Grootbos is a private nature reserve east of Hermanus, overlooking Walker Bay.
Grootbos Garden Lodge: Our full report
The Garden Lodge at Grootbos overlooks the Atlantic coast, just a short drive east of Hermanus. It’s set within the beautiful Grootbos Private Natural Reserve, which covers about 2,500ha (2.5km²) of natural coastal fynbos. It promises high-quality accommodation, service and food, plus lots of activities focused on its natural environment.
The large thatched main area at Garden Lodge has a contemporary African theme and feel, using earthy colours for the furnishings, with prints and woven baskets adorning the walls. This open-plan area houses the reception, a bar, several small lounge areas and a dining room with a central fireplace – which is quite a feature.
There’s always someone at the informal reception here, and the barman made notably good rock shandy on our last visit! However, we’d single our Michael Lutzeyer, one of the owners, for his low-key but very consistent focus and presence; he’s very often around. Michael seems always busy, but never too busy to help one of the lodge team, or spend a little time guests – checking how they are, and advising them on the are. His energy and focus on the lodge, its natural environment and its projects are impressive and quite infectious: you won’t find a more involved, enthusiastic owner on the continent!
Outside is a large veranda with stunning views of the South Atlantic’s Walker Bay. Lunch is usually served here, and on our last stay this was often accompanied by a variety of sunbirds flitting around in the bushes. To one side of this veranda is a large swimming pool around which is split-level decking where seveal sitting areas have a variety of comfy chairs and sun loungers.
Set amongst the fynbos and Milkwood trees at Garden Lodge are 11 spacious, stone and wood suites. These are all beautifully decorated in a modern African theme with natural colours and fabrics; all have very similar facilities.
- There are four ‘Classic Suites’ here. All have a separate, large kitchen-lounge area where you’ll find with a comfy sofas and armchairs; a TV with satellite receiver and DVD; a stocked mini-bar/fridge; and a wood-burning stove for the colder months. The small kitchen worktop in these houses a kettle, with tea and coffee (including a cafetière), some cutlery and glassware, a jar of biscuits and a bowl of fresh fruit (replenished daily!).
Stay here at Grootbos with a family, the couch here was converted every evening by the room attendants into a double bed, in which slept our two children. (The lodge describes this as “only really suitable for children under 10".) The high ceilings of the kitchen-lounge and bathroom made a real difference to the feel of these suites, giving a lovely sense of space.
Each of these suites has a separate air-conditioned bedroom with a large bed. Ours was very comfortable and was made up with high-quality linens. The open, stone tiled bathroom has a large, quite open shower and double washbasins, and under-floor heating. There’s also a separate toilet and wash basin, in its own room.
Double-doors from the lounge, and a single door from the bedroom, lead out onto a secluded private veranda built around the existing trees. Here there are loungers, a small table and a shady umbrella – an area that we used quiote a lot.
- Five ‘Luxury Suites’ - each of which is essentially very similar to the Classic Suites. However, the Luxury Suites are slightly larger than the Classic Suites (75-80m² instead of 55-60m²), and they have a bath as well as a shower in the bathroom.
- Two ‘Two-bedroom Luxury Suites’, each of which is essentially two inter-connected Luxury Suites – so has a total of two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The activities at Grootbos are an important part of being at the Garden Lodge for most visitors – and there’s a wide choice. Many are included in the costs of your stay; a few will cost extra.
Activities which are normally included in your stay at Grootbos and done on the reserve include:
- Horse-riding: the reserve has 18 well-trained horses, and ponies for children, in its own stable – join scheduled rides on the reserve.
- Guided nature walks: trails through the reserve are led by knowledgeable rangers; they’re chances to take a closer look at the reserve’s flora, birdlife and other wildlife. It’s worth letting the team know if you have a particular interest, like birdwatching, as they will try to focus more on the relevant aspects of the reserve.
- 4WD ‘flower safaris’: drives through the reserve led by the rangers at Grootbos are very popular – but focus much more on the plants and birds than the larger wildlife, which is seen very infrequently.
- Children’s activities: See below for much more detail on this lodge’s extensive programme of activities for children.
- Beach picnics: for swimming, tanning or just being on the beach, staff from the Garden Lodge will transport you to and from excellent beaches and will serve you lovely picnic and make sure all necessary beach accessories are provided to make it as enjoyable as possible.
- Land-based whale watching: explore the Walker Bay Nature Reserve and De Kelders Cliff and watch the whales in the season July to December. Experienced guides will take you to sites with best views to see the whale parents with their new-born calves.
- Guided cave tours: A visit to Walker Bay Reserve can include Klipgat Cave – a massive natural cave which has been excavated by archeologists as it seems to have been first occupied by human beings about 70,000 years ago – in the Midlde Stone Aga. The guide will tell you about this ancient world and its early culture.
- Social responsibility tour: get an overview of the projects supported by the Grootbos Foundation, and perhaps meet some of the people invoved, at places like the Gansbaai Communal Sports Centre and the Food Production and Life Skills College.
- Boat-based whale watching: exclusive and ecologically sensitive boat trips can bring you close to the Cape’s giants; these whales can be up to 18m long and weigh up to 80t.
- Shark cage diving: to get close to an adult great white shark under water, most people want to be in a strong metal cage! No diving experience is required for these trips, but some courage may be.
