With breathtaking panoramic views of mountain and sea, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is a luxurious pristine paradise showcasing the splendour of the Cape Floral Kingdom and the incredible marine life of the southern tip of Africa.
Situated 2 hours from Cape Town, Grootbos is the perfect base to discover all the magnificent attractions of the Cape, offering an extensive variety of guided experiences and luxurious facilities.
Nestled in an ancient Milkwood forest surrounded by rolling hills of fynbos and majestic mountains, the accommodation and lodges at Grootbos offer a complete immersion into the pristine natural surroundings within the gentle embrace of comfort and luxury.
The Forest Lodge is a masterpiece of sophisticated and contemporary design, reflecting the breathtaking natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. The clean lines, high ceilings and large windows frame and accentuate the incredible sweeping views across the rolling hills of fynbos and the whale sanctuary of Walker Bay beyond. On a clear day, it’s possible to see all the way to Cape Point! Orientated towards the setting sun, every evening offers another grand spectacle of light and colour.
The 16 freestanding luxury suites are accessed via an enchanted cobbled pathway beneath the ancient forest canopy. Each of the freestanding suites are stylishly furnished with luxurious canopy beds, spacious en suite bathrooms, separate lounges with cosy fireplaces and private wooden decks with spectacular panoramic views.
The main lodge features a variety of elegant dining venues, a bar, lounge, curio shop and conference centre. Spacious wooden decks and an infinity pool beckon you to relax, unwind and enjoy the soothing tranquility. As the evening descends, cosy fireplaces and subtle lighting create a warm, romantic atmosphere for the perfect dining experience.
Grootbos is about more than just luxury accommodation and eco adventures. Your visit directly contributes to the conservation efforts of the Grootbos Foundation as well as the development of sustainable nature-based livelihoods amongst local communities. It is this core philosophy of conservation linked with social development that has made Grootbos an award-winning pioneer in sustainable tourism. Grootbos calls it Progressive Tourism and invites you to be a part of it.
Activities at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Horse Riding on the Reserve
There’s something special about seeing a place on horseback. Take a slow trot as you appreciate the views or ride down the sweeping sand dunes, the fresh air filling your lungs and exhilaration pumping through your veins.
Horse riding at Grootbos is suitable for anyone, whether you’re a complete novice or a more experienced rider. Go for a relaxed ride through the fynbos or ride one of our special horses that are specifically trained for the beach. Our 22 horses at the Grootbos stables are well exercised and expertly trained, while all of our guides have years of experience in dealing with these noble animals.
Beach Horse Riding
We also offer a 3-hour beach horse ride along the Walker Bay coastline. The gentle ride starts in the fynbos through the dunes and then onto the beach. The beach is ideal for a gallop or a gentle canter. The Beach outride is not part of the standard Grootbos activities included in the rates and this activity is advised for experienced riders only.
Beach Horse Riding is not part of the standard Grootbos activities included in your rate.
Land-based Whale Watching (June- December)
The Southern Right whales visit Walker Bay each year and being witness to them in action whilst they breach and blow is a very special experience to observe.These peaceful giants of the deep come to Walker Bay to mate and calf in the sanctuary of the Bay.. The Walker Bay rocky outcrops offer close viewing points from elevated positions.The Grootbos guides know all the best spots and this guided experience is an experience of a lifetime.
Boat-based Whale Watching (June – December)
Grootbos Nature Reserve has an exclusive boat trip, through Dyer Island Cruises, leaving every morning from Kleinbaai harbour. Besides seeing the amazing whales, this trip offers a complete experience of the Marine Big5, which includes the whales, dolphins, African Penguins, Cape Fur Seals and surface viewing of the Great White Shark. The boat comfortably accommodates 20 guests, has a toilet, upper decks, shelter from the sun as well as snacks and drinks provided onboard. The boat also has specialized guides, who can provide all the facts about the whales as well as other interesting information about the magnificent marine life. As these gentle giants are very curious, they often swim right up to the boat to get a better view of the boat and the guests. This trip takes about 2 hours and is a marine experience not to be missed!
Boat-based whale watching is not part of the standard Grootbos activities included in your rate.
Shark Cage Diving
One of the most exciting experiences at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is the Great White Shark cage diving. Gansbaai has the reputation for being the shark capital of the world. Divers and adventurers travel from all over the world to watch this magnificent creature in the waters around Dyer Island. Every day a number of boats leave Kleinbaai harbour to spend a few hours on the water to view the Great White Sharks from the boat or to go diving in a cage with these elegant and large predators. This is a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed!
Cage Diving (No diving experience required!)
This is truly one of the most adventurous activities on our planet, coming face to face with the Great White Shark. No diving experience is required, and all equipment is provided on board. When the sharks are around the boat, the divers get into the cage and the shark is lured to within meters from the cage. As the shark approaches, divers duck under water and marvel in amazement as this awe inspiring creature swims past the cage.
