South Africa | adventure, beach, eco-friendly, honeymoon, lgbt, safari, solo, sustainable, tailor-made | lodge | beach, coastal, forest, mountain, private, reserve | luxury
Wind your way through an ancient Milkwood Forest as you stroll between your luxurious suite and the lodge itself, feeling serenity settle over you like a delicate mist. Grootbos Forest Lodge is a masterpiece of sophisticated and contemporary design, reflecting the breath-taking natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. Nowhere else would you be able to enjoy one of the world’s most biodiverse environments and the changing colours in the Southern sky quite like this.
With its clean lines, elegant ceilings and expansive windows, Grootbos Forest Lodge is the place to retreat to for blissful contemplation and for connecting with yourself or nature. Fringed by the peaceful Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, the Forest Lodge features 16 freestanding luxury suites, accentuating the rolling hills of fynbos and majestic mountains. On a clear day, it’s possible to see all the way to Cape Point.
Forest Lodge - Grootbos, R43 Gansbaai 7220, South Africa
Grootbos Forest Lodge is set in the pristine wilderness of the Grootbos Private Game Reserve, surrounded by 2,500 hectares of incredible flora and fauna including 868 plant species – 100 of which are endangered and 6 which were new discoveries, 118 bird species, 29 mammals and 21 amphibians.
Surrounded by breathtaking panoramic views, Grootbos Forest Lodge overlooks the stunning Walker Bay where guests can watch the arrival of the incredible migratory southern right whales. Each year, the whales travel to these sheltered waters to breed and calve, and guests are most likely to be able to view these magnificent animals from June to November. The reserve lies approximately 50 km east of Hermanus and is less than a 2-hour drive from Cape Town.
Guests can reach Grootbos Forest Lodge by flying to Cape Town International Airport and then taking the 2-hour scenic drive to the lodge. The drive is on tar roads, making it accessible for all cars.
- Situated within the 2,500-hectare Grootbos Private Game Reserve
- Beautiful panoramic views of the wilderness and Walker Bay
- Verdant landscape with over 860 plant species
- Home to the Marine Big 5
- Bird and whale watching
- Ancient Milkwood forests
- Award-winning cuisine & wines
- Restorative spa and beauty salon
- Swimming pool
In 1991, the Lutzeyer family were struck by the beauty of what was once a small farm on the fynbos slopes overlooking Walker Bay, so much so that in 1994, the family moved away from their lives in Cape Town and established a B&B on the site. After years of hard work and perseverance, the land was transformed into the amazing reserve that stands there today, a haven for wildlife and 2500 hectares of botanical splendour.
The lodge features an exquisite restaurant offering a culinary and sensory experience, fresh flavours and award-winning wines. As the evening descends, cosy fireplaces and subtle lighting create a warm, romantic atmosphere. Orientated towards the setting sun, every evening offers another grand spectacle of light and colour, allowing guests to bask in the dappled glow and unwind in this magical and stylish architectural haven.
Hermanus has a Mediterranean climate, meaning that the summers are warm and dry, and winters are cooler with a higher chance of rain. Rainfall is light from November to April and the temperatures are warm and pleasant. The wettest time of year is between May and August, and temperatures will be around 17 degrees.
A stay at Forest Lodge is the ultimate way to restore, destress and reconnect. Accessible via a charming cobbled pathway beneath the ancient forest canopy, the free-standing suites are exquisitely decorated in soft natural palettes with elegant furnishings. Relax on your private wooden deck offering panoramic sea views and enjoy a refreshing outdoor shower while watching the mesmerising sunset.
The spacious one-bedroom suites feature a luxurious king-size bed, with a modern en-suite bathroom that includes a large egg-shaped bathtub and separate rain shower. The Forest Lodge Suites also include a comfy lounge with a cosy fireplace, underfloor heating, and a luxurious canopy bed with secluded, untouched forest and ocean vistas. Sleeping 2 adults, the suites are ideal for a romantic getaway.
