Grootbos Villa. Gansbaai. South Africa
Why we love it
This spectacular and lavish home is filled with valuable artworks and equally stylish architecture and fittings. The wide and stunning views of the Walker Bay coastline seem to fill every window of the house and so does the botanical fynbos wonderland which makes this region one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world. The dramatic coastline has fascinating archaeological sites dating back hundreds of thousands of years and Walker Bay is a magnet for whales who come very close to shore.
What to expect
The house is fit for a king with a deck nearly 40 meters long. It has 6 elegant suites and has space in abundance to host 12 guests. There are two large living rooms, dining room and media room with big screen and projector. The kitchen is a focal point for the living area and the villa comes with a chef, butler and field guide to keep you and your family entertained. This is a home for large families and groups to enjoy time together and the BBQ area and large private pool are designed for outdoor living. There's a fine selection of local wines and private wine tastings can be done in the cellar and if you have to do a little business, there's a fully equipped office with Wifi.
What to do
Grootbos is situated on the Agulhas Plain in the heart of the Cape Fynbos Lowlands - and the very knowledgeable field guides that work here transform its science into stories. They offer guided walks, drives and horse-riding through the 25000 hectare reserve's fynbos and ancient milkwood forests. You can also enjoy 14 kilometres of pristine coastline renowned for its black oyster catchers, seals and whales. Then there's nearby Gansbaai which offers some of the best boat-based Great White shark viewing in the world. A trip to Klipgat caves tells stories of strandlopers who lived off the sea and it's not so very far from the Hemel-en-Aarde Winelands and Hermanus town. Scenic flights are on offer to see the mountains, vineyards and shipwrecks and the 'Flight of Giant's concentrates on whale spotting. The sustainability tour is a must.
Kids Grootbos believes and succeeds in inspiring, educating, enthusing and exhilarating children. The reserve is a kids paradise where they can explore their natural surroundings. Little guests can collect their own breakfast eggs laid by the free-range chickens, feed the horses and pick fresh produce from the vegetable garden. They can also go on wonderful outrides on horseback, join treasure hunts through the Milkwood Forest or join some of the fun in the games room. Our kids loved the horse riding and the private cinema in the villa.
The good news
The non-profit Grootbos Foundation is a far-thinking conservation and social developmental program which has established a training programme that has produced hundreds of budding horticulturalists who've worked on the re-establishment of fynbos at Grootbos and gone on to find work in other areas. They have built an astroturf soccer pitch and other sporting facilities for the local community and initiated many other commendable projects including a sustainable vegetable garden and husbandry project, which supplies the lodge with much of its food. The Grootbos Field Guide is one of the most detailed and long term botanical studies undertaken of the Cape flora and discusses the 750 fynbos species, 107 birds and 21 reptiles found within the reserve. Grootbos has done a great deal of work rehabilitating this area and were it not for the efforts of the Lutzeyer family, who bought this land 20 years ago, the entire mountain would be dominated by alien species and not by the wonderful fynbos that you see today.
When to visit
From July to November, the Southern Right Whale graces Walker Bay with its massive presence. August is the height of the birthing season when calves as young as a couple of hours old with their protective mothers can be seen from vantage points at the Villa. Gansbaai is also the best place in South Africa to see great white sharks year round. During the winter months, July to September there are frequent rains and chilly evenings: ideal if you plan to stay indoors and light a fire. The enchanting spring flower season is at its height from August to October.The whale watching and shark cage diving operator we recommend for their sustainable, ethical approach is Marine Dynamics: http://www.sharkwatchsa.com/en/home/
How to get there
It's a scenic 2-hour drive from Cape Town to Grootbos, situated between Hermanus and Gansbaai.