Grootbos guests have the choice to either enter the cage on the shark boat or view these magnificent creatures from the top deck of the boat. Surface Viewing is normally suitable for people wanting to see the shark from out of water and not necessarily come face to face with it inside the water. However, it is often commented that one gets a better view of the sharks from the top deck.
Shark Cage Diving is not part of the standard Grootbos activities included in your rate.
4×4 Flower Safari
Keep still, listen intently and you’ll be amazed at the things you learn on a botanical safari. With the richest temperate flora in the world and six completely new species never discovered by science before, your time at Grootbos will mean that you’ll never look at plants and flowers in quite the same way again.
The 800 recorded plant species in our 2500 hectares of pristine wilderness will bring the fascinating story of fynbos and forest to life as you touch, smell and see the natural miracles that surround you. Learn how a sunbird’s beak fits perfectly into a flower, why the honey our bees produce is completely unique and how important ravaging fires are for bringing forth new life.
As a guest at Grootbos, there are so many different ways to enjoy the beach. You can take a long, relaxing walk on a solitary shore; laze in the sun on the luxurious white sand; or explore the unique coastal ecosystem while looking out for frolicking whales.
Our guides know exactly where to take you for the best swimming, tanning, walking, whale watching, angling and several other oceanic experiences on offer. We’ll transport you to and from the beach and provide you with a picnic lunch and all the beach accessories you need to enjoy your day in the sun.
Grootbos also offers guided beach tours where you can learn about the unique intertidal ecosystem; the abundant marine life; the coastal vegetation; and the geological forces that gave this coast its dramatic form.
A Bird’s eyeview of Birding at Grootbos
Birding is akin to stargazing. On cloudless days, you see a myriad of these jewels flickering and floating in the sky, and once you know where and what to look for, you are transfixed by the ethereal pattern and order in their endless motion.
The Grootbos reserve and surrounding areas are a magnet to a wide variety of rare and endemic bird species feeding and breeding in the rich and diverse habitats. You know birding is not for the birds when you see how the Malachite Sunbird, with its bright green iridescent plumage, compete for attention with the flowering aloes and proteas. Grootbos is a birder friendly establishment endorsed by Birdlife SA. Our knowledgeable guides are geared to give bird watchers of all levels a winged overview of these magnificent creatures that enliven our skies and flora with their beauty and procreative activities.
Let’s face it, the dazzling tapestry of fynbos wildflowers on Grootbos is not meant to attract tourists – the colourful displays of petals are nature’s magic to lure birds and other pollinators to their nectar in exchange for spreading their pollen.
The beaks of the conspicuous endemic Orange-breasted Sunbird and the Southern Double-collared Sunbird are tailor-made for sipping the sweet stuff from the floral tubes of the various Erica species. You cannot miss the male Cape Sugarbird, with its ridiculously long tail (almost 70% of its total length), feeding on the nectar of Protea species. The impressive tail is solely a decorative testimony to manhood – the longer, the better! They whip their tails to attract females and ward off rivals.
In breeding season (September to April) Grootbos guests will encounter a magnitude of feisty and friendly fellows sticking together albeit they are not of the same feather. The diverse habitats – from fynbos, Milkwood and Afromontane forests to riverine scrub and mountain slopes – accommodate at least 120 different bird species, of which 30% are endemic or near endemic to Southern Africa. These include specials such as the Knysna Woodpecker, Cape Clapper-lark and the Southern Tchagra.
Flagship raptors of the area are the majestic Black Harrier, Jackal Buzzard, Forest Buzzard and African Fish-Eagle. The nearby agricultural fields are home to Blue Cranes, the Agulhas Long-billed Lark and the Denham’s Bustard.
Coastal Birding Tours
Grootbos, in partnership with Dyer Island Cruises, also takes guests on a “game viewing” cruise to Dyer Island, where endemics such as the African Black Oystercatcher, Hartlaub’s Gull, Crowned-, Cape- and Bank Cormorant, African Penguin as well as the Cape Gannet flourish. Pelagic species such as the Shy Albatross, Sooty Shearwater and Giant Petrels are also seen from time to time.
Klipgat Cave – an echo of early man
The Klipgat Cave outside De Kelders evokes vivid images of pre-historic times when modern man lived haply in symbiotic harmony with nature off the bounty of land and sea when the coastline was still kilometres away. This historical site in the Walker Bay was home to Middle Stone Age peoples some 70 000 to 80 000 years ago when large antelope such as black wildebeest and the extinct “blaauwbok” still abounded in the bay where dolphins, seals and whales now flourish.
Archaeological findings indicate that these primitive folks mainly lived off plants and smaller animals such as dune mole rats, tortoises and hares. They hunted steenbok and eland, while seabirds, shellfish and seals also formed an important part of their diet.
Dubbed Klipgat Cave (stone with a hole) after the remarkable window-like openings in the limestone rock formations that yield spectacular views of the bay and sea, the site is one of the most important cultural assets in the Western Cape. Innumerable stories of the perils and pleasures of yesteryear’s peoples unfold as layer upon layer of deposits reveal fascinating secrets of the tides, temperatures and living conditions of those early times. Later Stone Age pastoralists, believed to be the Khoekhoen/Khoikhoi, already kept sheep, and probably even cattle and dogs, in this area as early as 2 000 years ago.
