore of the southern tip of Africa teem with life. Pods of dolphins play in the waves, thousands of Cape fur seals bask on rocky islands, and great white sharks patrol the infamous Shark Alley. Come June migrating southern right whales arrive in Walker Bay to breed and calve. And, from June to December, Grootbos does indeed offer some of the best whale watching tours in the world.
Looking down on a pod of whales during a scenic flight over Walker Bay.
What Do You Feel Like Doing Today?
- Pick one of the well-marked trails that meander through forests or up onto fynbos-clad slopes.
- Spend a few hours on the beach: strolling, exploring rock pools, soaking up the sun and snacking on your well-stocked picnic basket.
- The guided flower safari a fantastic activity and teaches you all about the Cape’s unique fynbos.
- Go horse riding through the fynbos or down onto the beach for an invigorating gallop.
- Relax on your deck and take in the uninterrupted views over the reserve and distant mountains.
- Set out on a guided cave walk along the rocky shores around De Kelders.
- Head out to sea on a marine Big 5 safari to see seals, African penguins, dolphins, great white sharks and (in season) southern right whales.
Horse riding (by rdphoto1) and a cave walk; just two of the activities on offer at Grootbos.
- Visit Siyakhula organic gardens and meet the Grootbos horticulture students. If you’re like me you’ll leave with bags of couldn’t-be-fresher veggies, herbs and honey.
- Have a massage at the Grootbos spa with its relaxing view out over the Milkwood forest.
- Join the Grootbos sommelier for a magnificent food and wine pairing.
- During whale season, take to the skies and look down on whales swimming protectively alongside their newborn calves. It’s incredible how many whales you’ll see from the air (the Grootbos record is 198 spotted during a single, 30-minute flight!)
- Dine in the Milkwood boma surrounded by strings of fairly lights and softly glowing lanterns.
Sit down to a delicious dinner served under a lantern-lit canopy of Milkwood trees.
Your Choice of 5-Star Luxury Accommodation
Grootbos has 39 suites across two 5-star lodges: Forest Lodge and Garden Lodge.
Suites at Forest Lodge are tucked amongst the gnarled Milkwood trees. The design here is contemporary with clean lines, high ceilings and large windows to frame the incredible views. Or you could opt for Garden Lodge with its stone, thatch and timber suites set amongst the fynbos gardens. For those travelling with kids, Garden Lodge has two-bedroom family suites.
Whichever option you pick you’ll have the same luxurious standards. Just a couple of features of these beautifully decorated suites include a separate lounge with a cosy fireplace, an outdoor shower and a wooden deck with spectacular views. And since each suite is freestanding there’s plenty of privacy, in fact you might sometimes get the feeling that you have the whole place to yourself.
A glimpse of the accommodation and magnificent ocean views. Imagine waking up to that!
The Grootbos Foundation: Making a Difference
Grootbos runs a number of award-winning upliftment projects including a conservation and horticulture training program. To date, 143 students from the Gansbaai area have graduated from the Green Futures program, and more than 90% of these graduates have since found employment.
As part of the curriculum, students develop and maintain the Siyakhula organic farm (located on the reserve). Here they learn about organic agriculture, sustainable farming and beekeeping; and the farm's veggies, herbs, fruit, eggs and honey are sold back to the Grootbos lodges.
The team at Siyakhula organic farm located on Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.
From Garden to Plate: Fine Dining at its Best
Meals are certainly another highlight at Grootbos. As mentioned earlier, many ingredients come from the organic farm on the property. In the words of Executive Chef Benjamin Conradie: “There’s nothing nicer for a chef than being able to walk into a garden and pick his own fresh herbs. It’s so important to know where you food comes from. It just tastes better.”
Along with two restaurants, Grootbos offers a number of unique dining experiences including food and wind paring, romantic dinners for two in the wine cellar, and outdoor dining in the Milkwood forest. To make it even better all your meals – the buffet-style breakfasts, three-course lunches and decadent five-course dinners - are included in the rate, so no nasty surprises at the end of your stay.
Farm ingredients are turned into world-class dishes like these summer salads (by whiskyandwanderlust).
Experience Grootbos for Yourself
Getting there: Grootbos lies around two and a half hour’s drive from Cape Town. Make the journey part of the experience by setting off slightly earlier and driving the incredibly scenic coastal route along the R44 (also known as Clarens Drive).
- Best time to visit: laze alongside the pool and picnic on the beach in summer, or enjoy red wine and food pairing and guilt-free lie ins in winter. Whatever time of year you travel you're sure to have an incredible holiday, although if you do want to see whales then plan to go from July to November.
- Where to next: take a holiday like this Cape Town, Garden Route & Malaria-Free Safari and add a few days at Grootbos before continuing up the coast. Or look an itinerary such as this Cape Town, Winelands, Whales & Wildlife and stop at Grootbos rather than Hermanus.
One last look at that magnificent view over Grootbos and Walker Bay Nature Reserve.