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Des Langkilde
Cape Town, South Africa

5-Stars for 6 Senses

5.0 of 5 bubblesReviewed 15 Feb 2015
In South Africa there are ample hospitality establishments who provide 5-star accommodation combined with matching cuisine, but very few who excel in catering to all 6 experiential senses, namely sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing and spirit. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is most definitely one of the latter.

If nature, in all its diversity and wonder, is sufficient unto itself in terms of eliciting the intellectual and emotional responses associated with spiritual experience, then Grootbos Private Nature Reserve has successfully capitalised on this 6th sense with unobtrusive style.

Nestled in ancient Milkweed forests on the slope of a 2 500 hectare botanical treasure trove between mountain and sea, each of the two lodges (Garden Lodge and Forest Lodge) and the 25 suites are strategically placed to provide guests with privacy and uninterupted panoramic views over Walker Bay to De Kelders and Gansbaai.

Located between Stanford and Gansbaai, just off the R44 Cape Whale Route in South Africa’s Western Province, and a two hour drive from Cape Town, I arrived to checkin at Forest Lodge on a typically sunny Monday afternoon.

Leaving my overnight bag in the boot of the car, I approached the reception desk expecting to endure the usual check-in procedure. To my surprise I was welcomed by name and ushered through to the dining room for lunch and a refreshing cocktail comprised of ginger ale with crushed lemon, lime and mint.

Forest Lodge is an architectural masterpiece that blends unobtrusively into the surrounding Milkwood and Fynbos terrain, with its low profile cantilevered roof that allow the windows to extend from floor to ceiling and provides a scence of spaciousness that enhances the panoramic views.

Fine Dining

But I digress. I shall try my best to describe the experience that guests can expect.

Let’s start with the cuisine, which is at the heart of any hospitality establishment and best of all, is included in your board. Grootbos boasts two outstanding restaurants (one at Forest Lodge and the other at Garden Lodge), as well as a selection of amazing venues for special occasions. This is where executive Chef Benjamin Conradie and his extensive team reign supreme, and create contemporary world-class dishes prepared with organic ingredients produced by Grootbos’s ‘Growing the Future’ food production and social upliftment project.

Breakfasts are a casual, buffet style affair with a delectable spread of fresh fruit, yoghurt, grains, cereals, pastries, cheese board and a menu for hot English style breakfasts. Lunch is a three-course menu that can be enjoyed either in the dining room or outdoors on the sundeck overlooking the spectacular views. One should take care however to leave space for the gastronomical five-course dinner, which is reinvented daily and paired with a wine menu selected from local cellars that reflect the essence of the Cape region and its people. Special dietary requirements are catered for as is more simple fare for children.

Accommodation

Garden Lodge, which is constructed from stone, thatch and timber, is ideal for families and provides a range of 11 classic, luxury and two bedroom freestanding suites, each positioned to offer privacy. Below the lodge are horse stables and an outdoor play area with rabbits, ducks and other farm animals to provide children with hours of entertainment and facilitated educational activities.

Forest Lodge, where I stayed in unit 28, has 16 freestanding luxury suites interconnected with cobbled pathways set beneath the forest canopy.

I left my car key with the reception desk while having lunch and my luggage arrived mere seconds after walking through the front door of my suite. Clearly the staff are very observant.

Each suite is stylishly furnished to provide a blend of aesthetic beauty with supreme comfort. A cosy lounge with fireplace and ample wood provided, a small but well stocked kitchen with bar fridge, luxurious canopy beds and spacious bathrooms make this the ultimate getaway for total relaxation. Large glass doors flood the space with natural light and open out onto a spacious wooden deck perched over the forest canopy, with an outdoor shower. Despite the perfect comfort and elegance, the panoramic views of mountain and sea steal the show and humble the extravagant luxury of the suite.

WiFi is complimentary and connects using the guests room number without the need for tedious password authorisation.

The most exclusive offering in the Grootbos portfolio, and quite possibly one of the most exclusive offerings in the whole of South Africa, is the 1000 square meter Villa, which consists of six elegant suites accommodating up to 12 guests and comes complete with its own private guide, chef and butler.

Service

In hospitality, service is the de facto differentiator that separates the wheat from the chaff, and Grootbos definitely takes the cake in this regard.

