Grotto Bay is a small speck on the West Coast. Not many know about this coastal town, so I took a drive to see what treasures it has to share.
The quaint town has incredible coastlines, with beautiful hues of green formed by the variety of plants growing at the Grotto Bay Private Nature Reserve.
One thing I know for sure in South Africa, we live in changing times. I’m reminded of this as I sit around a table discussing the concept of ‘lobola’. Around the table is (one half) champion of Ultimate Braai Master, John Grundlingh and his beautiful wife with our delightful hosts, Lisle and Anja. John has prepared the most succulent steak and we dig right in with no hesitation. The patio is filled with laughter, the wine is flowing and the mosquitoes seem to be having an equally wonderful time as they nibble on us.
Lisle, a former marine engineer and his wife Anja (originally from Germany) moved to Grotto Bay to start Samhadi Retreats. They tell us more about the reserve and we learn about the species roaming the estate, such as the African wild cat, duikers, rock dassies and honey badgers.
The estate is made up of beautiful modern houses that surround the Private Nature Reserve and the lovely beach stretches into the horizon. I can tell by being here that the locals have established a good balance between developing the estate and protecting the environment.
My morning alarm is the sound of crashing waves and birds chirping. The weather is exceptionally warm and we jump into Lisle’s Land Rover Defender for a drive into the Grotto Bay Private Nature Reserve, which is a kilometre from the house. The Land Rover glides through the sand and Lisle is kind enough to give me a 4X4 lesson. Access to the reserve is available to people living on estate as there is only one entrance. Visitors are also welcome to explore the reserve, but need to report to security at the gate first.
The Private Nature Reserve is 378000 hectares and forms part of the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve. The air is fresh and a feeling of tranquillity washes over me as we make our way towards the walking trails. There’s nobody on the reserve except us and we find out about the many plants that can be used for cooking or medicinal purposes.
Grotto Bay is also a wonderful destination for spotting whales during whale season. At the starting point of the walking trail, Lisle tells me about the great birding life on the Nature Reserve. The locals have started an African Black Oystercatcher Conservation and Breeding Programme, to protect the vulnerable birds and other beautiful species to see include the Cape sugarbird, the Namaqua dove, Crowned plover, Cape turtle-doves and the Orange-breasted sunbird.
Also read: The whales are back!
A kilometre drive from the reserve is Pebble Beach. The rocks and pebbles here are different colours, shapes and sizes. My friend Lebo has the artistic vision to collect a few pebbles to decorate her apartment and I can’t wait to see them stacked together in a vase. I simply have the urge to lay directly on the rocks and pebbles. Beneath me, I hear every crash and shuffle of the pebbles as the water brushes against them. The highlight of my weekend is the silence and serenity that this majestic place has to offer.
Grotto Bay is a wonderful getaway for two that won’t break your budget. Whether or not you decide to continue further and head to Langebaan, Philadelphia or Melkbos… well that will be up to you!
Plan your trip to Grotto Bay
From Cape Town, take the N1 to connect to the N7. From the N7, take exit 31 on the left to follow into Melkbosstrand. Follow Melkbosstrand Road for eight kilometres before turning right onto the R27 West Coast. From there, it’s an easy 30 kilometre drive into Grotto Drive. Allow an hour (without traffic) from Cape Town.
Need to know
If you plan on spending a weekend in an establishment that offers a self-catering option, stock up on food and drink items in the city, as the shops in Grotto Bay are a few kilometres away from each other.
Samahadi Retreat Getaway has four separate rooms with en-suite bathrooms. The rooms upstairs have magnificent sea views. There is also a small spa pool, braai facilities and a garden for relaxation available for you to use. Meals are charged additionally. From R 448 per unit per night, tel 0224922146.
Veni Vidi Amavi is situated 300 metres away from the beach. This loft is suitable for two who want to escape the city or go for a romantic break. Here you are guaranteed complete privacy. The space is open plan and you go for an adventure on the Private Nature Reserve. From R 1005 per night.
Go hiking or walking. There are four hiking trails, free of charge on the Grotto Bay Private Nature Reserve. Best way to explore area is on foot and it is incredibly safe. The trails vary from 3 kilometre short walks to 15-kilometre distances. The walks/hikes range from easy to moderate.
Spot a variety birdlife at the Nature Reserve. The Grotto Bay Private Nature Reserve was declared in 2002. There are over 150 bird species to see.
Pick some pebbles at Pebble BeachI will go back to Grotto Bay specifically for Pebble Beach. This is absolutely free.
Shop at ArtisanThe local community of the West Coast believe in supporting one another. The arts and crafts from Artisan are all created locally by the locals. There is a wide variety of beadwork, art pieces made of wire and the best part of it all is the materials used to produce these products are all recycled goods.Tel 0712005172
Roosterkoek R27. Drive along the R27 to the Puma Petrol Station, a popular pitstop, and you will find a bright blue container. A firm favourite with many locals and holiday goers Roosterkoek. Roosterkoek serves the most delicious waffles, breakfasts, biltong and fresh roosterkoek. Roosterkoek employs the locals in and around the West Coast to give them skills and to allow them to earn an income. Tel 0724479344.
John Grundlingh’s Pop Up DinnersThe 2014/2015 Ultimate Braai Master SA winner for two years straight cooks from the heart and believes in bringing people together. That’s why he hosts pop up dinners in his home. John explores the ocean every day and forages the shores. These meals all come from Mother Nature. The meals usually combine fresh seafood from the ocean that he has caught himself and herbs planted in the Nature Reserve. He prepares fresh three-course meals on the braai and is fully booked until March next year. The cost for a six-course meal is R500 per head. You can also expect a full foraging experience where you forage, clean and prepare seafood and kelp yourself. Tel 0722925991