Grootbos Private Nature Reserve - Gansbaai, South Africa
We stayed at Grootbos April, 2009 and liked it very much. We had rented our own car and drove from the Constantia area to Grootbos. It took several hours but the scenery along the way was interesting and pleasing. Of course, road construction was not fun but that is the same everywhere. Grootbos actually has two lodges-a Forest Lodge and a more Family oriented Lodge. We had reserved the Forest Lodge and upon arrival was taken to a lounge area for a welcome drink, check in, and sort of an informational session with a staff member. They pride themselves on education, giving back to South Africa and improving employee's lives. A lot of staff are brought from George and Durban areas and educated in hospitality management. They also have a nursery growing native So African fflora and fauna with each employee having their own garden that they can sell plants or vegetables to locals and make some extra spending money. Some staff is more knowledgeable than others but we have found that everywhere. However, all staff were friendly and warm and welcoming.
Our villa was the fartherest away from the main lodge which wasn't objectionable as you are walking through a milkwood forest and enjoying the sights along the way (if spiders scare you, be careful). As to the villa itself, the accomodations were comfortable and luxurious. There is a huge living room, bedroom and a large bathroom. We never could use our plunge pool as it was quite cold but had the option of the main swimming pool if we so desired. The property is located on the side of a mountain and from our villa we could see all along the coastline (when the seafog wasn't a problem). The food is great and while each meal doesn't have a full restaurant menu, there is a choice of main courses options. You can dine in the restaurant or out on the restaurant deck which offer great views of the coast. There are no nearby restaurants but your meals are included in the package so that is not a problem.
We went horsebackriding on the property and enjoyed it although this would not be a top priority for me in the future. There isn't much to see and there are more things to do. We also took a property tour with a staff member and other guests and got to see the other lodge, the nursery, the milkwood forest and other interesting things. We enjoyed that although again, if you are scared of spiders, I would suggest that you skip the milkwood forest part. There are no spiders in your room or the lodge but when you are out in the land areas, there are a lot. There were three activities that we highly suggest - 1) a Beach Safari with a staff member who took us down to the coast and through caves and explained the history of the people. We saw fossils and cave drawings and enjoyed the different scene. We also walked along the beach and enjoyed the sights. On the way back to the car, we encountered a Cape Cobra and got to add it to the many reptiles we saw on the trip. 2) We wenton a Marine Safari arranged by Grootbos with Dyer Island Cruises/Marine Dynamics. It was great to see the Cape Fur Seals, the Penguins, Great White Sharks, and Whales and learn about them. The only one of the Marine Big 5 that we missed was a dolphin. But we were so excited about the Penguin conservation program, that we bought a Penguin House and have a Deed now saying that we are South African Land Owners. 3) We returned the next day back to Marine Dyamics for a Great White Shark Cage Dive. It was fabulous. Unfortunately, something you can't predict is the weather and we had a pretty bad day with the waves and visibility. But we still saw and photographed a approx 20 ft Great White Shark. An experience we will never forget.
All in all, while our stay was not the most pampered of our packages, it was truly enjoyable and fun. Food was great, accomdations great and the staff wonderful. Leaving Grootbos, we drove back an alternate route along the coast which was unreal. It took 2 hours longer (maybe cause we had to keep stopping to gaze) but not regretted one moment. Unbelievable Beautiful!