- Guided beach-riding: for experienced horse riders, Grootbos Reserve offers a three-hour riding trip to the Walker Bay Nature Reserve. This spectacular ride through the fynbos and the dunes, bringing you onto the beach where you can enjoy gallops along the water edge.
Our viewGrootbos Garden Lodge is a fairly contemporary and quite luxurious lodge, in a lovely spot overlooking the ocean. It does achieve high standards thanks to the passion of the owners and a very professional team. Nature is the real draw here though – especially guided activies around the reserve, and beside the ocean at Walker Bay. We’d recommend this lodge generally – but it’s especially good for families with children.
Ideal length of stay: 2-3 days
Directions: Take the N2 from Cape Town, past the airport to Somerset West. Either follow the N2 over Sir Lowry's Pass turning on to the R43 after the Houhoek Pass, or take the R44 along the coast and turn onto the R43 to Hermanus. Drive through Hermanus and continue on the R43. The turn off for Grootbos is situated 13km past Stanford on the left hand side. From the Garden Route: The N2 brings you west past Swellendam and Riviersonderend. 10km past Riviersonderend turn on to the R326 to Stanford. At Stanford turn left on to the R43. Grootbos is situated 13 km from Stanford on the left hand side.
Accessible by: Self-drive
Owner: Privately owned
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The standard of food here is outstanding.
On our last visit breakfasts consisted of a full buffet of fruits, cereals, muffins, yogurts etc as well as having a choice from a vast selection of hot breakfasts which you can order separately.
For lunch there is a salad bar as well as a choice of four hot meals and a pudding. We enjoyed a wonderful mushroom, feta and spinach penne followed by an indulgent chocolate parfait.
Dinner is an activity in its own right – a six course extravaganza! There is a choice of two or three meals for each course but as an example of the top cuisine here, one thoroughly enjoyed evening meal here consisted of a tropical smoothie, vanilla butter poached prawns and citrus segments, hot and sour tom yum soup, a palate cleansing sorbet, pan-fried line fish with minted greens with an onion and lemon dressing rounded off by a chocolate, red wine and cherry soufflé. – We shuffled out later in the evening once we could move again!
They also have a decent wine list to accompany the food.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: No
Family holidays: The African themed Garden Lodge at Grootbos caters well to families on safari holidays in South Africa. It offers comfortable family rooms, a small football pitch, a pool, guided activities specifically for children, two play and education rooms, as well as a children's menu.See more ideas for Family holidays in South Africa
Honeymoons: Grootbos Reserve’s Forest Lodge is elegant, chic and contemporary. Bringing you close to nature, Grootbos’ beautiful reserve is a beautiful spot for romantic strolls, horse-riding and whale-watching. Enjoy a luxurious suite and stunning views on this South Africa honeymoon.See more ideas for Honeymoons in South Africa
Beach holidays: Grootbos is a stunning hillside location overlooking the coast. Activities here are varied, from riding and guided walks to whale-watching, game viewing or even (nearby) some shark-cage diving – and so it offers much more than one of the best beach holidays you can imagine.See more ideas for Beach holidays in South Africa
Birdwatching: With such a vast number of floral species found at Grootbos amongst the fynbos vegetation and the Milkwood forest, a diverse range of birds (including endemic species) can be sighted here whilst on a South Africa birding trip.See more ideas for Birdwatching in South Africa
Riding holidays: Grootbos currently maintains a stable of 18 well-trained horses and some ponies for children, catering to a wide range of riding abilities. Enjoy views of mountains and milkwood forests on a short fynbos trail, or add a longer three-hour riding adventure on the beach to your holiday.See more ideas for Riding holidays in South Africa
Wildlife safaris: Grootbos is a great place for observing water based fauna. In season (June to October) you can watch Southern Right whales both from the shore as well as by boat. There are also opportunities to see dolphins, great white sharks, Cape fur seals and the African penguins.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Walking: Grootbos has some stunning flora to explore on foot, and offers guided-walks to explore the reserve and coastal areas. Walk at Grootbos to learn about the fynbos ecosystem and explore the ancient Milkwood Forest.See more ideas for Walking in South Africa
Attitude towards children: Grootbos has an excellent attitude to children.
Property’s age restrictions: Children of all ages are welcome at Garden Lodge. No under 12's at Forest Lodge.
Special activities & services: Garden Lodge has specially developed outdoor adventure and eco friendly activities to enable children to be entertained, informed and to enjoy the natural surroundings of the reserve. They have a play room with table football, a pool table, TV and DVD player as well as another more educational room. Outside there is a large grass area for playing football and other games. They offer special menus for children as well as a babysitting service.
Equipment: Garden Lodge has cots, highchairs and even baby baths available.
Generally recommended for children: Grootbos is definitely recommended for children as it has one of the best inclusion and involvement ethics' that we have seen in South Africa.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is a direct dial telephone in each suite as well as a computer jack. The central areas have WiFi and the whole area has mobile phone reception.
TV & radio: There are TVs with DVD players in each room as well as in the main lodge area.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: No
Medical care: There are doctor in Gansbaai (5km) and a hospital in Hermanus (20km).
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There is 24 hour security on the entrance gates and a patrol – two guards on night patrol at Forest Lodge and one guard on night patrol at Garden Lodge.
Fire safety: Each suite has a fire extinguisher as well as ones located in the main building.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: There is an extra charge for laundry.
Money: They can change money on week days only
Accepted payment on location: Grootbos accept payment by Visa, Mastercard, Amex, debit cards and in South Africa Rand.