Secret Season at Grootbos

by Jared

When winter grabs us with her cold and wet grasp, the usual temptation is to hide away indoors and not leave the safety of Cape Town. I learnt recently that there are a couple good reasons to brave Sir Lowry’s Pass into the lands-beyond; most of them are found in a unique lodge just two hours away –  Grootbos. I had the immense privilege of spending three days here with travel bloggers Lauren and Vaughn of The Travel Manuel.
IMG_1145The winter months are a little quieter at the lodge, allowing them to offer unique and exciting opportunities: welcome to Secret Season at Grootbos. Here follows a taster of my top three experiences:

  1. Fynbos Safari
    It’s no secret to South Africans that the fynbos (fine-leafed) vegetation is something to be proud of. Of the 6 floral kingdoms in the world, the fynbos is the richest, with the greatest concentration of species. Grootbos is home to 791 species, several of which are found only on the reserve. On our 4×4 safari we were introduced to several fynbos species, with our guide opening our eyes to this tiny yet significant world.
  2. Honey Harvesting
    Grootbos has several hives on the property; significantly the Erica regularis is one of the fynbos species endemic to the area, flowering prolifically in the winter months. The plant is the therefore targeted by bees, resulting in a single origin honey – from one of the rarest plants in the world! We donned full bee suits and assist with the harvesting of honey. Having scores of bees flying about me was a little daunting at first but (once I acclimatized) it was fascinating having insight into their world from up close.

3. Cooking Demo
Eating at Grootbos is a gastronomical adventure. The kitchen staff prepare, plate and present some of the finest food I’ve had in South Africa. We had the privilege of being invited into the kitchen, being taught how to prepare some of the elements of the evening’s menu. For an epicure like myself this was a dream come true: I’m dying to try recreate the goats’ cheese fondue that I made on the evening. Once we’d done our part we were ushered into the wine sanctum: the underground cellar. Paired with wines specifically chosen by the sommelier, we dined by candlelight, and were watched on the hundreds of bottles of wine that surrounded us. The result – an unforgettable evening!

The Grootbos Way of Life

Accommodation is offered in two lodges on the property. We stayed in the Forest Lodge, a series of 16 free standing modern chalets, with views for tens of kilometers. Spacious bathrooms, wide decks with outdoor showers, and sensibly decorated lounges with fireplaces make the suites some of the biggest and finest I’ve ever stayed in. I slept with the bedroom’s sliding doors open, and woke to the sun slowly illuminating views across the bay. Then breakfast in bed…I’ll let the picture below speak for itself!

I can safely say that I was as impressed with the philanthropic efforts made by Grootbos as I was with the lodge itself. The Grootbos Foundation has three distinct arms: Siyakhula which centers around sustainable and green initiatives, Green Futures which trains community members in areas of hospitality, and lastly the Football Foundation teaching sports skills to over 7000 youth every year.

After all this I wasn’t surprised to discover that Grootbos is among a small bouquet of hotels selected by National Geographic as one of their Unique lodges of the World. Each of the hotels are selected because of their exceptional commitment to authenticity, enrichment, and a dedication to preserving the planet’s diversity. It seems that some secrets are definitely worth sharing! Visit Grootbos online and – even better – in person for the stay of a lifetime.

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