Luxurious Grootbos is one of my favourites. Travellers return time and again to this botanical reserve above the town of Gansbaai.
Their five-star rating is based on meticulous service, genuine hospitality, fine dining, accommodation in bespoke settings and a care-filled conservation approach that benefits guests, locals and the planet.
My first day in winter was remarkably summery. After a deliciously creamy Caesar salad with pork belly, free range poached egg and crispy anchovies on the Forest Lodge terrace, taking in the grandeur of the sweeping views across the slopes and over the wide Walker Bay to the mountain headlands above distant Hermanus, field guide Nashlin Groenewald, a local lad, took me to experience one of the winter wonders, the endemic Erica irregularis.
This pink blossom, which turns the surrounding mountains pink, is so localised that 85% are found on the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.
Since the establishment of the reserve, six fynbos species, new to science, have been discovered at Grootbos. The limestone sugarbush was also in showy bloom, as were other fynbos species.
After our fynbos safari, we headed to the bay with executive chef Benjamin Conradie and foraged for mussels, seaweed and other indigenous edibles such as samphire and dune spinach.
That was to be my dinner starter. I’ve always been a bit iffy about mussels, but it was sublime, as was the rest of my meal.
I could fill this space as much as I filled my tummy with the delightful menu options, but I’ll skip to the must-have dessert, the fynbos honey ice cream.
That delicious creaminess led me up the road to the Growing the Future Organic Farm, where I gained some insight into the workings of the meaningful Grootbos Foundation from hands-on operations manager Lindsay Hannekom and farm manager Johann Strydom.
It was hands-on for guests too and I donned beekeeping gear for a real education. Honey is made here from fynbos nectar and the Erica irregularis.
You can collect your own eggs, pick fresh organic fruit and veggies and head into the kitchen and explore the best ways to prepare your hoard, under the tutelage of Benjamin Conradie.
It speaks volumes about a place when the executive chef and key staff grow with the establishment over a decade or longer.
While I was making gnocchi, the worst storm in 30 years was raging, tossing the hardy fynbos. We took to admiring this from the comfort of the glass-walled champagne bar.
The gorgeous suites are also a great place for storm watching and the only thing I missed was the whales, which cavort in the bay in great numbers from June to November.
Having visited twice - in summer and winter - I’ve just scratched the surface of what is on offer from this jewel.
* Call 0283848000 or visit www.grootbos.com