Guests can experience fine contemporary cuisine at Red Indigo. Forest Lodge’s restaurant offers stunning panoramic views of Walker Bay and the mountainous plains capped with fynbos while sampling flavoursome meals made with fresh ingredients – some of which are home-grown at Grootbos’ organic farm.
Whether you choose to sit out on the deck in the fresh air or huddle up beside a cosy fireplace, guests can enjoy an unforgettable culinary and sensory experience. Admire incredible ocean views and taste award-winning wines from local producers, all recommended by the expert sommelier, while a range of delicious dishes are brought to you.
Race across the verdant landscape on horseback and admire the sweeping vistas and beautiful natural environment of the reserve. Guests of all skill levels and varying experience are welcome on this adventure, from novices to experienced riders.
Venture out on a relaxed ride through the fynbos on one of Grootbos’ trained horses. The lodge also offers a 3-hour beach horse ride along the Walker Bay coastline, starting among the fynbos, through the dunes and then onto the beach. The beach is ideal for a gallop or a gentle canter.
Beach rides are at an additional cost and are advised for experienced riders only.
Set amidst the serenity of a Milkwood Forest or near lush, landscaped gardens, Grootbos Spa provides a sanctuary where tension is dispelled and stress melts away. Healing hands and natural, locally sourced products all add to the tranquil experience, ensuring you leave calmer, stronger and more centred.
After a day of activities, indulge with a treatment at one of the luxurious treatment rooms, within the privacy of your own suite, or even in the forest where guests can be at one with nature. The Spa features two fully equipped Bloom beauty centres. Set deep in the Milkwood Forest and just a short walk from Forest Lodge, guests will be surrounded by the sound of trees swaying in the wind and may even spot a shy bushbuck coming to visit.
Breathe in the unique Grootbos smell of the buchu-scented beauty products and feel the release as a highly qualified masseuse works on your weary shoulders. Offering everything from shiatsu to facials, manicures to massages – time spent at Grootbos’ wellness spa is a sure way to unwind and regain a true sense of well-being.
Visit the Southernmost tip of the continent for a day filled with vivid storytelling, extensive natural beauty, and a host of unusual encounters. This specially crafted day trip will show you the undiscovered corners of this unique area through a combination of experiences you won’t find anywhere else. Snap unforgettable pictures of the Southern tip of Africa, watch the locals feeding stingrays in the Struisbaai harbour and uncover the fascinating history of the small villages – Baardskeerdersbos and Elim.
Spot birds, antelope and ostriches as you’re driven along the border of the Agulhas National Park, where the blue crane bird is abundant. You’ll enjoy a leisurely lunch in the harbour, take a brisk walk to the lighthouse, and learn how many ships came to be wrecked along this ‘Cape of Storms’. Those that desire can additionally participate in wine tasting. Tours can be organised to cover a full day or half-day.
Grootbos is perfectly positioned on the doorstep of a marine paradise, allowing you to visit one of the only places in the world that plays home to such an extensive range of marine wildlife. Witness these fearsome, graceful, and comical creatures in their own aquatic wonderland. Float alongside curious, majestic Southern Right whales and chuckle at humorous colonies of African penguins.
You will be sailing on a purpose-built eco-friendly tour vessel as you enjoy a trip led by experienced marine biologists and guides. You will learn fascinating facts onboard about marine life, with the emphasis always on conservation. Witness thousands of cape fur seals basking in the sun, catch a glimpse of some fearsome great white sharks or delight as bottlenose dolphins surf right by the boat.
Each year, from June until November, Walker Bay plays host to the magnificent Southern Right Whales who visit the bay during breeding and calving season. The protective bay and its rocky outcrops provide a safe shelter for the whales’ babies and guests can gather along the coast and view this amazing spectacle. Grootbos’ guides know all the best spots for admiring the gentle giants and can teach you fascinating facts about the whales and their newborn calves.
