I always find a little tear making its way down my cheek after reading an internationally-renowned publication fall in love with South Africa.
It’s so vindicating and heart-warming, and even though I am not particularly patriotic, I feel immensely proud.
I am wiping that tear away after reading Forbes rave about our country, convincing their global readers that South Africa “stays in your soul” and is a trip – albeit a seriously sumptuous trip, according to how the writer did it – “every family should try to make”.
The article delved into two local gems, one on the whale coast and another at an inland world-class game reserve.
Three and a half hours out of Johannesburg, inside the privately managed Marakele National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, was the writer’s first luxury stay.
Marataba Mountain Lodge, the article glows, “delivers pristine, remote luxury” and an “intimate affair with only five glass-walled eco-suites tucked into the mountain’s edge”.
It boasts the usual safari shindig, with delicious locally-inspired cuisine, twice-a-day game drives with a guide that has an “encyclopedic grasp of life in the bush”.
Naturally, there are also sunset cocktails, stars for ages, and of course, a plethora of animal spottings.
We know, pure heaven.
Then the writer moved to the Cape for a sea safari of sorts, settling into the “heart of the Whale Coast” and an “opulent private villa” at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.
The reserve, just two hours out of Cape Town, is home to one of the planet’s most diverse biomes, which National Geographic explores alongside Nashlin Groenwald, the assistant head guide at the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, arguing that here “plants are the stars of the show”:
Conservationist Michael Lutzeyer, Grootbos’s founder, has come up with a novel way to celebrate the reserve’s complexity. “We’ve been creating a Florilegium,” he tells me.
One by one, botanical illustrators have been painting the plants that grow here, with the insects, birds and mice that pollinate them. Just downhill from Grootbos’s strikingly reimagined, carbon-negative Garden Lodge, a new gallery dedicated to this unique art collection is rapidly taking shape.
Opening later this year, the Hannarie Wenhold Botanical Gallery will be a space where occasional events such as creative workshops, talks and fynbos-infused gin tastings will pop up among the paintings.
That Nat Geo article is worth a read to understand more about how Grootbos has given the usual safari luxe an eco overhaul, protecting and honouring the fynbos-covered slopes while allowing tourists to enjoy watching whales give birth from the balcony.
Back to that Forbes article, which ends off with the writer becoming rather sentimental, quoting Wordsworth and calling South Africa the ideal place to make “your cellphone become irrelevant and your young adult children joyfully lose themselves in nature’s raw splendour”.
Yoh, we are lekker lucky to have all of this on our doorstep.
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