When I was recently invited to join Grootbos for their Secret Season I knew I had to drop everything…
Some of the most beautiful things in this world are secrets… how a baby is formed in the womb, how bees make honey, how a flower bursts into bloom after a ravaging fire has burnt the landscape to nothing…
Here was my chance to find out a bit more about (some) of these secrets. The secrets that make this part of the world so special!
Lying amidst a blanket of fynbos, Grootbos is located less than two hours away from Cape Town in the Overberg.
The winter months of May to July might not be the obvious choice for a getaway to this part of the world but the truth was about to be revealed…
It’s during this time of the year that the rich combination of fauna and flora flourish and Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is best positioned to help you discover the magic!
Arriving in this unique landscape you’re immediately enveloped by the fynbos – a tiny, but no less majestic floral kingdom unique to the Western Cape… and with many species found nowhere else in the world, including the pretty pink Erica Irregularis that bursts into bloom at this exact time of the year!
After our arrival, our first activity on our itinerary was to head off for a horse-ride through the reserve, allowing us to get up close and personal with the symphony of nature that is Grootbos….
This was a wonderful way to be introduced to the reserve… a slow, steady pace was necessary for my skill level (and so my horse, Maseru, could enjoy his fynbos snacks along the way!) and I was grateful….
It allowed me time to soak in the quiet beauty and incredible views over the mountains of the Overberg and out to sea. (and try to capture them on my camera. Let it be said that horse-back photography is another whole skill level of which I’m not sure I’ll ever master!)
After ending our horse-ride with sundowners at the Grootbos Villa we headed back to our own incredibly luxurious suites at Forest Lodge…
I had visited Grootbos previously with my family and although we’d always enjoyed our time at Garden Lodge, I had secretly hoped I would one day get to experience the more “grown-up” Grootbos with a stay at Forest Lodge.
My dream had been to enjoy it with my husband, but as we’d just been traveling for 10 days without our kids, it wasn’t possible to leave them with someone AGAIN, so I opted enjoyed this trip on my own…
And as it happened my beautiful luxurious suite was the perfect place to enjoy a little bit of “me time” (squeezed in to our media trip itinerary).
…An indulgent bath surrounded by the aromatic scents of the fynbos-scented bath products, a leisurely morning enjoying the views over the fynbos from my bed, tea and biscotti on my deck watching the incredible sunset sky change before my eyes…
Little moments of bliss!
The next morning we headed out on our 4 x 4 Fynbos Flower Safari with our knowledgeable guide, Tiaan, who talked us through the sheer variety of fynbos flowers on the reserve and made the green horizon come alive with stories and information on the individual plants that make up this unique biome…
The morning was crisp and cool but we were armed with ponchos and blankets and the wind in our hair and fynbos scents in our nose only served to wake us up fully to experience the exquisite botanical world that is Grootbos.
There are 785 recorded plant species in the 2500 hectares of pristine wilderness. Here qualified guides teach visitors about how a sunbird’s beak fits perfectly into a flower, why the honey the Grootbos bees produce is completely unique and how important ravaging fires are for bringing forth new life.
I loved getting up close to the beautifully unique plants – pin cushions, proteas and, of course, the star of the show at Grootbos, the Erica Irregularis.
After our flower safari it was time to don our bee-keeping garb and head out into the veld with our very own beekeeper, Johan.
Here we learnt about the Grootbos bee hives, how the golden honey is made and harvested…
As you can imagine this was quite a buzz!
Walking amongst thousands of buzzing bees, trying to take photos without compressing a bee on my camera, or getting stung through my outfit wasn’t for “sissies” and, as it turns out, is far more nerve-wracking than I had anticipated… BUT I still loved it because this was such a unique experience, one that I’d never had before – and I’m all about those!
After this adrenalin-inducing activity, we calmed things down a bit with a walk around the Siyakhula Organic Farm otherwise known as “Growing the Future”.
It’s situated in the heard of the Grootbos Nature Reserve and was established to help provide the local community with skills development in organic agriculture, sustainable animal husbandry and beekeeping.
Today the farm is run as a commercial enterprise to provide an income for other Grootbos Foundation projects and all vegetables, herbs, lettuces, fruit, eggs, honey and preserves produced at this farm are sold back to the Grootbos lodges.
Experiencing the food at Grootbos was a definite highlight of my stay! Every meal at Grootbos was a foodie feast…
For lunch I indulged in a spicy Cape Malay Seafood Curry on one day and a towering burger with crispy hand-cut potato chips another…. I may or may not have ordered the Grootbos Honey Ice Cream as dessert both days 😉
The incredible 6-course dinners were served in the elegant dining area where every course was a delight…
The chefs at Grootbos ensure that everything on the table is freshly made, from the mayonnaise to the pasta.
This was evident from the bread basket, to the beautifully presented Prawn Nicoise salad, the super fresh line fish and the decadent Chocolate Fondant.
The wine list at Grootbos also deserves a special mention… and those with a particular interest in South African wines will be pleased to hear that Grootbos aim to serve primarily local wines from the Overberg region, including the Elgin Valley across Bot River, Hermanus, Stanford and Elim and ending at Malgas near Swellendam.
They also offer some amazing wine experiences, specifically dinner with the sommelier in the wine cellar where he pairs your meal with various wines, including ones exclusive to Grootbos.
Foraging is big in foodie circles and Grootbos isn’t being left behind.
On one of our afternoons at Grootbos we joined the Sous Chef on a mussel foraging mission (although I opted to say a safe distance from the pounding waves on the rocky shore!)
The views from the De Kelders cliff paths were enough to satisfy me!
On our last morning at Grootbos we headed off early to join Marine Dynamics on a boat trip out to Dyer Island to take a turn past world-famous Shark Alley and then visit the seals and penguins on their rock in the middle of the ocean…
We had hoped to experience the wonder of the Marine Big 5 of Walker Bay – the Great White Shark, the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin, the Southern Right Whale, the Cape Fur Seal and the African Penguin – but this time we only managed to tick off the last 2 from this list… although we did experience quite a wild rollercoaster ride out on the open ocean!
If I haven’t convinced you yet, watch this mesmerizing video that captures the #GrootbosMagic so magnificently…
Contact Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Images: Kathryn Rossiter