Sail out into the South Atlantic Ocean with Dyer Island Cruises and look out for the incredible Marine Big 5: whales, sharks, seals, penguins and dolphins, as you glide across the foaming waters. The boat trip sets off from Kleinbaai Harbour and the vessel is large enough to comfortably seat 20 guests, with an onboard toilet and upper decks for incredible whale viewing.
Drinks and snacks are provided during the 2-hour trip and the expert guides will be able to teach you a wealth of facts about the whales as well as other interesting information about the magnificent marine life. Whales can be very curious and may even swim right up to the boat to get a better view of their human audience.
Experience the pure rush of Great White Shark cage diving at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. The shark capital of the world, Gansbaai is home to an array of amazing aquatic creatures, and divers and adventurers should not miss this unique and exciting opportunity. Guests will be able to spend a few hours on the water to view the Great White Sharks from the boat or even dive beneath the surface and watch these astonishing and beautiful predators from the safety of a shark-proof cage.
No diving experience is required.
Enjoy a peaceful botanical safari and marvel at the breathtaking flora that covers Grootbos’ beautiful landscape, including 100 species of endangered plants and 5 completely new species that were discovered here. Once you have listened to one of Grootbos’ experienced guides and learned about the plants and flowers, you will have a new appreciation for plant life and our incredible natural world.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is home to over 800 recorded plant species, spread across 2,500 hectares of pristine wilderness. Learn how a sunbird’s beak fits perfectly into a flower, why the honey that the bees at Grootbos produce is completely unique and how important ravaging fires are for bringing forth new life.
Spend a relaxing afternoon at the beautiful beach, lying back on the white sand and listening to the soothing sounds of the ocean, watching the sapphire horizon for whales and enjoying a gentle stroll along the tranquil shore. Guests can explore the unique coastal ecosystem and enjoy a delicious picnic lunch while taking in the breathtaking views and warm sunshine.
Grootbos will transport you to and from the beach, as well as provide you with any equipment or accessories needed for enjoying a perfect beach trip. Guests can even go on guided tours and learn about the unique intertidal ecosystem, amazing marine life including the marine big 5, local vegetation and flora and more.
Grootbos Private Game Reserve is home to a wide variety of incredible rare and endemic bird species. Guests can watch these beautiful creatures as they flit across the sky, feeding and seeking others in the rich green habitats that surround the lodge. A birder friendly establishment endorsed by Birdlife SA, Grootbos is an amazing setting for watching the local birdlife, including amazing species such as the malachite sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, and Orange-breasted Sunbird. The knowledgeable guides are able to help bird watchers find the species that interest them the most and can provide a range of interesting facts about each of the winged creatures.
The diverse habitats – from fynbos, Milkwood and Afromontane forests to riverine scrub and mountain slopes – accommodate at least 120 different bird species, and almost a third of them are endemic to Southern Africa, including the Knysna Woodpecker, Cape Clapper-lark and Southern Tchagra.
Klipgat Cave is a historical site in Walker Bay, which was once home to Middle Stone Age people from approximately 70,000 to 80,000 years ago. Archaeological findings have suggested that the people who lived here long ago were able to live off the land, consuming plants and small animals such as dune mole rats, tortoises and hares.
Klipgat Cave, meaning ‘stone with a hole, is an important cultural site which documents the lives of those who first lived on these lands and offers a glimpse into how they lived. The remarkable window-like openings in the limestone rock offer amazing views of both the bay and the ocean.
Recovered relics such as chiselled tools made from bone, shell beads and pendants, and ostrich eggs which were fashioned into water flasks have been put on display at Cape Town Museum.
Guests can enjoy a gentle stroll through the 3 ancient Milkwood forests which have stood on the reserve’s ground for over a thousand years, or venture up the fynbos covered mountains and get an elevated view of the stunning grounds and incredible wildlife. Look out for exceptional birdlife and beautiful plants as you wander through this natural haven with an ocean backdrop.
Guests can choose to set off on guided walks or independently, and the trails are well-marked. Learn about the amazing ecosystems and learn to recognise the delicate plants and flowers
Enjoy a river cruise aboard the Lady Stanford river boat as you meander along the waters of the scenic Klein River, toward the Hermanus lagoon. The modern and eco-friendly riverboat features four-stroke boat engines which make little sound, allowing guests to get a closer look at the natural wildlife and admire the beautiful and colourful scenery without distraction.
