Adrenaline-pumping adventure and beachside relaxation aren’t two things that typically go hand in hand; but on South Africa’s Gansbaai shores, Grootbos is making its mark in luxury travel by combing the two.
While there may be a host of places along the South African coast that claim to be private escapes, none is quite as secluded as the exclusive Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. In fact, you won’t even know it’s there until you arrive at the front door. And while Grootbos is a truly secluded getaway, it’s unique in the fact that there are adventures here unlike any other in South Africa. This Eden of fynbos and milkwood trees is the perfect accompaniment to the ebb and flow of the Gansbaai tide, which is home to much more than meets the eye.
The Gansbaai offers a vantage point for one of the most spectacular sights in all of Africa, the Southern right whale. As adults, large baleen whales have an average size of approximately 50 feet long, and some grow even larger, with each female producing one calf in a three-year breeding cycle. But the best part about their annual habits is that they migrate to the sheltered bays of Grootbos to have their calves. In season, typically June to November, Ker & Downey guests will get to experience the whales at Grootbos aboard the Whale Whisperer, a specialized sightseeing boat setting out from Grootbos to Dyer Island. Along the way, guests will have incredible photographic opportunities of not only the Southern right whale, but also the Humpback whale, Bryde’s whales, a sixty-thousand-strong Cape fur seal colony, and the African penguins. Trips are led by experienced marine guides who will share their knowledge, keeping a strong emphasis on the welfare and conservation of the animals, a real passion and cornerstone of Grootbos’ ideology.
And if whale watching isn’t adventurous enough, there’s also shark cage diving at Grootbos. As you venture out on the water with the experienced staff, your guides will throw a mixture known as “chum” overboard. This often-vile potion of fish and other food sources is like candy for the sharks, attracting them to the area around the boat. Once the shark is spotted and within a close distance, guests can choose to enter the shark cage attached to the side of the boat where they will come face to face with the most feared predator of the ocean without being in danger. Those that prefer to stay dry can still spot sharks from above the water as the boat provides excellent shark viewing for great photography.
But beyond all the adventure, what makes Grootbos such a coveted destination is its fabulous intertwining with five-star luxury. The two elegant eco-lodges, Garden and Forest, are an invitation to pampering with fireplaces, airy bedrooms, and wooden decks with spectacular sea views. There are extra length beds with down duvets and a private coffee facility and minibar. The lodge also boasts incredible cuisine. Led by Executive Chef Duane Lewis, Grootbos dining is crafted from the finest and freshest local ingredients, drawing inspiration from the abundance of scents and colors in nature around them. Lewis promises magical combinations that will replenish and inspire the body and soul.
Other activities include horseback riding or trail walking. A gallop or walk through the fynbos gardens may be just what’s needed after an adventurous day out on the water. For those who find inspiration in the lush vegetation, they will surely enjoy a trip to Green Futures, a unique project founded by the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve’s owners, the Lutzeyer family. With a vision to help people in local communities prosper self-sufficiently, Green Futures was established to train ”gardeners in the making” in the art of indigenous landscaping and conservation. Incorporating fynbos and other native plants into the public and private gardens on the Cape coast attracts native birds and adds effortlessly to the beautification of the region. At the school built on Grootbos’ grounds, 12 students each term learn their craft and cultivate the plants at the attached wholesale nursery, earning course credit for themselves and funds to be reinvested in the project. Future course offerings will include ecotourism, hospitality, and nature conservation, seeking to further ensure the future integrity of the region and the prosperity of its local communities.
Ker & Downey guests may choose to get their hands dirty with the students in the program by planting a milkwood or other native tree in the Ker & Downey Forest. Whether staying at Grootbos or not, a tree is planted here for each of our clients traveling to South Africa. Since September 2010, Ker & Downey clients have contributed trees to the lush landscape of the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, helping to preserve its integrity for future generations of experiential travelers to enjoy.