For example, while dining with Forest Lodge’s general manager Sean Ingles, I happened in conversation to mention my passion for cigars. On arriving back at my suite after dinner, a Montecristo of Havanna, Cuba cigar lay presented on the lounge table complete with ashtray, clipper, matches and a personalised complimentary card. Now that’s what I call service with attention to detail!

Activities and Excursions

This is where the 6th sense analogy that I used to introduce this feature comes into play. I can well imagine that when the Lutzeyer family purchased the original farm in 1991, they must have felt the spiritual connection that the land imbues through its incredible biodiversity. Respect and appreciation of the environment are too readily dismissed as elitist affectations, whereas they underpin our physical and spiritual wellbeing.

The friendly and knowledgeable guides take pride in sharing their love for nature and the outdoors, and they know Grootbos and its surrounds like the palm of their hand and display an eagerness to share it’s many secrets with guests. Their humorous commentary and intriguing tales aim to convey science and history through stories that bring the landscape to life. Coming from different backgrounds, cultures and schooling, each guide adds an individual quality and flair to the Grootbos experience - a personal touch and friendliness beyond mere service.

For example, my guide Jo De Villiers explains that of the 9 250 species of flowering plants to be found in the Cape Floristic Region, 760 species are found within Grootbos, of which six are totally new to science, having been discovered by their own botanist, Sean Privett, and found only in this particular part of the reserve.

While all guided adventures are limited to Grootbos guests, there are a host of adventure and scenic guided tours on offer, including whale watching, shark cage diving, beach and cave tours, horse riding, bird watching, scenic flights and quad biking to name but a few.

In conclusion, I have come to realise that Grootbos Private Nature Reserve has so much to offer discerning guests, that one night in paradise is insufficient to truly appreciate this gem of biodiversity and I shall have to return. A sentiment that I am sure every departing guest has made no matter how long they have stayed.
Date of stay: February 2015
Trip type: Travelled solo
5.0 of 5 bubblesRooms
5.0 of 5 bubblesService
5.0 of 5 bubblesSleep Quality
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This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
SeanIngles, General Manager at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, responded to this review
Responded 20 Feb 2015
Dear TourismTatler2014

It was our absolute pleasure having you here and we are humbled by the fantastic review of Grootbos that you have posted on various platforms.

I look forward to welcoming you back again with a Cuban cigar in hand!

Regards
Sean
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.
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Reviewed 15 February 2015

We had a fantastic three night stay at this beautiful place in the Forest Lodge (the Garden Lodge is apparently for families). Our cottage was fabulous - beautifully decorated - lovely big sitting room with TV, wood burning stove (complete with indoor wood pile) and floor to ceiling glass doors with a wonderful view over Walker's Bay. The bedroom was very comfortable and the bathroom was superb (actually there were two bathrooms - one off the lounge with a toilet, sink and shower). The cottages are in the grounds a short walk from the main Lodge. You should keep the doors shut - there are baboons roaming free and we had one on our terrace peering in at us. Apparently they know you have fruit! The public areas in the main Lodge all have contemporary decor and are very comfortable with panoramic views down to Walker's Bay and Hermanus. There is a nice pool area. The food in the restaurant was excellent, as were the wines. A special thank you to Bennet for the world's best vodka martinis! The staff were all superb - friendly and helpful and nothing was too much trouble. There are lots of outdoor activities included in the price. You can go on guided bush walks, 4x4 jeep safaris, horse riding etc and at an extra cost you do a boat safari - this was great fun - we saw dolphins, great white sharks (they take you out to the where the braver folks are sitting in cages waiting for the sharks to appear!), seals and penguins. You can also take a flight over the bay and surrounding area. We were very sorry to leave this lovely place and hope to return in the whale watching season!

Room tip: As far as we could see all the cottages were the similar with identical views.
Date of stay: February 2015
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
1  Thank seacucumber
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
SeanIngles, General Manager at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, responded to this reviewResponded 20 February 2015

Dear seacucumber

Firstly, we can't wait to have you back again in the whale season. We sometimes have up to 140 whales in the bay that Grootbos overlooks so I hope you can arrange a trip here in future. There are so many ways to see them too, from land-based whale watching, boat trips and my favourite, by air!

Thank you for the lovely review, we'll be sure to have Bennett's famous vodka martinis ready for you and keep the sneaky neighbours in check next time too.

