A Weekend Getaway to Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
When picturing a getaway to a private reserve, it’s easy to assume the standard game safaris, big 5-spotting, watering holes and khaki-kitted tourists fastened to their binoculars. Okay, you’ll find plenty of tourists peeping through their binocs at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, but you’ll see that the spectacular species they’re observing is a little out of your ordinary reserve experience.
It’s the reason why National Geographic has placed them on the map as one of the world’s most unique reserve destinations on the planet, and it’s eminently clear to see why.
A Unique Floral Getaway
Found en route to Gansbaai, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is secluded in the mountainside, surrounded by over 2500 hectares of dense fynbos unique to the Walker Bay region. Here, the attraction is less about African game but rather highlights an unparalleled experience of the unique floral splendour with conservation front-of-mind.
The scenes were surreal on our drive into the reserve with the Atlantic Ocean, rolling sand dunes and the Cape Floral Kingdom in all its glory as our backdrop.
With Autumn firmly settled in, the temperature outside had dipped well below comfort-levels along with the sun, so our friendly welcome into the toasty Grootbos Forest Lodge reception was well-received.
Once placed next to a crackling fire with our welcome beverages, we were acquainted with our knowledgeable guide, Jono, who ran through our itinerary for the weekend.
A stay at Grootbos offers a number of all-inclusive activities that you’re going to want to take advantage of. 4×4 botanical tours, guided walks through the milkwood forests, horseback riding, whale-watching and cave exploring are just a few of the activities available during your stay.
The Forest Lodge Fairytale
After a session of tailor-made activity-planning, we made way to our private Forest suite hidden in the foliage of the resort. Dangling branches from milkwood trees enclose the pathway that links 16 free-standing suites to the reception and Bloom Forest Spa.
Each suite is nestled amongst the greenery to ensure an uninterrupted and magical forest experience.
Upon entry to our luxury abode, the first thing I noticed was the same nostalgic fynbos-scent found throughout the reserve – thanks to the fresh flowers placed in our private lounge. One of the many understated gestures that made the stay that little bit more luxurious.
The entrance leads through to the living area complete with exquisite furnishings, fireplace, reading material and a fully stocked mini-bar. Sliding doors open onto a private deck surrounded by forest and fynbos, fully immersing guests in the flora experience.
A botanical-inspired theme is apparent throughout the suites, with soft natural colour tones and warm textures flowing through the lounge, bedroom and bathroom.
Each room in the suite opens up to views overlooking the expanse of shrubland and the South Atlantic Ocean in the distance.
After popping a bottle of MCC and toasting to our weekend in floral paradise, we kicked back and readied ourselves for our first 5-course dinner of the weekend at the Forest Lodge Restaurant.
Forest Lodge Dining Experience
During your stay at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, your rate includes meticulously prepared breakfasts, 3-course lunches and 5-course dinners daily. You’ll find that everything on the menu, if not grown on-site from the Growing the Future social upliftment project, is sourced locally and homemade in the kitchen.
Chef Benjamin Conradie and his team have a finesse with food and each course we savoured during our first evening at the Forest Lodge Restaurant was worthy of mention.
From the starter menu, the potato & leek velouté with truffle cream and crispy curried duck springrolls with roast aubergine purée were noteworthy. With the fear of missing out, we threw in a side of freshly shucked oysters with passionfruit kombucha for good measure.
For our mains, we sampled the crispy confit pork belly, as well as the pan-fried prawns served with a prawn and saffron bisque, linguine nero and dune spinach. Everything was delicious, well-portioned and beautifully prepared.
Dessert is always a special occasion for me, and no matter if my stomach has surpassed its full-capacity, I will always find space.
I indulged in one of the most divine chocolate fondants I’ve ever tasted, accompanied by an orange and lavender preserve, fynbos shortbread and vanilla ice cream.
Sufficiently stuffed, we made our way back to our room to settle in for a sweet and satisfying slumber in our fairytale bed.
