Only two hours from Cape Town, the highly lauded Grootbos is owned and managed by the Lutzeyer family and lies within the fynbos (indigenous heath) and milkwood forests on a mountain slope overlooking the whale-watching hotspots of Walker Bay and Hermanus. It is a crossroads of flora, fauna, and marine life, where some of the world’s most unique plant, bird, and animal species come together.
There are 27 artfully crafted suites in the Forest and Garden lodges and an exclusive villa, with pleasure both inside and out that will sate both sybarite and nature lover. Specialist guides lead 4×4 drives and walks through the fynbos and forests of the reserve, trips to the nearby coast to view the Southern Right Whales from land or sea, walks along deserted beaches, visits to archaeological and cultural sites, as well as boat tours to a nearby island to view penguins, seals, dolphins, and Great White sharks.
FIRST OF ITS KIND
In 2003 Grootbos began the dynamic Green Futures College initiative on the reserve to train unskilled and unemployed people from the local community in fynbos landscaping, horticulture, and ecotourism. It is the first venture of its kind in South Africa, if not the whole of the continent.
The goal is to create out of people who were once disadvantaged a group of qualified gardeners – not just individuals who sweep and rake but highly trained people who can go on to make businesses of their own. Michael Lutzeyer’s brainchild became reality through a public/private partnership between Grootbos and the DEG (German Investment and Development Company).
The college generates funds through its plant sales, and there is an indigenous-plant nursery and fynbos-landscaping business. Over the years those sales have helped finance the college, and in the first two years all 23 students who started the course graduated, and most have gone on to find employment or to start their own enterprises within horticulture.
Following the success of Green Futures, the Grootbos Foundation embarked on another training project in 2009 to further their commitment to the local community. Growing the Future is all about food production, and eight women will be trained each year in the cultivation of vegetables and fruit, beekeeping, and the principles of successful animal husbandry.
Another project is Spaces for Sport. When the 2010 World Cup was to be held in South Africa, it was Lutzeyer’s dream to build a multipurpose facility that would fill a gap in the local community of Gansbaai, which had scant sporting facilities. He saw sport as a way to break down social barriers and bring people together on equal terms. The multipurpose sporting facility was opened in April, 2008, and here youngsters have access to professional coaching and can also learn about the environment.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“Grootbos is not only about five-star accommodation but also about conservation. We always have shown innovation and we are inspired by contributing to South Africa’s future in terms of developing knowledge and skills amongst all South Africans. In particular, we believe in developing youngsters from local communities, who in the past have not had as many opportunities as others.” (Michael Lutzeyer)