I look ridiculous but I really don’t care.
My white jumpsuit is a little large and rumples around my knees where it is tucked into bright blue wellington boots. Long sleeves that end in thick gloves add more bulk to my arms, and I really don’t have a “hat face”. This hat is white, wide and has a long mesh veil that prevents me from adjusting my reading glasses which are stuck on top of my head, under the hat of course.
Walking in this get up is a major achievement !
We are going to explore the mysterious life of bees at one of the many Grootbos hives.
We stand around in the wintry sunshine while Johan the resident bee keeper applies his smoker to the hive.
Suddenly there are bees everywhere. They are all over us buzzing furiously.
I have a moment of panic and then close my eyes and stand quite still. I slow my breathing and think good thoughts about bees as they buzz all around my face. I breathe in the sweet and spicy scent of the fynbos and hope the bees are feeling my positive vibe.
In case you were wondering, photography and bee keeping don’t really go well together. My fingers are clumsy in the heavy protective gloves and bees are sitting on my shutter or crawling over the lens. There are so many bees in front of my face that I can’t see much.
I did my best.
Only the females sting.
Males spend all day mating with the Queen.
Females go out get nectar to feed the young, pollinating flowers in the process.
The colony is highly structured and bees are very industrious, especially the females.
The Sun Dance is an intricately choreographed dance used by the bees to communicate. The objective being to identify the precise location of food in relation to the sun.
Feeling relaxed around the bees now I attempt a few more pics. A gentle breeze blew the mesh of my hat onto my face and an angry Apis Millifera got me on the nose.
No harm done, the sting was pulled out a few minutes later and apart from a few moments of a burning nose and a watering left eye, I was as good as new within half an hour.
On reflection, if I was a lady bee, I might also be inclined to ill temper given the unfairness of the bee lifestyle. The male bee mates and rests all day while she has to see to the hive, feed the kid bees, look after the colony, build the wax comb for the Queen to lay her eggs in, and pollinate flowers.
The honey produced at Grootbos has a distinct fynbos flavor and is used in their famous Fynbos Ice Cream desert. Definitely try some.
Just Pure, a Hermaus based company use the bee products to manufacture lotions, creams and soaps for Grootbos. Trust me, you will want to buy these products from the Grootbos shop before you leave. They make great gifts if you can bear to part with them.
Even horses have bad hair days.
Apparently horses do not like wind but they love to snack on fynbos.
My horse amusingly named Lightening, is known for her gentle nature and slow gait, but also for her determination to take a bite out of every single Metalasia muricata, or Blombos that we passed, and it grows prolifically at Grootbos.
Initially I tried to stop her from this constant snacking, but when I heard that horses hate wind, given the mild gale we were riding in, I indulged her. I could see she was having a really bad hair day and I empathised with her comfort eating.
Horseback is a perfect way to experience the fynbos, the views from the higher slopes of the Grootbos estate out over Walker Bay, and the sounds and smells of nature.
Flowers for days
Tiaan, our guide is a mine of information when it comes to fynbos, birds and beasts that inhabit this estate. He can point, talk and answer questions all day as we bump along in our game viewing vehicle. His enthusiasm is infectious and the level of his passion is revealed when he is out the vehicle and happily immersed in the undergrowth.
Soon he has us all smelling, crushing and tasting various plants as we make our way to the pride of Grootbos, the Erica Irregularis. Eighty percent of the global population of this plant is found on the Grootbos Estate with the remaining twenty percent in the immediate area between Stanford and De Kelders. We found quite a few of these pretty pink bushes flowering, and apparently they turn the landscape into a pink wonderland towards the end of July and early August.
The adventurous Chef
You won’t get mussels fresher than this.
About two hours before dinner we joined our guide and one of the chefs on a trip to the beach to collect mussels. A short drive from Grootbos takes us to De Kelders and a scramble and walk along the cliff paths.
Unluckily for us the tide was high and the waves were crashing onto the rocks. A few of our party stayed on the cliffs to watch the waves, they stayed dry.
We joined the team climbing over rocks, slipping into pools and dodging mighty waves to get the bounty from the sea. Invigorating stuff.
The cliff paths and beaches here are wild, spectacular and home to ancient caves, fish traps and the mysteries of ancient times. Sadly we had to get back before dark, but these beaches offer entertainment for days.
In the kitchen with purple potatoes.
Everyone knows I’m not a foodie and now it’s true confession time, I thought gnocchi was a pasta shape. Imagine my surprise when we were invited into the kitchen to watch / help the chef make gnocchi from purple potatoes.
It still looks like pasta to me, but it tasted good. True foodies will get a real kick out of the Secret Season “‘in the kitchen experiences”. You can harvest your mussels and help the chef prepare them for your dinner.
Read about the food and wine experiences at Grootbos on Kathryn’s blog here.
With it’s strong ethic of conservation and community upliftment, Grootbos has a number of great projects linked to their Green Futures program.
We took a walk around the organic gardens and saw the veggies and herbs that will end up on the Grootbos table. The recycling, no waste projects are impressive and fully embrace sustainable living.
Our guide was assisted by four year old Jonathan who brought his snake skin along and pointed out various curiosities to us in a delightful lisp. Sadly I don’t have a pic of his “thnake thkin”
The Secret Season covers the chilly Cape winter months and the estate offers excellent dining, roaring fires and invigorating activities to ward of the cold in style.
Grootbos is wonderful in any season. Situated just before Gansbaai in the Overberg it is the perfect escape for a luxurious immersion into nature. Grootbos is about a two hour drive from Cape Town, or a short fly in you happen to own a small plane, they have a landing strip for your convenience.
The suites are five star all the way with views to die for, and all your needs are catered for to ensure a pampered experience.
The Overberg is also known for it’s spectacular sunsets at this time of year., so do take a camera.
Other activities on offer during the Secret Season include an Eco Cruise with Marine Dynamics to see the Marine Big 5. Various other excursions can be booked via the front desk at Grootbos, and the staff will advise you on the best activities for the prevailing weather conditions.
The towns of Gansbaai and De Kelders have plenty to offer, get inspired here.
So, if you want to know a secret, get yourself off to Grootbos between May and July.
Watch the Secret Season video here. https://youtu.be/b3mo-hcnon4
Disclosure. My visit was a media trip, opinions are my own.
Thanks to Nicky Arthur PR and Grootbos for hosting me.