I had heard so many incredible things about Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, a private reserve between Gaansbaai and Standford in the Cape Whale Coast. More importantly I had seen things, beautiful things that ensured we add Grootbos to our list of places to see whilst on our South African road trip.
After 3 and half weeks travelling every kind of road (or lack therefore) throughout the country, we arrived at the front gate. This was our final stop and the place we would celebrate our One Year Anniversary…
Fortunate popped out from her security office with giant smile enquiring about how we were. She was like a ray of sunshine and after chatting and her wishing us well; we relaxed before we had even entered the gate.
We parked our car at Forest Lodge, our place of five star luxury accommodation for the next two nights. We received an ice cold welcome drink upon arrival whilst Lauren at reception helped us check in. The reception area pulled me in with its contemporary design, bright fabrics and King Proteas decorated throughout.
The entire wall of the lounge and dining area was made completely of glass which revealed the most breath-taking view out of the vast fields of fynbos and Walker Bay.
Lauren walked us to our villa, number 26 amongst the Milkwood forest and narrow pathways. The sleek, wooden door opened to my dream suite. Multi-coloured proteas and fynbos were to be found in a vase and in photographs on the wall. Wood was stacked up beside the fireplace and the heavy, glass doors opened up onto a deck set with an umbrella and two loungers with the same majestic view.
The main bedroom boasted a huge four poster bed with nets falling down slightly from each corner. A floral-patterned orange cover hugged the bottom of the bed to match the pillows. I’m not sure what I loved more- the view of forest green and the vast blue of the ocean or the fact that you could slide a wooden door open to reveal a step-up to a heavenly spa bath.
I would’ve moved in immediately and claimed this part of the reserve as my own. And that was before I tasted any of the gourmet cuisine. It was here that we encountered the most delightful staff and certainly the best of our entire road trip. Goodlaw, Bennet and Ziyanda were amongst many waiters and barmen who served with total professionalism whilst smiling and laughing easily and enhancing our stay that much more .
Meal after meal whether it was fillet, or salmon bake, every bite was superb with delicately placed eye-catching garnishing. From the starter and palate cleansers to the soup of the day and dessert, I did quite know how I would ever return to normal food.
From their list of daily activities offered, we chose to go horse-riding. As beginners, we were taken out on horses named ‘Flame’ and ‘Lightening’. We walk steadily along the paths throughout the long grass and bushes of fynbos. Even though Lightening had been fed, she persisted on ducked her head down suddenly to nibble on the fresh grass and good greens we passed. Once her head was down, it was quite a feat to pull her strong, chestnut brown neck up again.
On a path uphill, we began to trot. Ultimately not the most comfortable feeling for a beginner, but totally exhilarating for both you and the horse. We warned to make sure our horses don’t end up next to each other as this would signal ‘racing time’. So we trotted along until Lightening decided to she had had enough and stopped. In the heat of the day, the horses’ tails flicked vigorously to dissuade the masses of flies whilst we flicked them away.
We also went on the tour of the Ancient Caves with our guide, Bongani. The tour took us all the way down to the coastline. Walking down a group of wooden steps we stood on a deck overlooking the aquarium water swirling up amongst the navy blue of the deep ocean. The clean swell brought in big waves which crashed on the tiny beach of soft white sand nestled between rocky cliffs.
We ducked beneath bee hives at the cave’s entrance and walked around the deck in Klipgat cave (also known as Die Kelders Cave). The Iziko South African musuem has been studying this cave since 1969. It was here were the earliest pottery and tools from the Stone Age were found in South Africa.
It was near this region where the earliest shell middens were discovered, proof that strandlopers and Khoisan people were feeding on shellfish.
After the beach, we drove towards De Kelders where Grootbos have a sundowners and a whale watching spot. Being October, we were in luck. Even without the telescope we saw about eight different whales, some with calves. They seemed to float in pairs or swim fairly quickly before disappeared out of sight. They stuck their tails, fins or sometimes breached the surface of the deep ocean and sprayed a fountain of water up into the air.
All the while we sipped champagne and munched on snacks in total disbelief of what we were witnessing just before sunset.
Leaving Grootbos and its staff was one of our hardest goodbyes of the entire trip. We waved goodbye to five star meals, a dreamy villa and the fields of fynbos until next time…
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