Members of the Londolozi family recently travelled to the western Cape where they were hosted by the passionate and extremely energetic owner of Grootbos reserve, Michael Lutzeyer. Michael is the custodian of a pristine and beautifully preserved fynbos refuge located along the coastline overlooking Walker bay and the Kleinberg mountains. The philosophies and values of Grootbos are similar to those of Londolozi and so it was a great joy to meet up with people who can only be described as a kindred spirits dedicated to looking after rare and beautiful landscapes. The only real difference between Londolozi and Grootbos is that outside our front door at Londolozi we are greeted by leopards every day whereas at Grootbos it is southern right whales who salute you at dawn each morning.
The Reserve comprises 1750 ha of indigenous fynbos and is home to more than 740 different species of plants, including awe-inspiring 600 year old Milkwood forests. Situated 2 hours from Cape Town, the diversity of Grootbos’ terrestrial and marine eco-systems is inspiring to guests who visit. The beautifully appointed Grootbos lodges make it an ideal place from which to explore the viewing possibilities of the “Marine big five” on daily boat excursions which depart just a short distance from the lodge.
The Southern Right Whale is the big daddy of the group but no less impressive are the thousands of Cape Fur Seals which can be viewed on Dyre island in numbers up to 40 000. A highlight for any traveller is when the great white shark patrols “shark ally” and grabs an unsuspecting seal, devouring it in seconds in front of your eyes –a spectacle which has gone on since time immemorial and leaves you with an indelible memory. Visitors can complete the marine big five viewing excursion if they are lucky enough to encounter the delicate and endangered African penguin and of course the legendary Bottlenose dolphins which are found in abundant numbers in Walker bay.
It is however, Grootbos’ unwavering commitment to the well being of the people and the rare fauna of the region which is most impressive. Not only has the entire 1750 ha been preserved in a natural state but over R 4m has been injected into the local Gansbaai community in the creation of a truly spectacular sporting facility whose centre piece is an astro turf, soccer, hockey and netball field. This project which was enabled by the good intentions of Micheal Lutzeyer, has transformed the possibilities in the lives of thousands of children who live in the town and surrounding region. This project is an exemplary illustration of how quality tourism and protection of the natural wonders of our country can result in the upliftment of previously disadvantaged communities.
The Green Futures Project, which provides annual, practical-based training programs for unemployed people in the fields of sustainable harvesting of Fynbos flowers, Fynbos landscaping and horticulture, also forms part of the Grootbos business model. The embryonic beginnings of an organic self sustaining vegetable production farm coupled with walking and horseback riding safaris are hugely apparent.
The Grootbos reserve is an emerging social enterprise at the leading edge of modern day business practice in which the emphasis is on unlocking the spirit and true potential of people. The end result of this is a profitable and enduring business model. Grootbos joins other such organizations emerging in Southern Africa as Centres of African Excellence which are creating regional economic and social impact “ripple effects”. They are doing this through making meaningful contributions to the preservation of the region’s ecology, raising awareness about the great wildlife of the ocean whilst offering opportunities for individuals to thrive within the possibilities of a new economy based on the preservation and gentle use of the indigenous treasures of our country.
Over the course of two days, the Grootbos Reserve inspired us with its many amazing experiences and the Londolozi family looks forward to building an enduring alliance with the Grootbos family towards greater reverence and protection of our rare and beautiful natural treasures.
All travelers to South Africa are invited to join us on the first ever big 10 safari by combining Londolozi and Grootbos in a feast of naturalism which showcases the true diversity and possibilities of a “Natural History Safari” to South Africa.
Written by: Dave Varty & Rich Laburn
Filmed by: Stoff Kane-Berman