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Humble Beginnings

Back in 1991, the Lutzeyer family purchased a 123-hectare farm on the fynbos-clad slopes overlooking Walker Bay between the villages of Stanford and Gansbaai.  

At the time Michael and his wife Dorothee were won over by the spectacular sea views and visions of family weekends spent on the farm with horses, pigs and fresh veggies, while the pink fields of flowering wild malva went a long way to convincing Michael’s parents, Heiner and Eva, that this was a worthwhile investment for their retirement. Little did they know that they were taking the first steps in establishing what would later become Grootbos Private Nature Reserve – a 2500 hectare botanical treasure trove, wildlife sanctuary and a world leader in luxury responsible tourism.

The Overberg Opens Up

Grootbos farm was granted to its first owner, Dirk Cloete, on 18 April 1831, who paid the princely sum of One Pound and Sixteen Shillings Sterling for the property. The Sir Lowry’s Pass over the Hottentots-Holland Mountain had been inaugurated the previous year, opening up easier access from Cape Town to the Overberg region. The farm was then known as Baviaans Fontein and was 2198-hectares in extent. The original farmhouse was built in approximately 1840. Over the years that followed the property was divided up into smaller portions. One of these was the 123-hectare property, including the Grootbos Milkwood forest, which was purchased by the Lutzeyer family in 1991. The Lutzeyers originally used Grootbos as a family holiday farm visiting virtually every weekend and holiday.

Laying the Foundation

In 1994 Michael decided to sell his business interests in Cape Town and develop a bed & breakfast guest farm for local patrons, joined soon after by his brother and sister-in-law, Tertius and Gabi Lutzeyer. From the beginning the Lutzeyers realised the importance of basing the business on the region’s spectacular natural beauty and diverse flora and fauna. A combination of hard work, enthusiasm, vision and strong family cooperation rapidly turned a humble guest farm into an international five-star eco-lodge and world leader in responsible nature-based tourism.

Luxury in Harmony with Nature

The Garden Lodge was built in 1996 and designed to blend into the natural surroundings and maximize the sweeping views across Walker Bay. The 11 luxury, freestanding suites were carefully placed in natural gaps on the edge of the ancient Milkwood forest.

Guest occupancy at the Garden Lodge grew rapidly to a point where it was decided to build a second lodge on the reserve. A site with equally spectacular views and another ancient Milkwood forest was chosen on the hills to the south of the Garden Lodge. The magnificent Forest Lodge opened its doors to its first guests in the spring of 2004. Unfortunately less than a year and a half later, the Grootbos Reserve was engulfed in a wild fire that completely destroyed the Forest Lodge and three of its suites. The day after the fire, work began on rebuilding the lodges. Garden Lodge, which had suffered minor damages, was re-opened to guests after two weeks. Quite unbelievably, under the guidance of Tertius Lutzeyer, the three burnt suites and six new suites at Forest Lodge were simultaneously opened to guests eight months later.

The third and most exclusive addition to the Grootbos portfolio is the Villa. Surrounded by fynbos, the Villa consists of six elegant suites with 180-degree views across Walker Bay. Here guests can relax in over 1000 m2 of utter luxury and privacy with their own private guide, chef and butler.

A Shining Example of Responsible Tourism

Since 1991, Grootbos has grown from a 123-hectare farm to now include seven farms totaling 2500 hectares of land under conservation. Over the years Grootbos staff have cleared all alien vegetation from the property, restored damaged areas and now manage the land according to strict ecological principals. The tourism development and associated non-profit programmes of the Grootbos Foundation employ in excess of 150 full time staff, some 80% of whom are from local disadvantaged communities.

These award winning conservation and social upliftment efforts combined with luxury accommodation in a pristine natural environment are the distinguishing features that make Grootbos the exceptional destination that it is today.