Tall windows showcase unforgettable sunsets.
Built on a hillside where a continent ends, two oceans collide, and the smallest of the world’s six floral kingdoms flourishes, the lodges of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve are uniquely positioned to capture the magic of South Africa’s Western Cape. Below, Walker Bay stretches to the horizon, home to the “marine big five”: great white sharks, southern right whales, seals, penguins, and dolphins; and vast coastal caves bear traces of a Stone Age civilization. Blanketing the hillside with bright, intricate flowers of every shade is the fynbos, or “fine bush,” a hardy, complex plant family endemic to South Africa.
The reserve was named Grootbos—an Afrikaans word meaning “big forest”—for the enchanting milkwood forests that cover the hillside. The lodges were built into natural clearings in these gnarled, ancient trees. Both acclaimed restaurants feature excellent cuisine with a focus on local seafood, and they, like the stylish suites and the elegant common areas, are all oriented toward an expansive, breathtaking vista of mountain, fynbos, and sea.
It’s quite something to hear a lodge owner describe with glee the fire that charred his hotel and much of the surrounding land. But Michael Lutzeyer is not just any lodge owner, and as much as he loves the ecotourism retreat he has created, he also loves the fynbos—which rely on fire to germinate. In the aftermath of the 2006 fire, 70 new plant species were discovered on Grootbos Reserve, and an exquisite, new Forest Lodge was built in record time. The fire has gone down in Grootbos history as a triumph of both nature and man.
Once the Lutzeyer family purchased this hillside in 1991, they spent years buying up adjacent plots, removing invasive species, and returning farmland to fynbos. A recent survey revealed a remarkable 765 fynbos species at Grootbos, 100 of which are endangered and six that had never been discovered before. To conserve this unique biome and support the local community, Grootbos runs an extensive conservation and horticulture training program for students from nearby villages; 80% of the staff also come from these communities. Close community connections are a hallmark of Grootbos, and art, music, and local life are an integral part of the experience.
Guests who reserve their space through National Geographic Unique Lodges are invited to an exclusive dinner in the enchanting Milkwood Forest boma. Enjoy a delightful private dinner served by a dedicated waitstaff surrounded by thousand-year-old trees.
From its earliest days, Grootbos has been dedicated to improving the livelihoods of local communities through sustainable tourism practices. Their Green Futures College trains young adults from the Gansbaai area in conservation, giving them the skills and confidence necessary to become employable while contributing to the preservation and promotion of the region’s unique biodiversity.
As part of the curriculum, students develop and maintain the environmentally friendly gardens at Grootbos. Their landscaping services and the sale of plants provide income to the college and help students pay for their tuition, thus creating a self-sustaining business model. On completion of their course, students are awarded a nationally accredited certificate in horticulture and assisted in work placement. Every year, three of the best students are given the opportunity to work at the Eden Project in Cornwall, England. The lodge proudly employs many of its graduates and has helped others find private employment elsewhere.
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