Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa

by  Elissa Garay | Mar 25, 2016
Horseback at Grootbos
Horseback at Grootbos / John Garay

Situated on the southernmost tip of the African continent, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, is the all-inclusive lodge and eco-sanctuary, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. This upscale, 39-room resort on South Africa's Western Cape sits on 6,200 acres that you can explore by both land and sea. We checked in and here's what we loved most:

What's Hot: Family-owned Grootbos became a charter member of the new National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World hotel collection in 2015, and was inducted for its outstanding guest experience and its commitment to sustainability, nature preservation, and attention to local cultural heritage. Bonus: Guests who book directly through the Nat Geo website can attend a private dinner under the stars in Grootbos' ancient milkwood forest enclosure, or boma.

Best Feature: The grounds and the guides. Set out on a self-guided hike through thousand-year-old, moss-covered trees, swim in a pool that overlooks Walker Bay, or, best of all, take advantage of daily included activities led by knowledgeable guides. Sign up for guided nature walks, 4x4 "flower safaris" through the rolling hills, horse riding through the reserve, and more. Further afield, guests can head out on guided excursions to Klipgat Cave (a Stone Age archeological site), go whale watching, or swim in unspoiled, sheltered bays.

The Rooms: The property's 39 freestanding, villa-style suites are arranged around two lodges --  the original, family-friendly Garden Lodge and the more modern and adult-oriented Forest Lodge, where only kids 12 and older are permitted. All of the suites (measuring from 590 square feet) have living rooms and separate bedrooms, working fireplaces, and private balconies or decks overlooking the grounds and bay. Free WiFi, satellite TV, and DVD players round out the technological trimmings.

The Food: All meals -- buffet breakfasts, three-course lunches, and five-course dinners -- are included in the rates, and both lodges offer their own bay-facing dining room, complete with outdoor terrace. Thirty percent of the vegetables served are sourced from the on-site organic garden, honey is produced in property beehives, and free-range hens provide the eggs. Cuisine is regionally inspired, including seafood specialties and locally raised meat, which, naturally, pair well with excellent South African wines. (Note that all beverages cost extra.)

Who Will Love It: Outdoorsy types can get their nature fix many times over here, with more than enough activities to spread out over a three-day (or more) stay.

Who Might Not: You're in the midst of raw nature, here, where bugs and lizards are in their own habitat. Sometimes, they make their way into yours. If you get easily creeped out by creepy crawlers, this might not be the lodge for you.

Nearby: Set out in search of the "Marine Big 5" (great white sharks, southern right whales, dolphins, penguins, and seals), from the nearby town of Gransbaai, via Dyer Island Cruises; time your visit from June through December for some exceptional whale-watching. Offshore, Dyer Island attracts the highest concentration of Great White Sharks in the world; year-round cage diving can be arranged. Shark diving is controversial, but Marine Dynamics is considered to be the most conservation-minded and ecologically responsible operator in the area. Boat excursions cost extra.

Rates, Deals, and Special Offers: You'll get full board (all meals, excluding beverages) and guided activities (including horseback riding) starting from $318 per person, per night. At the Garden Lodge, kids 3 and under stay free, and discounted rates apply for children aged 4 to 16. Note that the South African rand, the country's currency, has nosedived against the dollar since last year, making a trip to South Africa a good value for 2016.

Connect: Follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

Getting There: Fly into Cape Town (we recently saw round-trip flights out of NYC, with a stop in Johannesburg, priced from under $1,000), then it's a two-hour drive from the airport to the resort. Grootbos can arrange private ground transfers for an additional fee.

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