In part three, David Marek shares his South Africa marine safari experience while at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. This is part three in a three-part series from President David Marek on his small group trip to Zambia and South Africa. Get caught up on the journey with part one and part two.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Grootbos Nature Reserve sits within an ancient milkwood forest looking toward Walker Bay. It’s a beautiful site. Starting in June, the southern right whales begin their migration to the coastal areas of South Africa where they raise their young and perform for guests in the surf and offshore. The coastal town of Hermanus has a “whale crier” who proclaims when whales are within sight of the town square.
I included Grootbos in our itinerary because it is so different from the previous two locations. It gave us a coastal experience, a South Africa marine safari experience, the milkwood forest experience, a wine tasting experience, and it would have given us a golfing experience but we just ran out of time. Maybe next trip!
While here, we stayed at Grootbos Forest Lodge. Ten years ago a fire completely destroyed the lodge. Now rebuilt, it is a beautiful lodge with views across the fynbos toward Walker Bay.
South Africa Marine Safari
The South Africa marine safari experience was fabulous. We boarded a boat that normally holds 50 guests, but it was just for the 11 of us. The twin 500 horsepower motors had no problems negotiating the rolling swells of Walker Bay. This excursion took us to Seal Island where thousands of Cape fur seals spend their days trying to evade the great white sharks that patrol the area. We did see one great white that visited a cage diving group. Although we didn’t have time to do a cage dive, seeing the shark approach the cage did give a thrill. We also followed a humpback whale and several Bryde’s whales as they surfaced and continued on their journey east. What an incredible South Africa marine safari!
The Milkwood Forest
Following our South Africa marine safari, a walk through the Milkwood forest offered an altogether different and surreal experience. Nash, our guide, perfectly led us through this maze of trees, brush, smells, and sounds. These thousand-year-old trees give you the feeling that you are walking on hallowed ground. I also felt a bit like I was in The Lord of the Rings movie where the trees were talking to me. It is a spiritual experience.
One of the projects we’ve taken on at Ker & Downey is reforesting some of the areas of the fynbos that were destroyed by a fire 10 years ago. Fynbos is a separate ecoregion identified with scrub forests and woodlands located along this section of the coast with nearly 6,000 endemic plant species. You can find 80% of the species in the Cape Floral Kingdom at Grootbos. For the past 10 years, we’ve donated $50 per traveler to the Grootbos Foundation to restore this area back to its original glory.
Until Next Time
Well, all good things must come to an end. We left Grootbos feeling like we have some unfinished business. We did not do shark diving, nor did we play golf or do a horseback ride through the forest. But we did have a marvelous South Africa marine safari adventure. We packed a lot into the days we were there.
Our luxury safari with friends was over, so we headed home. Along the way, we found that we could travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, there were the PCR tests we had to take and precautions adopted along the way. But looking back, those issues were minor. We got to see some of the beautiful things this part of Africa has for travelers. So many experiences we’ll remember, but mostly we will remember the people.
A heartfelt thanks to the people of Zambia and South Africa. Everyone we met, whether they were in the airport or in a shop, camp, or on the streets of Hermanus, everyone appreciated us for being there. It is said that each person with a job in Africa supports at least 20 family members. The impact of COVID-19 has been especially hard on the people of Africa. My hope is that people will see the immense opportunity to travel now, even during the pandemic before the crowds return.
And finally, to our friends who traveled with us, thank you for trusting me with your first trip to Africa. May it not be your last.