If you read this site regularly, you’ll now that it’s been offline quite a bit recently. I moved servers and platforms and all kinds of unexpected glitches came up which have been giving me lots of headaches. But I’m back now and hopefully you’ll be able to access TOAM all day every day for the rest of my life or until the world ends.
Anyway, in the midst of all the crashing, there was no time for me to tell you about my current exciting travels. I recently had the opportunity to visit Grootbos with a group of the most amazing people. I’ve been there a couple of times before, falling more in love with it each time. You might be thinking “but it’s just a hotel though right?”, so let me tell you why it’s so much more than that.
THE ROAD TO GROOTBOS
We took the coastal road through Rooiels, which is somehow still relatively unknown as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. With the huge rocky mountains stretching out ahead, the turquoise Atlantic crashing down below and the blue African sky spanning above, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road.
Before arriving at Grootbos, we stopped for lunch at Newton Johnson in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Translated, Hemel-en-Aarde means Heaven and Earth; the perfect name for this picture perfect valley. Some of the country’s best wines come from the area and The Restaurant at Newton Johnson has recently been named one of the top 10 in South Africa.
If you’ve never heard of Grootbos, allow me to introduce you. Grootbos is a luxury lodge in Gansbaai, just outside of Hermanus (about 2,5 hours from Cape Town). It’s set in the middle of a beautiful fynbos nature reserve, surrounded by a mysterious milkwood forest. It’s got endless views across the sea and the Overberg, and some of the best sunrises and sunsets you’ll ever see.
The rooms are all very private, with expansive views of the Whale Coast, outdoor showers for summer and fireplaces for winter. The food is magnificent and locally sourced, with a lot of the items on the menu grown right there on the property itself.
The hashtag for our trip (so that people could follow it all in one place) was #GrootbosMagic, and there couldn’t have been a better theme for our experience.
We watched the sunset over the Overberg with gin and orange juices in our hands, ate dinner in a candlelit wine cellar and in the middle of the milkwood forest, took a flower safari through the indigenous fynbos, went quad biking up to the top of a mountain for views that could make your eyes water, had lunch in the middle of the fynbos where it seemed that only a genie could have set it up, went great white shark and whale viewing and hunted for mussels on one of South Africa’s most beautiful and empty beaches. And the best part is that any guest who visits Grootbos will get the exact same treatment.
GROOTBOS STAR TREATMENT
I am fortunate enough to sometimes get the opportunity to stay in some of South Africa and the world’s most luxurious hotels. And in my experience, there is five star, and then there is Grootbos. Because with their location and views and the activities they offer, Grootbos could easily take their five star status for granted, which is what often happens, leading to three star service and a two star experience. But at Grootbos, every smile from the moment you arrive is genuine. Every detail is taken care of with such thoughtfulness. And the impact that the luxury property has on the local area is one of upliftment for the local community.
One of the best things about #GrootbosMagic is that everything is taken care of. There are lots of activities and experiences on offer, which are all included in the room rate. A picnic on the beach, a drive through the indigenous fynbos reserve with one of their exceptionally knowledgeable guides, horse riding through the reserve…there’s almost too much to choose from. And the food. Oh my goodness, the food! There is absolutely no way you could spend time at Grootbos without adding a few kilograms. The breakfast spread had me going back for thirds, while the lunch and dinner (and wine) left my every taste satisfied after every meal.
MILKWOOD AND FYNBOS
The Grootbos Reserve has been identified as one of the top 5 most important biodiversity locations in the world. In the small Overberg region here on the Southern tip of Africa, there are over 6000 indigenous species of flora, with up to a hundred new ones being discovered every month. Some of them will only flower for one day, making every visit to the area an opportunity to discover something new.
Now, I’m a city dweller. My apartment is surrounded by tar roads with no leafy trees or lush verges in sight. So the opportunity to breathe in the fresh air, smell the sweet herby fynbos, rub the waxy leaves between my fingers and hear the crunch of the earth under my feet is always a welcome one. I also have a particular fondness for fynbos. Maybe it’s because it’s so specific to the country I love or maybe because it thrives on fire. The minute leaves and thousands upon thousands of shades of green fascinate and excite me and I find myself examining the tiniest of flowers like a child.
Ask anyone who has spent time in a milkwood forest and they will tell you that yes, there is just something about the feeling you get amongst these knotty trees that cannot be explained. They have a mystical quality, something that seems to make time stand still, makes you sleep deeper, makes you fall in love. I believe that it’s good for the soul to be near a milkwood forest as often as possible.
You might read this and still think “ok, but it’s just a hotel, though?” in which case you had better schedule some time in your calendar for a visit. Because words and pictures can’t really explain magic, can they?