Grootbos is a private nature reserve east of Hermanus, overlooking Walker Bay.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve: Our full report
Nestled amongst the hills, 20 minutes east of Hermanus Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is a real gem. Set in a 1750 hectare reserve, the two luxurious lodges here, Forest Lodge and Garden Lodge (great for families), both offer sweeping daytime views across Walker Bay to Cape Point, and by night the twinkling lights of Gansbaai. See below for details of the two different lodges.
The main reason for staying at Grootbos is not the accommodation, however excellent; it is for the unique focus that Grootbos puts on its surrounding environment. That is the delicate fynbos ecosystem, the ancient Milkwood Forest and the local marine life as well as the upliftment of the local communities. The many activities on offer here enable you to learn more about all of these, and your stay here contributes to their preservation and conservation.
Grootbos has taken a taken an admirably positive and pro-active approach to responsible tourism. With the emphasis on eco-toursim and community development they promote conservation, rehabilitation and protection of the natural environment (flora and fauna) as well as running research and education projects.
Over a number of years this former farmland has been returned to the indigenous fynbos which was originally found in this area. Thus the private nature reserve which is Grootbos is rich in biodiversity: there are over 740 different species of flora here.
Amongst the local community Grootbos promotes an awareness of the value of the area's unique ecosystems, and is working to help develop 'nature based sustainable livelihoods' for the more disadvantaged communities. They have set up the 'Green Futures Horticultural and Life Skills College' where they provide practical-based training for the unemployed in Fynbos landscaping and horticulture as well as teaching life skills. An indigenous plant nursery is linked to this college and sales of these plants, together with landscaping projects, help to pay for the next year's student's tuition.
As well as this, the amiable but industrious owners of Groobos, Micheal and Tertius Lutzeyer have build a football pitch in Gansbaai and are now in the process of building a school for the less advantaged children, as well as having a number of other project which help the local community and the wildlife in this area. The Grootbos Foundation does sterling work all round!
Both lodges at Grootbos offer guided walks and drives to explore the reserve and coastal areas with expert guides, many of whom have come through the Green Futures project. On our last visit our guide, Jo, was attentive, informative and great fun!
You can also go horse-riding in this beautiful environment and the birding is pretty decent too.
At an extra cost there is also the opportunity to go on whale-watching trips - not to be missed. From June to October Southern Right whales come into Walker Bay to calve. These boat excursions also include a visit to Dyer Island to view the Cape fur seals and endangered African penguins and you will sometimes be treated to playful dolphins en route. You can even go shark-cage diving if your nerves are up to it!
Grootbos Garden Lodge has a special programme of guided activities for children that are excellent.
Forest Lodge and Garden Lodge are both high quality with very friendly staff, excellent cuisine and lovely accommodation. Between them they have 27 superbly-designed cottages which offer luxury and comfort. The African themed Garden Lodge, set amongst lush gardens and is ideal for families and birders, whilst Forest Lodge is more contemporary and chic in design.
We had a fabulous stay at Groobos - from the hands-on approach of Michael, the delightful and very interesting owner who tries to spend some time chatting to all guest, to the 5-star accommodation, cuisine, hospitality and beautiful fynbos scenery, all the while knowing that you are supporting a bastion of responsible tourism. Utterly wonderful!
The elegant and stylish Forest Lodge is constructed out of local sandstone and sustainably harvested timber, with wooden floors and a reed ceiling. The spacious main lodge is modern contemporary in design, and its bright and airy interior is created by the floor to ceiling windows along one complete side. Being a long, narrow open-plan space this mean that you have the most magnificent views, over the fynbos covered hillside, down to the dunes, across Walker Bay and on to Cape Point (on a clear day), from anywhere that you sit. At one end you can find the activity centre and curio shop as well as a chic champagne bar. Centrally located is the welcoming reception and then heading off to the other end is a cosy sunken lounge with books and a fire place. This is a great place for pre or après dinner drinks. At the far end the dining room offers a culinary feast at each meal time! The sophisticated décor throughout is based around neutral colours and fabrics that bring the feel of nature indoors.
Outside are two verandas; one overlooking the pool with comfy loungers, with accompanying panoramic views, the other leading out from the dining area where you can eat al fresco.
Stroll between the main lodge and your suite following the winding stone pathways through the dense ancient Milkwood forest. Carefully built amongst the trees are the 16 luxurious and tasteful suites. These are spacious, with a bedroom and a separate lounge area. The bedroom is dominated by the large bed with ornamental mosquito nets draped from a wooden frame. From here you can lie back and take in the super views as this room has floor to ceiling sliding glass doors that open onto the private veranda with outside shower.
The bright, open-plan bathroom has sandstone tiled floor with under floor heating. It has a double shower, bath with a view and twin basins, all white with modern chrome fittings.
The lounge has comfy sofas and chairs, a large wooden table and a TV and DVD player. This has a warming closed fireplace and also has large sliding glass doors that open onto the side section of the verandah. Off the lounge there is also the second smaller bathroom with a toilet and a shower.
All suites have AC/ heater systems, under-floor heating, electronic safes, bathrobes, slippers and every toiletry that you can imagine.
Natural textures and colours dominate the suites, as well as pictures of fynbos flowers, giving them a natural chic, modern feel.
Garden Lodge is set amongst the dense gardens and fits in beautifully with the natural surroundings. The thatched main area 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 welcoming bar, relaxing lounge areas and a dining room with a fireplace with a huge chimney as a central feature. Outside there is a large veranda where we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch taking in the stunning views of the bay and Atlantic ocean. From here you can also just sit sipping a drink watching the birds flit around in the bushes directly in front of you. To the side you will find the inviting pool, which offers same views, and has a grassy surround and sun loungers to lie back and take in the scenery.
In the grounds here you will also find a bird pond, a small football pitch for kids and stables. From here you can do self-guided birding or forest walks at your leisure.
Set amongst one of the largest Milkwood forests in the world, each of the 11 spacious, stone and wood suites are slightly different. They are all beautifully decorated in a modern African theme with natural colours and fabrics. There is a separate lounge area with comfy sofas and chairs, TV, mini-bar and tea and coffee making facilities. In the bedroom a decorative mosquito net hangs over a large bed from where you can look out through floor to ceiling glass sliding doors. The open, stone tiled bathroom has a shower and a bath with a view, all with under-floor heating. Outside you will find a secluded private veranda with loungers, often built around existing trees.
This is an ideal lodge for families (or friends traveling together) with many of the rooms being designed precisely for this purpose.
There are two suites which have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, two suites with one luxury room and one standard room and two bathrooms, three suites with 1 bedroom which have a sleeper couch in the sitting area (only really suitable to kids under 10) and also four luxury suites with one bedroom.
Garden Lodge also has a special programme of activities for children, special menus, baby-sitting and two play/education rooms.
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.
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: Garden Lodge at Grootbos is an ideal place for families. They have several family rooms, specially designed adventures and eco friendly activities for kids as well as two designated child play and education rooms. They offer also offer a children's menu and a babysitting service.See more ideas for Family 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. We saw southern double-collared sunbirds, orange-breasted sunbirds, Cape sugarbirds, Cape bulbuls, black harriers, kites and kestrels as well as many others.See more ideas for Birdwatching 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
Attitude towards children: Grootbos has an excellent attitude to children.
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 area: 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