Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is no stranger to conservation and responsible tourism, and through its award winning Grootbos Foundation, guests are able to have a direct impact on the natural environment and the local communities of Walker Bay.
We were staying at the beautiful Forest Lodge, set with views over the fynbos to Walker Bay in the distance. Our suite was luxurious and the decor fresh and inviting, I could have spent hours enjoying its relaxed luxury. The bathroom amenities are made locally using fynbos essential oils, and the delicate fragrance lingers.
We were not only there to experience their five-star hospitality, but to have a close encounter with the fabulous fynbos for which they are world renowned.
Safari guide Jo kept us entertained as she wove tales of Dutch settlers, local San culture and the medicinal and botanical value of fynbos into our two hour drive. The Dutch settlers were dismayed at finding hills covered with ‘fijn bosch’ – a ‘fine forest’ of evergreen shrubs, woody plants and flowering annuals and bulbs, when they were in fact looking for sturdy trees for ship building and construction.
The shades of green and splashes of white would soon, during the winter months, become hillsides of pink – ‘my favourite time’ Jo said, ‘is when the pink heather covers the hills like a carpet’. This fynbos species, Erica irregularis, only grows in a very small area between the villages of Stanford and Gansbaai, yet here at Grootbos it grows in abundance covering the lower slopes with their veritable display.
The Cape sugarbirds are just one of the bird species found here that will delight bird watchers – we watched as they hovered momentarily before darting playfully from bush to bush, determined to defy the photographers in our midst.
Soon the sun was hovering over the horizon of Walker Bay… the day was done, but an evening of fine dining approached.
The deliciously flavoured and beautifully plated cuisine bearing testament to its source – much of the fresh produce is grown and supplied through income generating projects initiated by the Grootbos Foundation. I loved the delicate fynbos honey ice-cream served with honey brittle.
With what felt like too little time to appreciate and enjoy our luxurious suite, we found ourselves with Jo on an early morning walk in the Milkwood forest.
This seemed an apt way to conclude our brief visit as the name Grootbos – an Afrikaans word meaning ‘big forest’ – comes from this wonderful stand of ancient indigenous trees that live for what seems like an eternity.