Last weekend we were treated to 2 nights at the gorgeous Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. I’m a big fan of exploring the world around me, so when the invitation came a few months back I jumped at the chance to visit this beautiful part of the Cape. The weeks leading up to our getaway were crazy busy and having Grootbos to look forward to definitely got me through!
Holidays and traveling might seem like a luxury to many, but in my mind they are a priority and I like to plan a weekend away every few months and a longer family holiday at least once a year – the perfect way to reconnect with your partner and kids and equally important to take a step out of the busy (and sometimes boring) routine. I adore traveling overseas (and shared some of those experiences in my Timeless Travels series) but at the stage we are at with young kids (and a limited budget) we are currently more than happy to enjoy exploring our home country – South Africa has so much to offer and there are plenty of places I have yet to discover, so it was with huge excitement that we headed off to Grootbos…
In this post I’ll share the diary of our arrival day, Friday. Come back next Monday for details of our second day.
We left a wet and windy Cape Town just before 4pm on Friday afternoon and drove along Baden Powell Drive from Muizenburg to Somerset West to avoid the worst of the weekend traffic. Looking at the clouds and spots of rain on the windshield I was concerned that we would be spending most of our time in our room (and with 2 kids in tow that is NEVER a good thing!) But as we headed up over Sir Lowry’s Pass, my hopes lifted with the clouds.
Our drive took about 2 hours and we wound our way past the pretty Elgin valley, down towards Hermanus and on towards Stanford. Just before Gansbaai we spotted the sign for Grootbos. We arrived just after sunset and all piled out the car and were warmly greeted by a ranger who showed us up the garden path to the reception area of the Garden Lodge where we were welcomed with refreshing drinks for the adults and hot chocolates for the kids. Our guide then talked us through the various activities available for us to sign up for during our stay while another guide drove our car closer to our room and unpacked all our bags! I was already starting to relax and soak up the luxury of 5-star treatment!
There is an abundance of free activities on offer (included in the room rate) such as horse-riding, fynbos flower safaris, land-based whale watching, beach picnics/ sundowners, birding excursions, visiting the prehistoric Klipgat caves at De Kelders, and guided milkwood forest walks. Premium paid-for activities that you can sign up for include boat-based whale watching, shark cage diving, scenic flights, wine tours of the nearby Walker Bay region, or treatments in the gorgeous Bloom Forest Spa in the milkwood forest.
At this stage all of us were pretty keen to see where we would be staying, esp the kids as this was a real novelty for them – their first stay in a hotel. We followed our guide to our suite located along various lit paths and under a canopy of the milkwood trees and discovered our room was a separate cottage with a roaring fire already blazing in the lounge. The excitement levels were epic…
One of the benefits of 5-star accommodation is that you don’t have to unpack your bags – they magically appear in your room so all you need to do is put your feet up and soak up the beautiful room which we did for the hour before supper time while the kids enjoyed watching DSTV (another novelty for them!) The suite was everything you would expect from a 5-star venue, comfortable and classy. Our room had a huge king sized bed with beautifully crisp white linen and a lovely view over the forest below all the way down to the sea. The lounge area had a sleeper couch that converted into twin beds for the kids which they thought was a huge novelty – to be honest we were quite envious of their fireside sleeping spot! Off from the lounge was a large deck with loungers and an umbrella – the perfect spot for an afternoon snooze while listening to the birds.
After we explored our room, we all changed and headed off for supper to the restaurant at the Garden Lodge reception. Now I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with kids in tow at a 5-star venue but my fears were ill-founded within a few minutes of our arrival the General Manager had come over to inform us of the kids play room located on the other end of the building. What a wonderful find – definitely the best part of my Grootbos experience so far! This kid-friendly room is equipped with a large screen tv and dvd player plus a variety of movies to choose from. There is also a foosball table and pool table plus an assortment of puzzles, games, books and toys to keep them occupied – better yet the kids meals could be served in this room! The options for kids meals were chicken nuggets, fish fingers and steak with chips and veggies – both my kids have good appetites so we opted for the steak option on both evenings and it went down a treat! After settling the kids, my husband and I were able to actually enjoy the 5 course meal in (relative) peace and quite – we did have a few visits but compared to what I was expecting, it was blissful!
Jeepers, this is the best holiday ever – Ben, age 6
The food was another huge highlight for us – never before have we dined so well in one weekend. Dinner was a 5 course affair with amuse bouche, a starter, a soup, a palate cleanser, a main meal and dessert – and for most courses there were 2 or 3 dishes to choose from. Every course was an experience – the menu was well prepared and presented and the food was of the highest quality. I became one of “those” people who has to photograph her meal before eating it – but it was all so lovely I didn’t want to forget any detail. You will have to forgive the numerous photos of food here! 5-star dining is definitely something both of us could get very used to!
After our meal we headed off to bed – the kids had stayed up past 9pm but were still surprisingly well behaved. We tucked them up in their cosy room with the stoked fire and then I indulged in my favourite thing to do when staying in a hotel – a long hot bath – followed with a generous lathering of the yummy Charlotte Rhys body lotion! Divine, understated luxurious touches such as this were evident throughout our stay and made the experience even more special.
Details of the rest of our Grootbos weekend will be posted over the next 2 weeks. Come back next Monday for more!
You might like to know about the Grootbos last minute deals where you can get 50% off their room rates if you call 48 hours or less before arrival to reserve your room.
For more info on the origins of Grootbos visit their website here.
Disclosure: I enjoyed my stay as a guest of Grootbos but received no other remuneration to write this post and all opinions are my own.
Images: by Kathryn Rossiter