There are traditional Big Five – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant & buffalo – are well known and well documented, but what about the Marine Big Five – whale, shark, dolphin, seal & penguin?
In South Africa, you can see these aquatic wonders, with no better base from which to view them than the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.
Situated half an hour outside Hermanus, high up on a hill amidst the fynbos vegetation, and overlooking the magnificent Walker Bay, Grootbos has re-defined the definition of a ‘green’ lodge.
The accommodation is split between Garden Lodge, (the original one, and currently undergoing a makeover), Forest Lodge, (where it is adults-only), and a private 6-bedroom villa, (with another 4-bedroom villa under construction).
Grootbos has a good range of room configurations so that couples, families & groups of friends can all easily be accommodated, and all of the rooms and suites have private lounge areas which are separate from the bedrooms, (as well as decks which boast the most spectacular ‘money-shot’ views).
The number of activities on offer is long – boat trips, flower safaris, forest walks, beach walks, cave exploration, scenic flights – and ideally they merit at least a 3 night stay. If staying between July and November, definitely sign up for a whale-watching trip – the sightings of Southern Right whales in Walker Bay are on a par with, if not better than, the finest whale-spotting anywhere in the world. Grootbos’ cuisine may be considered by some to be a bit too fancy for its surroundings, but the therapists in the small forest spa are worth a shout out, and do try to spend time visiting some of the wonderful projects which the Grootbos Foundation is responsible for ; nurseries, sports pitches & honey production amongst many others . Also Include a morning or afternoon visit to Hermanus – there are some great boutiques in the town and the clifftop walk has some terrific viewpoints.
A top recommendation is to make the journey to and from Grootbos part of your holiday – the coastal drive on the R44 from Gordon’s Bay through Betty’s Bay & Kleinmond to Hermanus is as breath-taking as its more famous cousin the Chapman’s Peak Drive, and returning from Grootbos to Cape Town via Caledon will allow you to discover the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, one of South Africa’s hottest new wine regions. Another tip is to consider visiting Grootbos out of whale-watching season, (December to June) – when the weather will be superb and the welcome will be a warm one.