The luxurious riverboat is manned by a qualified skipper and an experienced interactive guide will be on hand to teach you about the river and the important sites and creatures around it. The Klein River is home to over a hundred bird species, including the majestic fish eagles, incredible pink flamingos and the rare blue crane. Guests may also spot wild otters, bontebok and horses grazing on the verdant riverbanks as you travel towards the lagoon.
Take a tour of the grounds and learn about the story of Grootbos, and how it works alongside the community and environment with conservation and community projects that support both the local wildlife and people. Guests can learn about sustainable and progressive tourism and how this is helping to change local peoples’ lives for the better.
Enjoy the thrilling sensation of riding down the mountain to the sand dunes on a bike. The trail is sandy and narrow, but offers an exhilarating experience as guests fly down the sloping landscape and view the amazing natural setting at Grootbos.
Once down at the dunes, guests can make their way to a downhill section and learn about riding down the dune. Guests can also stick to easier rides and travel around the sides of the dunes rather than over the top. The dune can feel impossible and treacherous, but the sand will slow the bike down, giving a sense of control.
The Grootbos Foundation is a non-profit organisation which was launched in 2003 in order to conserve critically endangered fynbos plants, as well as offer support to Grootbos’ surrounding communities. The foundation focuses on Community, Culture, Commerce, and Conservation, and allows guests staying at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve to help give something back to the area in which they are staying. They conduct research into a range of environmental and social issues and then plan ways to resolve them.
‘All of our projects are replicable and scalable, with many generating their own income or becoming partially self-sustaining. From coaching soccer, computer training to clearing alien vegetation, each programme has been carefully considered to build a brighter future for the people who live here, as well as the environment.’
Siyakhula is a programme that runs a number of initiatives focusing on education, enterprise and employability, and a number of these projects also concentrate on food security.
‘Siyakhula, an isiXhosa word meaning ‘It is growing’, has evolved from our first agricultural training project which taught farming, beekeeping and animal husbandry skills into a more comprehensive and far-reaching career and employability-driven enterprise creation initiative.’
The Grootbos Foundation has partnered with Early Childhood Development centres in Masakhane to help implement important governance and administration practices so that they will be able to register with the Department of Social Development. This will support working parents by providing child care options which are not only safe but also filled with fun and educational activities to help nurture them from a young age.
The project also offers skills training workshops to empower young people and help them gain more employability skills to broaden their career options. Young entrepreneurs who show potential will be able to take part in workplace experiences, internships and courses, and complete a business development programme designed to help small enterprises. Successful small business presentations will receive seed funding and mentorship in order to help get them off the ground.
The Masakhane Co-operative Farm serves as a farming space where members from the greater Gansbaai community can receive agricultural support. Local people are able to grow fresh produce either to feed themselves and their families or to sell in order to earn an income. This provides a self-sustainable livelihood and helps to prevent people from going hungry.
A lot of produce is bought by the Grootbos soup kitchen which has been supporting the community throughout the difficulties presented during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Green Futures Indigenous Horticulture and Life Skills College gives QCTO accredited training to 12 unemployed young adults each year, offering them the chance to develop employability skills and market themselves in return for contributing to the conservation and promotion of the unique biodiversity of Walker Bay.
‘The fully accredited course combines essential life skills like personal finance, business skills, computers, driving and health education with knowledge of environmental and conservation issues, and skills of horticulture and landscaping. On completion of their course, the students are awarded a nationally (QCTO) accredited certificate in horticulture and are assisted in work placement. Successful students can also apply for a second year of tuition in (FGASA) field guiding level 1.’
Over 118 young people have graduated from this training and 90% of graduates have found employment afterwards.
