Barfing on a Plane (and Other Tales From the Overberg)

by | Apr 16, 2015 | Cape Town, Lodging, Parks/Nature Reserves, Western Cape | 0 comments

I admit it: This headline, while entirely truthful, is total click-bait. If you’re still reading then it must have worked.

A few weeks ago I spent a fantastic weekend at the Grootbos Nature Reserve, a five-star lodge in the Overberg region of South Africa’s Western Cape. The Overberg, which comprises a stretch of coastline between Cape Town and the Garden Route, is one of the most beautiful places in South Africa.

Grootbos forest lodge

The Grootbos Forest Lodge.

I was invited to Grootbos as part of a campaign called #GrootbosMagic; I visited with a group of eight blogger/photographer/videographer/writers. It was all very exciting and high-profile — there’s even a video about our weekend. (Watch the video here. You can catch a glimpse of me at the very beginning and a couple of spots throughout.)

Our weekend was jam-packed with exciting activities — I was definitely more tired when I got home than I was before I left. I need to go back to Grootbos someday so I can just relax and enjoy the view.

Grootbos deck view

The view from my chalet at the Grootbos Garden Lodge.

I’ve already told you about my amazing culinary adventures at Grootbos. But here is a quick summary of the other things I did there, including the aforementioned plane-hurling incident.

1) Sunset at the Villa

On our first evening at Grootbos we had drinks and canapés at the Villa, a very large mansion that Grootbos rents out for a very large sum of money. The Villa itself was beautiful, but the house had nothing on the sunset that night.

Sunset from Grootbos villa

I mean…

Natalie gramming

Natalie from Tails of a Mermaid, ‘gramming the sunset.

2) Grootbos Foundation Tour

Grootbos Foundation plant

Seedlings growing at the Grootbos nursery, which is part of the resort’s “Green Futures” Programme.

We received an in-depth tour of the Grootbos Foundation‘s community programs, including the “Green Futures” nursery and the resort’s sustainable farm. Many high-end resorts in Southern Africa profess to being champions of their surrounding communities, but Grootbos takes this philosophy several steps beyond the norm. The tour was inspiring.

Grootbos Foundation flower

Another lovely plant from the nursery. We also saw pigs, chickens, and a really cute cat on the Grootbos farm.

3) Flower Safari

Wild dagga

Wild dagga, otherwise known as leonotis leonurus

The Overberg is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a region filled with a type of vegetation called fynbos. Fynbos is incredibly biodiverse and while not as visually dramatic as a tropical rainforest, fynbos has a stark, delicate kind of beauty to it. Fynbos grows only in South Africa (only in a small part of South Africa, in fact) and includes thousands of different plant species.

We spent a couple of hours driving around the Grootbos reserve in an open safari vehicle, learning about fynbos from our guide, Billy Robertson.

Grootbos fynbos grass

I can’t remember the name of this plant.

Grootbos view

The plant in the foreground is called blombos, or metalasia muricata. Blombos became my favorite fynbos plant, at least during this time of year when not a lot of flowers are blooming.

Scrumpy at Grootbos

My friend Mark, aka @scrumpyjackson, dressed perfectly for a flower safari.

4) Quad-biking through the Overberg

We were given the choice to go either quad-biking or horseback-riding on our second afternoon. I went quad-biking last year in the Waterberg and was keen to try it again, so I opted for that. We rode right up a mountain and the route was a bit more rugged then the last time I went quad-biking — I was nervous about flipping over. But the view from the top was worth it.

Natalie quad bike

Natalie looking like a bad-ass on her quad-bike.

5) A walk on the beach

Overberg beach

Overlooking the beach.

We went for a walk in the Walker Bay Nature Reserve, a few minutes from Grootbos. It was insanely pretty.

Anna-Belle on rock

Anna-Belle from, on a rock on the beach.

6) Boat ride in Gansbaai

Shark-diving boat

Shark divers in Gansbaai. I had no idea that the shark-viewing cages are bracketed to the boat like that — I thought the people in there looked kind of silly. But to each his own, I guess.

We took a morning boat ride in Gansbaai, the closest town to Grootbos and the shark-cage-diving capital of South Africa. We didn’t shark-dive ourselves, which was more than fine with me. But we did see seals, penguins, and even a quick glimpse of a Brydes whale (a very uncommon sighting at this time of year).

Oh, and we saw a great white shark.


When the shark showed up the skipper of the boat yelled, “Down! Down!” and the people in the cage all gulped huge breaths of air and plunged below the surface. It was quite funny, really. But I must admit that seeing that shark, even above-water from another boat, was pretty awe-inspiring.

7) Cessna flight over the Overberg

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for.

Heather and plane

Look at me, all excited to fly around in a tiny plane. If only I’d known what awaited me. (Photo: Billy Robertson)

We were all so excited to take a flight over Walker Bay with African Wings, a small company that does tours in a tiny Cessna airplane. I hopped into the front seat of that plane ready to shoot the heck out of the Overberg from above. I even flew the plane for a while, with the encouragement of Dave the pilot. (He told me that steering the plane is good for air sickness. In this case, Dave was wrong.)

Flying plane

Look at me, I’m flying a plane. And I’m pretty nauseous. (Photo: Dawn Jorgensen)

View from plane

One of the few shots I managed before setting my camera down for good and clutching the barf bag. I guess the photo was worth it.

A few minutes after take-off, we swooped down low to look at a great white shark. From that moment on, I was finished. I spent most of the flight trying not to barf. About ten minutes before landing, I failed in my quest.

“Don’t worry about it,” Dave said, barely glancing at my green face. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, happens all the time. I’ve had all three passengers lose it at once.”

It made for a good story. No one took a photo of me post-barf.

Barfing aside, I highly recommend Grootbos. It’s stunningly beautiful, the food and service are top-notch yet understated, and the rates (starting at R2790 [$232] per person, although rates go up significantly during high season) are very reasonable compared to similar luxury properties I’ve visited. If you’re looking to splash out for a weekend, check it out.

*My travel was provided courtesy of Grootbos. The opinions expressed in this post are solely mine.


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