33km east of Hermanus is the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve with its luxurious lodges, magnificent sea views, ancient milkwood forest and richly varied and unique fynbos vegetation set at the foot of the Duynefontein mountains. The area can be explored on foot, 4×4 or horse-back with expert guides.
This area of fynbos is part of the UNESCO designated Cape Floral Kingdom, an area of ‘outstanding universal significance to humanity’ and one of the richest floral areas in the world with roughly 3% of the world’s plant species. 69% of the higher plant species are found nowhere else on earth. Among the best-recognized plant species in this biodiversity hotspot are the proteas – particularly South Africa’s national flower the King protea.
Around 320 species of land bird include fynbos endemics such as the Cape sugarbird, the orange-breasted sunbird, the protea canary and the Cape siskin.
Large mammals have largely disappeared from the area, but the endangered bontebok antelope and Cape grysbok antelope remain, as well as two species of golden mole and the beautiful caracal cat.
Whales can be seen at a distance from Grootbos, or at closer quarters from nearby fishing port of Gansbaai. Boat trips are also possible to see whales and the channel between the mainland and Dyer Island is sometimes so infested with the endangered and formidable great white shark that it is known as Shark Alley. The sharks are attracted by the huge colonies of penguins and seals on the island.
The staff of Grootbos are happy to take guests to the pristine white sand beach of nearby Walker Bay and De Kelders as well as to Klipgat Caves – an important archaeological site where 2000 year-old pieces of pots discarded by the Khoikhoi pastoralists or their San hunter-gatherer antecedents have been discovered together with stone and bone ornaments and remains of the shellfish, fish and other animals they had eaten in their cave shelter. Deeper in the cave, human teeth and beautifully preserved bone food remains have been found, from Stone Age people somewhere between 40-80,000 years ago!
Staff at Grootbos Lodges will also be happy to show guests around their township, offering an insight into modern-day living for many Africans.