The Green Futures Nursery is a commercial enterprise which generates an income for the Green Futures College and teaches students how to propagate endemic fynbos plants and trees which are indigenous to South Africa. The nursery also has a landscaping team that offers its services to local municipalities and private individuals.
Unemployed women can also be trained to become local Alien Vegetation Management and Clearing Teams. These women work with the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy and remove invasive plants that can cause damage to indigenous plants and soil and consume too much water. Private landowners match the funding and employ the teams to remove the invasive alien vegetation from areas that have great conservation value. So far, this project has given 61 unemployed people from the local area a chance to work and gain an income.
Grootbos’ award-winning Football Foundation was launched in 2008, ‘with the construction of a multipurpose sports facility, including a showpiece, a full-size, third-generation (3G) FIFA standard artificial soccer pitch (sponsored by the English Premier League), situated at the cusp of traditionally segregated black, white and coloured areas of Gansbaai.’
Sir Dave Richards, former chair of the English Premier League, gave a lot of support throughout this process and continues to contribute funding to the project. The Overstrand Municipality, ABSA Bank and the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport all gave additional support with funding equipment and maintaining the facility.
‘The Football Foundation runs football, netball, hockey and athletics training sessions in Gansbaai, Stanford and Hermanus, which engage approximately 2000 youths each week.’ Awareness programmes that teach about HIV, female empowerment, environmental education, proper nutrition, enterprise development and integration are also provided. The programme aims to support and empower communities through sports and by offering ‘accredited skills training and leadership opportunities, and simultaneously promote education, health, social integration and participation through sports. Today we facilitate a great number of projects for 9 000 youth in the Overstrand, six days a week.’
The Football Foundation’s sports development programmes consist of five training days each week, and matches, tournaments and coaching clinics at the weekends. The programme provided trained and dedicated coaches and volunteers who run coaching sessions for a variety of sports including football, netball, hockey, cross-country, athletics, female rugby and cricket. This supports the youth in the Overberg area at 16 different schools and offers a safe place for 6-19-year-olds to develop their skills and gain confidence.
The Green Futures Conservation project was established to create a ‘statutorily binding Protected Environment within the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy.’ The project aims to provide long term conservation solutions within the region, and protect indigenous vegetation from the threat posed by the spread of alien invasive plant species, illegal ploughing for agriculture, the overharvesting of wildflowers and fires.
Exotic and invasive tree species are removed from the nature reserve and its surrounding areas to protect the indigenous diversity as well as natural water sources and rivers which can be overcome by invasive species that consume more water. Wildfire risks are managed and those working to support this project are rewarded with employment and the chance to earn an income while supporting Walker Bay’s biodiversity.
The Green Futures Conservation and Research Team conducted their first entomological survey at Grootbos in 2018, and continue to investigate the various vegetation and learn about ecology to help protect the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy.
Insect surveys are carried out in order to allow Grootbos to gain an understanding of the roles that insects play within their floral diversity. ‘By investigating all groups related to the various vegetation types that occur on Grootbos, from Milkwood forest floors to Overberg Sandstone Fynbos. Our entomology research targets ecological questions, such as influences of topography and fire on insect occurrence and persistence.’
The Green Futures Conservation team is also responsible for fire management and help with developing plans to manage summer wildlife so that the delicate ecosystems are not completely destroyed. While wildfire is a natural part of the Fynbos biome and critical for the germination and regeneration of some species, the fire management team are able to reduce the risk to infrastructure during wildfires and help sustain long-term ecotourism within the region.
In 2006, after a devastating fire consumed large areas of Grootbos’ ancient Milkwood forest, the Future Trees Project was created to help restore the areas and rebuild forested sections on the reserve. By using aerial photographs from 1937, the team were able to design a recreation of what the reserve looked like previously and use this to restore the forests as they were. The trees used were grown in Grootbos’ own nursery to ‘ensure local genetic sources were maintained.’
Since 2008, 7557 indigenous trees have been planted through this programme, including White Milkwood, White Stinkwood, Pock Ironwood and Wild Olive.
Children aged 12 years and over are welcome at Grootbos Forest Lodge