The world of luxury travel is often scorned. This is usually due to a bumbling jealousy from bottom feeders, or on the flip side, by the ‘learned,’ due to the pretense and opulence that many sought-after destinations are infamous for. In short, it is a very difficult concept to get right.
Often hotels and lodges forget that ‘luxury’ is not measured by the amount of rose petals scattered around a bath, or the presence of an ill-fitting gown in the cupboard. Similarly, they cannot rely on a glorious sunset or big cat sighting to be deemed good at ‘luxury’ because it takes more than that to deliver. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve knows what luxury means, and in fact; they are ridiculously good at knowing what the word means and how to deliver on it.
The direct translation of Grootbos from Afrikaans is “Great Bush”. The Great Bush it certainly is. One could easily drive past this property and not know of its existence as the lodge is built into the vast expanse of fynbos, synonymous with the southern tip of Africa. The architecture and design of the place lends itself gently toward the beauty of its surrounds, not trying to upstage the natural splendor but holding its own place in enhancing the greatness of the property.
The hotel itself is split up into two separate sites. The older of the pair is Garden Lodge, which is made up of 11 free-standing luxury suites of deliciousness, spilling out over the Cape South Coast. The uninterrupted views of the Walker Bay are humbling, and despite the coastal position of the site being best enjoyed in summer, the brilliant makeup of the lodge make it a very attractive winter destination too. In the suites the double volume glass doors draws in the light, and an abundance of fireplaces throughout maintain the warmth and comfort. The soft furnishings are neutrally tasteful, and above all decadently comfortable. The fine details make one feel content to not leave the room for anything…well only for an outside shower, arguably the sexiest shower in the Cape.
The slightly more contemporary, Forest Lodge boasts ten sumptuous suites, all equipped with modern necessities like wi-fi and 300 thread-count cotton bedding. The lodge is cleverly concealed a stone’s throw away from Garden Lodge, but immediately one is struck with the same abundance of space. The boma, nestled in South Africa’s oldest Milkwood forest brings out the awe-struck child in everyone that enters; a perfect environment to say your vows, or just put the feet up with a glass of chardonnay.
The latest addition to the Grootbos portfolio is the Villa. The simple reality is that the Villa makes one feel like a rock-star, regardless of the bad voice or obvious lack of body ink. It epitomises everything that is uber-cool about modern contemporary living in complete privacy. It houses six tastefully elegant en-suite bedrooms, a cinema, wine cellar, gym, pool and fully equipped kitchen for the private chef and butler to play nicely in.
The staff that come with the villa are neither effusive nor uncaring; a sneaky mix of being available and unseen. In doing this they treat everyone like a celeb, and not the C-list ruffians we have in South Africa; we are talking Wills & Kate, Ben & Jen, Giselle & Tom (you get the picture).
Leading off the lodges are literally hundreds of walking trails through the Reserve. The immense knowledge and fiery passion of the guides can make a hike here feel as invigorating as a walk through big 5 territory.
I dislike the phrase ‘Ecotourism’. For too long it’s been bandied around by swarms of pseudo travel gurus, who are proud of the fact that their weekly refuse pile attracts butterflies. However, when talking of Ecotourism one must give credit where it’s due. Awards aside, Grootbos’ dynamic approach to supporting conservation efforts in an exotic location is a refreshing addition to the realm of ‘green travel’.
The 2500 hectare treasure trove is driven by the sensationally passionate owner, Mr Michael Lutzeyer, and whilst Michael’s obvious eye for hospitality certainly speaks to the good ear of all those seeking out a lavish weekend, he is even more proud of Grootbos’ achievements in conservation and community upliftment. The Cape Floristic region itself is one of the richest floras in the world, boasting 9250 species of flowering plants. Fynbos contributes a heroic 80% of these species, making it more proudly South African than a two-tone shirt reeking of braai smoke.
The community projects include the Gaansbaai Sport and Youth Development Program, and the Green Futures program which, every year, equips 12 unemployed youths with both life skills and a vast horticultural knowledge, setting them on a better path for their future. Very nicely done indeed.
Down on the coast, there is a selection of activities and explorations on offer; such as the fresh water caves where Lady Anne Barnard used to bathe (naked), horse riding and of course the Shark & Whale excursions that have made the area popular in the last decade.
Realistically, the most attractive element of Grootbos is its proximity to Cape Town. A mere 25 minutes from Hermanus make it far more accessible than its 5 Star peers in the Sabi Sands. To avoid the painful gauntlet of Somerset West, why not fly in? The airstrip on the property is immaculate, and the view of the shark infested waters around Dyer Island from the air will make it even more worthwhile. Go on, we know that’s how you roll. Oh, and did I mention the spa?
Whilst gazing wistfully into the sunset, sitting on a perfectly appointed deck festooned with loungers and cushions I reflected on my life, completely separated from reality, as that is how they make you feel here. But it’s okay, as at Grootbos anything is allowed. From over eating and over drinking, to cigar smoking, and playing a casual tune on the piano, it all just screams decadence. The kind of decadence that is only permitted in heaven. And Grootbos, like heaven, is a place we all need to get to
[photos courtesy Steven Whiteman and Grootbos]
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