Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Grootbos Nature Reserve – Five Star Fynbos Getaway

The view from our suite

We’re back from a fabulous night away at Grootbos, a gorgeous nature reserve overlooking Walker Bay, near Hermanus, whither I was very kindly invited, to experience its magic for myself. A patchwork of impressions and memories: a rich green canvas of incredibly varied fynbos, friendly faces, fabulous flavours, mysterious milkwood forest, winding paths and entrancing views. You could stay for a week and never have a dull moment, but we crammed as much as we could into our 24 hours and would happily go back for more tomorrow!

Looking up at Forest Lodge from the road, we had no idea of what we’d find... we saw an unimposing row of low linear buildings perched high on a hill that seemed uniformly green with the native fynbos, dense and bushy, of the forest there was no obvious sign... But as soon as we parked the car the magic began to weave its spell.

Winding paths led through a beautifully planted fynbos garden, scented with honey and shaded by ancient milkwood trees. The paths are designed so that you hardly see the main lodge building until you are upon it, feeling almost lost in the forest, when in fact it is right there all the time.
Forest Lodge is spacious, understated and modern, soaking up the views from huge glass walls, softened by lots of wood, textured fabrics with patterns of leaf and protea, natural decorations and fynbos flower arrangements.

The warm welcome from all the staff, who are always smiling and genuinely happy to be working in such a beautiful place really adds to the positive energy.
The pool at Forest Lodge overlooks pristine fynbos and the ocean

In our suite/cottage we were spoilt for space. Built on the same understated modern lines as the main lodge, it is warm and welcoming, with wooden floors.

There’s a bedroom, a sitting room with a built in fireplace, a huge bathroom with the tub right in the big window looking out of the view and even a second bathroom. The deck in front links both rooms and the fynbos comes right up to it, so that you can lie in bed watching the birds flitting in and out of bushes and smell that delicious honey scent in elusive wafts on the morning breeze. There’s an outdoor shower out there too, but it wasn’t quite warm enough to tempt us. The sitting room has a comfortable leather sofa, lovely wooden tables and best of all the fireplace with a generous stack of logs. We lost no time in making a cup of tea and putting our feet up after our long drive.

Patrick and Chumani  on our Milkwood Forest walk

We’d signed up for a guided walk through the milkwood forest at 5. It was just us and our guide Chumani, who led us off down the paved paths, until we came to the beginning of a small trail. As soon as we’d left the main path it felt like we were in the middle of ancient forests far from anywhere. The milkwood trees take forever to grow, some of them being several hundred years old, and they are not tall, but there is a peace and quietness to the air, hanging lichens, twisted branches. It’s baboon territory, the home of birds and buck, but although we see the tracks of buck and the baboon poo and twigs they have broken, the animals themselves are elusive. Chumani was an entertaining guide, telling us all sorts of stories and  the uses of many plants learned from his grandfather.

Twisting branches of ancient milkwoods, festooned with lichens and mosses

Then it’s a meander back to our cottage to relax and change before dinner. The sun is streaming in now as the sun dips lower and we both start to go mad with our cameras catching angles and patterns and feeling almost giddy off on our own without the kids.
Photographers on holiday

  A spectacular sunset over the ocean reminds us why sundowners are such a great South African institution. We have cups of tea instead and leap up every five seconds to take another photo.

Then just when I think the drama is over and am about to view the afterglow from the vantage point of the shower, I spot a sliver of new moon hanging just above the sunset orange. It feels like a wonderful promise of more magic to come.

Dinner was a five course gourmet feast. A full on review would be a blog post in itself, but suffice it to say that I had a wonderful time identifying flavours, tasting  my husband’s dishes as well as my own and trying desperately to photograph the plates in appropriate food blogger style in low light conditions. We had a hilarious time improvising a mini studio with his phone as light source and napkin as a diffuser.

The taste highlights for me were the amuse bouche of fish tartare, mussel cracker fish with coriander and lemon zest in a crisp filo pastry shell, and the oh so tender kingklip with a pea and chorizo sauce.

Grilled kingklip, pea and chorizo veloute,tatsoi and truffle salad with improvised studio lighting

The night was clear, starry, windy and rather chilly, so it was a brisk walk rather than romantic stroll back to our cottage after dinner, where the fire had been lit for us, curtains drawn, bed turned down. It was cosy and intimate, the bed very comfortable and, we fell asleep to the sounds of wind gusting around the roof, looking forward to all the activities planned for the next day.

Our next morning’s activities and fynbos safari make up another post, so read Part 2  for more Grootbos magic!

Disclosure: Our stay at Grootbos was complimentary. I received no remuneration for writing this post and all opinions are my own.


  1. Looks gorgeous! Especially that pool with a view ...

  2. Oh how I loved Grootbos... In the end we did nto have time for the milkwood safari - we lazed by the pool instead! looks like we had very similar sunsets though, and HOW AWESOME WAS THAT BATH?!

  3. The pool was gorgeous, Charlotte, and the views even better than in the photos.
    We never got around to lazing by the pool, Jeanne, it being autumnal now with a chill in the air. But I loved the milkwoods. Sounds like we both have something to return for! The bath was amazing - I tried it out for sunrise rather than sunset and was duly smitten.

  4. Thanks ever so much for taking us with you. I had to look up fynbos - you learn so much visiting people's blogs.

    Your meal has made me really hungry - off now to cook something!

  5. S.S. glad you enjoyed the journey! Sorry not to have explained fynbos for my non-South African readers - on our fynbos safari the next day, our guide Jo explained where the term came from. Apparently Dutch settlers on arrival at the Cape reported back that there were no good-sized trees to build with, only fynbos - fine wood - all the small scrubby bush that is the indigenous plant life of a large area of the Cape.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!