Regards
Sean

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 February 2015

Just spent 4 days here. The food was amongst the best we have ever had,there was plenty of it and beautifully presented. The lunch menu was the same each day bar one or two main courses and the evening menu only changed once but if you are only there for 3 or 4 nights it gives you the chance to sample everything. The staff go out of their way to be friendly and helpful and if there are any issues they are quickly sorted. My husband did the shark diving not for the faint hearted as far as sea legs to but an experience. The nature drive was lovely and informative and the horse ride was great and made a convert of my novice husband. Will definitely go again hopefully in the whale season as they have a perfectly placed beach house for watching.

Room tip: We had a luxury forest suite as the pool suites were all taken but that was not a problem as it would have been a bit chilly for a dip
Date of stay: February 2015
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
Thank victoriabristol
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
SeanIngles, General Manager at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, responded to this reviewResponded 20 February 2015

Dear Victoriabristol

Thank you for your review. You certainly made the most of your time here both on land and sea! We are delighted that you enjoyed your stay with us and look forward to welcoming you back someday in the whale season between July and December. We'll make sure the horses are saddled up and ready too!

Regards

Sean

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 February 2015

We only stayed one night, in the forest lodge section, but it was very special. A super view from the main building and your amazing room is a highlight. The chalet we had was really well designed and of great quality. Obviously a lot of thought and cost have gone into them.
Plenty of activities to do if you want (horse riding, jeep tour) and all the staff are really friendly and helpful.
If I had one criticism it would be the saviour food (the desserts are excellent). Having eaten at many of the great restaurants in South Africa it did not live up to the rest of the hotels high standards. Maybe the kitchen was having a off night?

Date of stay: January 2015
Trip type: Travelled as a couple
Thank BoroTomo
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
SeanIngles, General Manager at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, responded to this reviewResponded 9 February 2015

Dear Boro Tomo

Thank you for your review. Knowing that you have travelled so extensively, I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed the magnificent rooms and our fabulous staff. Your constructive comments on the food are also greatly appreciated and I'm very happy to hear that you got to chat to our Executive Sous Chef on your departure too.

Best Regards

Sean

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Reviewed 4 February 2015

I spent 4 nights in the Forest Lodge at the end of January and it was pure magic. The surroundings are so pure and and impressive. The staff is really friendly and the food amazing. Previous time I stayed at the garden lodge which I also like however Forest Lodge is much more modern and feels more luxurious. They are really flexible and will never say no. Please do take the Hermanus walk and ask for the Grootbos choir, it was mindblowingly beautiful! All and all, we will go back for a third time in the near future!

Date of stay: January 2015
  • Trip type: Travelled with friends
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank MargotVandeRiet
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
SeanIngles, General Manager at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, responded to this reviewResponded 9 February 2015

Dear Margot

I trust you have returned home safely and that the memories of your time with us are keeping you warm in the icy winter that you are currently experiencing! At least we know that you left us with a great tan! We would be thrilled to welcome you both back- perhaps next time with the kids (and your husbands :)

Regards

Sean

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Reviewed 1 February 2015

Just as we thought hospitality in South Africa couldn't be any better, we checked in at the Grootbos Nature Reserve. We drove from Stellenbosch via the coastal route, which was breath taking. At arrival one of the rangers was waiting for us at the parking area to guide us to the reception area where we were quickly checked in and sat at a table for a (complimentary) lunch. The view at the bay was absolutely stunning. Grootbos has two parts, one for families and one for adults only which was a great experience. The reserve has a very spacious set up. The rooms are very well designed with beautiful furniture, big windows (again, that view!) and a big bathroom. From the reserve we've tried the whale watching trip by boat and small airplane (once in a lifetime!) which left from a small landing strip (part of the reserve). We were here for two nights, but wished we could have stayed the week. Thanks to the entire team for making our stay unforgettable.

Room tip: If you're here for a romantic visit, make sure you get a room in the 'adults only' part.
Date of stay: July 2014
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank Timpossible
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
SeanIngles, General Manager at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, responded to this reviewResponded 9 February 2015

Dear Tim L

We LOVE your sunset photo- it's a special way to remember those magnificent evenings and the wonderful view from your room. What a thrill too to head up with African Wings and view the area from the air. I hope these memories entice you to return again!

Regards

Sean

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