They chiselled tools such as “needles” and “spatulas” out of bone to create ornaments, shell beads and pendants. Ostrich eggs were fashioned into water flasks, and tortoise shells served as bowls. These artefacts and bone samples are on display in the Cape Town Museum.
Unfortunately, the bulk of tell-tale everyday details of the loves and losses of man’s early ancestors is forever buried in the crags and crevices of this early home. Around 1713, a devastating smallpox epidemic claimed the lives of the entire local human population. The Klipgat Cave is of World Heritage significance and managed by Cape Nature Conservation.
For those who just want to relax we offer an array of spa treatments. It is time to tip-toe into a slower world where the mind can drift away on the vapors of luxurious scents, such as sandalwood, arnica and buchu, while the body melts under the soothing touch of our fully qualified beauty therapist. Pampering takes place in the comfort of your own suite. For the tired body, a therapeutic full body massage is a definite must, leaving you in a state of absolute calmness. For the weary feet, reflexology, including a footbath, will most certainly do the trick. Manicures, pedicures, facials and a host of other treatments are available on request in our Bloom Beauty Salon or in the privacy of the suites at Grootbos.
Spa Treatments are not part of the standard Grootbos activities included in your rate.
Walks and Hikes
Enjoy an entrancing stroll through our Milkwood forest or a more revitalising hike up our fynbos-clad mountains, as you begin to understand what makes Grootbos quite so special. From a sunbird sipping from a flower to an ocean vista that leaves you breathless, surprises await you around every corner.
Trails are all well marked and you can choose between self-guided walks or guided walks, to learn more about these fascinating and secretive eco-systems. Gaze into the petals of a King Protea, breathe in the blackcurrant scent of buchu or simply listen to the exquisite silence that surrounds you.
Lady Stanford River Cruise
Hop aboard the Lady Stanford river boat for a iconic and tranquil river cruise that winds its way gently along the picturesque Klein River, toward the Hermanus lagoon. Spend time on the open upper and lower decks of this modern eco-friendly river boat with its quiet, four-stroke boat engines, as you watch a kaleidoscope of natural colour go by.
No expense has been spared when it comes to comfort and luxury on board this vessel that most definitely stands out from the rest. A qualified skipper and experienced interactive guide, who intimately knows the river and all it has to offer, will ensure this journey is a memorable one. The Klein River features more than a hundred bird species which include majestic fish eagles, a flamboyance of pink flamingos and the ever spectacular, blue crane. Keep an eye out for otters, bontebok and horses grazing on the fertile river banks, as you make your way toward the lagoon. Lady Stanford runs daily trips for individual passengers as well as being available exclusively for private functions. The boat can comfortably accommodate 26 passengers.
The River Cruise is not part of the standard Grootbos activities included in your rate.
Living the Future Tour
Take a tour with heart as you discover how the entire Grootbos experience has been designed around benefiting the community and environment around you. Learn and connect as you witness how our various projects are changing lives and conserving this protected wilderness.
What is progressive tourism? It’s a term we coined to explain a new way of living that is at the heart of the entire Grootbos experience. It’s about every action we take benefitting someone else or having a positive impact on the environment.
From the freshly grown tomatoes you eat at lunch, to the recycled candles in your room, to the earrings you buy at the gift shop – we’re constantly seeking out new ways to create sustainable livelihoods for the people who call this unique area home.
This is the ultimate ride from Grootbos Nature Reserve down the mountain to the top of the Sand Dunes. The trail to the dunes is special, running on a narrow sandy horse trail through the Fynbos.
When reaching the dunes we will make our way up and across to reach a fantastic downhill section where we will pick up speed before reaching the top of our first vertical dune face. After a briefing on how to ride down the dune we down the face but for those just wanting an easy ride you can go around the side where it is an easy slope. The dune face may feel impossible and dangerous to do but the ride is in fact very controlled and the sand will slow the bike down.
What your mind tells you is impossible will in fact be very enjoyable and easy. I will be at the bottom of the dunes videoing your challenges so remember to smile. I will also teach you how to do slalom like a skiier on a snow ski slope. This is excellent fun on a bike and not too difficult to achieve. After the dunes we will pick up a 4×4 trail down to the beach. From there we will head back up to the car park but for those who are already tired I can bring the 4×4 down to the rocks so you do not have to ride up.
Fat Biking is not part of the standard Grootbos activities included in your rate.
Ashia is a world-class Fair Trade Tourism certified cheetah sanctuary and working farm outside Paarl in South Africa’s Western Cape, a 45 minute drive from Cape Town. An African name meaning ‘life and hope’, Ashia lies nestled at the foot of the dramatic Drakenstein mountains, providing the perfect setting for the sanctuary’s conservation and environmental education programmes.