In the early 1990s Michael en Dorothee Lutzeyer acquired a farm on a stunning plot of land located between the villages of Stanford and Gansbaai. What started as a modest B&B ultimately grew into one of the most highly acclaimed five-star ecologically friendly accommodations in all of South Africa. The name Grootbos, an Afrikaans word meaning ‘Big Forest’, is derived from the nearby ancient indigenous and endangered Milkwood forests.

Just imagine: where else in the world can you sit on a terrace, sipping a cold drink in the shade of a huge parasol while watching whales frolicking about in the distance, spraying jets of water from their blowholes. Even if you’re not fortunate enough to visit Grootbos during these amazing mammals’ migratory season (roughly from November through January) there are plenty of other activities to be assured of an unforgettable stay.

 Whalewatching in the ocean closeby Grootbos

Whalewatching in the ocean closeby Grootbos

There is so much to do at the 5-star Grootbos that guests are presented a convenient list of the many activities to choose from upon their arrival. The hospitality at Grootbos is unprecedented. Within seconds of parking our rental car we are given a warm welcome by two friendly staff members. Before we know it, our luggage has been unloaded and we are on our way to our accommodations, where we are immediately given moist towels to wipe the dust from our travel-stained hands and faces and chilled water with mint to quench our thirst.

 Pool with a view at Grootbos

Pool with a view at Grootbos

While our children enjoy the children’s entertainment room, we peruse the list of activities to decide how we will be spending the next three days. We immediately regret not having booked three times as many nights here. After some careful deliberation we make our choices. Of course, we want to go horseback riding through the dunes to the beach in the morning, followed by a Flower Safari in a 4X4 vehicle later in the afternoon. There is no large game on the Grootbos reserve itself, with the exception of the very rare and rarely spotted Cape Leopard. The fauna at the Grootbos reserve includes antelopes such as Steenboks, Klipspringers, Grey Rheboks, Duiker sand Bushbucks, as well as countless species of birds, but even more spectacular is the vast array of flora.

The Fynbos (a small belt of natural shrubland or heathland vegetation) contains an astounding 765 different plant species and many of the activities at Grootbos focus on botanical discovery. During a truly unique experience, a specialised guide shows you all the miracles of the plant world. Driving in an open-top Land Rover through the spectacular countryside, we regularly stop while the guide tells us more about a certain flower or plant. The children listen attentively and gratefully take receipt of several specimens: ‘Look, Dad! They used to use these thorns to sew their clothes together, and if you chew on this leaf your toothache will go away!’

 Driving through the Grootbos area

Driving through the Grootbos area

And that was just our first day!

As there is no large game on the estate, children can roam about freely through the beautifully landscaped garden. Grootbos features two lodges: the Forest Lodge, which caters primarily to couples, and the Garden Lodge, which was designed to accommodate families. Located on a hilltop, the Garden Lodge’s open-plan lay-out lends it a spacious yet homelike atmosphere. With only eleven free-standing suites, the reserve exudes an intimate ambiance. It feels almost as if we’re on a family visit. The children are greeted enthusiastically by the warm and friendly staff as they run up and down between the beautiful swimming pool and the large petting zoo, where rabbits, hens and chickens, as well as friendly pigs, reside. The helpful staff at the fully equipped stables adjacent to the area reserved for farm animals caters to professional as well as inexperienced riders of all ages.

Seekers of more thrilling entertainment can even go diving among the white sharks: fortunately, in a cage! We understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If that’s not enough to impress even the most blasé teenagers, we don’t know what will! Teens can also enjoy quad bike rides or balloon or helicopter flights: sure to get Mum and Dad some very high marks!

The adjacent practically deserted beach is a perfect venue for picnics and long walks. Other interesting excursions include the nearby caves, which are still inhabited by the indigenous population, or specialised bird watching tours.

With so many activities there is hardly any time left to spend indoors, which is almost a pity! The breathtaking 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.

After a day of indolent relaxation or crammed with exciting activities, guests at Grootbos are invited to partake of some of the finest contemporary cuisine in all of South Africa. We have rarely enjoyed such good food in such breathtaking surroundings: whether inside the attractively furnished restaurant, outdoors with views of the ocean and the Fynbos, or (as a special treat) in a palisade-enclosed courtyard featuring a traditional South African barbecue with a camp fire and thousands of sparkling lights. While the children roast marshmallows above the fire, we clink our glasses together to bring out a toast to life. And life is good at Grootbos!

WOW

# Of course, the numerous activities, the stunning surroundings and the delicious food are wonderful, but the absolute WOW factor is the friendly and service-oriented attitude of the staff.

# A stay at Grootbos is an amazing experience even on a rainy day. The suites are comfortably furnished and what could be more enjoyable than a luxurious bath with views of the rugged natural surroundings, with the rain pouring down the panes of the immensely tall windows?

# There are numerous activities to ensure that even the most restless teenagers can let off the necessary steam.