Grootbos, Private Nature Reserve, Gansbaai, South Africa, Scotland on Sunday travel

Luxurious lodges among shrubland and milkwood forests

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is set amid 2,500 acres with shrubland and milkwood forests. Picture: Lisa Young

Among a maze of winding nature trails, Grootbos Private Game Reserve can be found perched on a wooded, coastal hillside overlooking Walker Bay. It is a breath of fresh air between Cape Town and the start of South Africa’s Garden Route. The place is alive with birdcalls, exotic insects and elusive animals. It’s a great place to learn about the world’s diverse floral kingdom too, filled with colourful wild flowers.

Secluded Grootbos is a 2,500-hectare property located 145km from Cape Town (a two-hour drive heading east via Hermanus). It blends so well with its surroundings of pristine shrubland and milkwood forests that you can’t see it until you arrive.

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Translated from Afrikaans, Grootbos derived its name from their rare and protected milkwood forest, “Groot bos”, which means big thicket. The low forest canopy of twisted trunks is one of only ten in the world.

Natural hues and calming colours make Grootbos ideal for connecting with nature. Picture: Lisa Young

One of the attractions here is whale watching and June to December are prime months, when whales come early in the season to mate and later in the year to give birth. Visitors can watch from the shore or take a cruise along the coast, getting close up, and also visit the small islands nearby that are home to thousands of seals. When planning a visit, time it according to what you want to see. August to November is best for the beautiful wild spring flowers at Grootbos; December to March is summer, and although the days can be very hot and sunny, the sea is still cold; while autumn, in April and June is a good time for spotting animals and birds.

Budget or boutique?

Grootbos is not cheap, but the price includes all meals, as well as all land-based activities including horse riding, mountain biking, guided walks and hikes, marine, coastal and nature drives and transfers to activities, so it’s still good value.

Room service

Grootbos is two lodges in one; each has its own decorative style, as well as its own restaurant and pool area.

The child-friendly Garden Lodge has spacious luxury suites decorated in natural hues and calming colours, each with a fireplace, huge beds and a rain shower. There’s a pool, restaurants, and great views on to Walker Bay. There are 16 stylish suites at Forest Lodge, hidden discreetly among the foliage and connected by paths and tunnels. The “rock star style” private villa is another option, but it is big.

Wining and dining

Meals at Grootbos are a fine dining experience, even if you are in a remote setting. The same menu is served in both restaurants; guests just need to decide where they’d like to eat. Cheerful and polite waiters buzz about the thatched restaurant and bar with its circular dining room, serving delicious local wines from an extensive list and exotic cocktails. There’s a rich buffet-style breakfast, with a hot, off-menu option. Lunch consists of a three-course meal or a salad and sandwich option.

A weather dependent, six-course dinner menu is served in a fairy tale forest setting, where guests dine among low trees decorated with lights.

Worth getting out of bed for

Activities include walks along endless sandy beaches; 4x4 jeep excursions exploring the hills with expert guides and a team of conservationists; horse riding with instructors along the beach or hillside landscape; bird watching from your terrace; driving to Klipgat Cave on the coast to explore Stone Age artefacts; boat trips to Dyer Island to see penguin and seal colonies; and cage-diving among great white sharks.

Little extras

All rooms have a terrace, TV, wifi, air-conditioning, mini-bar and hairdryer.

Guestbook comments

Private, peaceful and luxurious, the suites are ideal for soaking up silence or connecting with nature.

Lisa Young

For suites in the Garden and Forest lodges for two adults per night in low season (1 May to 15 July) prices start from Rand 11,480 (£610), and up to R17,800 (£950)in peak season (16 December to 10 January). A family suite (two adults and three children sharing) in the child friendly Garden Lodge starts from R17,220 (£920 approx) per night in low season. Prices vary for the private villas depending on numbers of guests and Grootbos can provide rates via email.