Rise & Shine
Waking up for breakfast was an exciting affair. The dining area sported an impressive spread with options for every kinda brekkie-lover. Seasonal fresh fruit, pre-assembled smoothie bowls, homemade yoghurt and granola, local cheeses, cold meats and freshly baked pastries are available.
We sampled some fresh fruit with Grootbos’ signature fynbos honey before ordering off the breakfast menu. It’s an obsession of mine to sample eggs Benedict at every breakfast establishment I dine at and I can say with certainty that theirs was up there with some of my favourites.
After a satisfying breakfast, we joined our guide, Jono, on a botanical 4×4 safari-seminar through the Cape Floral Kingdom. The drive took us through the reserve to admire the vast array of fynbos species apparent in the region.
The Cape Floral Kingdom is one of the most botanically diverse biomes in the world, with 6 unique species having been discovered in Grootbos alone. The need for conservation here, of course, is imperative.
Apart from the flora, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is also home to numerous animal species including the elusive Cape Leopard. The Cape Leopard frequents parts of Grootbos and is monitored dutifully for research and conservation purposes as we learn at our stopover at the Grootbos nursery, part of the Grootbos Foundation.
Conservation at the Core
Aside from the luxury guest-experience offered by Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, key efforts are directed at conserving the flora and fauna on the reserve, together with uplifting the community.
This is done through the various projects created by the Grootbos Foundation, whose aim is to develop sustainable livelihoods through ecotourism while maintaining the conservation of the regions fynbos species.
After an incredibly insightful 4×4 tour, we made our way to unwind with a glass of wine and a well-deserved 3-course feast overlooking the ocean on the Forest Lodge restaurant deck.
We retired to our room after a gorgeous 3-course lunch for a quick recess before our next activity by the seaside.
After a quick session of R&R, we met with Jono again for a trip to De Kelders to visit the prehistoric Klipgat caves once inhabited by our tribal predecessors.
Thereafter, we were taken through to the most breathtaking viewpoint amidst the dunes to partake in a sunset Inverroche gin tasting overlooking the ocean before heading back for our final evening.
We strolled through to the Forest Lodge restaurant for our final dinner where a surprise dining experience awaited us. Our lovely sommelier, Nicole, led us down a candle-lit staircase and guided us through to the Forest Lodge Cellar.
Here, a private table was meticulously set with silver candleholders and fresh fynbos flowers as our centrepiece. The main attraction, however, was most certainly the surrounding display of our regions finest wines.
We settled in for a 5-course Forest Cellar Tasting Menu with a bread course while Nicole, our sommelier, walked us through the courses and wine pairings. The first standout dish was the saffron marinated crispy calamari with roast garlic puree and pernod cream paired with Ghost Corner Semillon 2012. A powerful yet balanced combination of flavours from the saffron and garlic purée that I couldn’t get enough of.
The other equally exceptional dish was the grilled beef fillet with crispy mustard potatoes, shiitake, creamed spinach and braised onion jus.
This was paired with a glass of Villion Syrah 2012, a wine so perfect I pleaded Nicole to leave us the carafe (thank you, Nicole).
After a couple spoonfuls of our delicious dessert, we were ready to rest our heavy eyelids after a blissful day of excitement.
A Sweet Send-Off
A guided tour through the reserve on horseback was our choice of activity for our last morning in paradise. After breakfast, we were taken by our lovely guides to saddle up and venture on a ride through the reserve. The view from the top overlooking the vista of fynbos and ocean was something to behold.
A bitter-sweet send-off from our wonderful team left us content from what was one of the best weekends I’ve experienced in a long time. For a truly unique perspective of our Cape Floral Kingdom, I urge you to visit the spectacular floral wonderland that is Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.
Win a 3 Night Stay at Grootbos Nature Reserve
Stand a chance to win an all-inclusive 3-night stay for you and a partner as part of the launch of #ExploreGrootbos. Follow Grootbos on a journey of exploration as they bring you exciting short films every week starting Friday 26 April.
To learn more, visit Grootbos Explore for more info on the short film release dates and competition page.
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