Perfectly pitched amidst the widespread fynbos, sandy dunes and limestone rock – all a pebbles pelt from the wild Walker Bay Coastline – lies Grootbos Nature Reserve and its season of secrets.
A place so pure and so pristine it awakens your spirit and speaks to your soul.
Here you will find 2,500 hectares of resplendent and ever-evolving indigenous vegetation and endless coastline; and it is this natural display that surrounds the unobtrusive, glass-walled five-star forest retreat that sets an invisible boundary between nature and man, consummately synergising the two.
While their private villas are ideal for larger groups; families and couples are similarly spoilt for choice with two completely unique lodges.
Forest Lodge is in many ways the more contemporary of the two, yet retaining its warmth and eco-friendly integrity. Sixteen freestanding suits sit pretty amidst the ancient, gnarled Milkwood forest – permeated by the heart-warming hum of nature’s white noise offer the ultimate escape. With an all-inclusive rate (excluding beverages and fine wines), during Secret Season the lodge boasts five chefs, six dedicated private guides, and over twenty-five service staff at guest’s disposal; discrete yet indelible all at the same time.
Distinguishing décor suffuses this remarkable retrieve, harmonizing South African art with arresting architecture and eco-modern furnishings.
Garden Lodge set on the other side of the reserve is more conducive for family stays – conventional yet spirited and crafted from stone, thatch and timber making a more traditional mark.
Speaking of families, what started out as a humble weekend break for the Lutzeyer family short of three decades ago in 1991, has subsequently emerged into a world-class conservancy and one of the finest eco-escapes in the Western Cape. Michael, the most senior of the Lutzeyer family proprietors, is renowned for ever-evolving ingenuity which we witnessed on numerous occasions during the course of our stay. Testimony to this is the fact that four of his chefs have been with him for over a decade and counting – quite something in the 21st century signified by instant gratification.
With an unyielding focus on farm-to-fork dining at Grootbos, much of the fresh vegetables and herbs used in the kitchen are sourced from the estate’s ‘Growing the Future’ initiative. A social improvement programme aimed at training local women to produce organic ingredients such as eggs, honey, pork, vegetables and fruit, all of which are sold back to the chefs. And with the ocean just about lapping up on their doorstep, there are ample seafood options on the menu which they get straight from the nearby Gansbaai and Hermanus harbours.
It is this organic approach that carries through to the wealth of unique culinary experiences in the kitchen. As part of the Secret Season, we were invited to cook with sous-chef, Ricky, who introduced us to all kitchen components specialising in various spheres from the art of plating to sweet treats.
Another of the Secret Seasons secrets was an expected surprise dinner in the estate’s remarkable wine cellar beneath the main restaurant. Lined with more flickering candles than we could count, magnificent twelve seater oak tables, candelabras and a sublime seven-course pairing menu in the cellar set the scene for sheer romance on our last evening – this being an example to expect during your Secret Season stay.
Now that I’ve evoked your appetency for it, it’s only fair to reveal its mysteries, but only if you promise to go there and taste the soul food.
After the first autumn rains the Grootbos fynbos comes to life, and with this Secret Seasonreveals her many mysteries. The Erica irregularis found nowhere else on earth transforms the luscious landscape for two months of the year into a canvas of pink hues; animals and insects feast on the flowers, ancient Milkwood’s glow with vitality in the morning dew and the ocean astirs with rare marine life.
During this time guests can harvest their own honey, glean in organic produce, prepare meals with the chef or forage for mussels on the rock-hewn coast. For a bit of adrenal adventure, horse ride, hike or take to the seas for a morning of unforgettable marine big five sightings. And when the day draws to a close, soak up the sundown with breath-taking views, over-indulge in fresh locally caught seafood, relish in fine dining and local award-winning wines and savour a nightcap under the star-studded sky beside a warm fire.
Secret Season ends 31 July 2017
Contact Grootbos Private Nature Reserve on 028 384 8053 or visit www.grootbos.com for details.