More than thirty years ago the Japanese coined a poignant phrase to explain the sense of well- being one experiences when spending time in the heart of a forest. It’s called shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”. Based on ancient Buddhist practises, the philosophy is quite simple: go to a forest, walk slowly, breathe and open all your senses. There is mounting scientific data on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. It is the best medicine for the mind, body and the soul.
It is more important now than ever to take the time to disconnect from this fast paced, techno-crazy world of ours, and to reconnect, with the natural world. With this in mind, and feeling the need for some serious 'forest bathing', I loaded the kids and the camping gear into the car and headed to Diepwalle, one of most magnificent forest realms in South Africa.
We arrived at the Diepwalle Forest Station as the last drops of a much needed, heaven-sent rain had fallen, and the combination of rain, decaying leaf litter, plant perfumes and ozone made for a powerful and heady scent which made us all stop and take a deep and mindful breath.
We had booked the weekend at one of the Diepwalle Forest Tented Decks, which are discreetly tucked within the forest, a short distance from the Forest Station. After unpacking all our gear, the kids immediately set off to explore and I sat on the deck and took in the sights, sounds and smells of the enchanted forest which surrounded me.
For many hours after the rain had ceased, I could hear the sound of raindrops sliding off the verdant leaves of the forest canopy. That and the chatter of children, cicadas and frogs. The therapy session had commenced. Later that afternoon we headed to the Forest Legends Museum, which houses fascinating stories of yesteryear; of woodcutters, timber merchants, botanists, settlers and the elusive Knysna elephant. The children marvelled at the museum's famous elephant skeleton and the stuffed honey badger.
That night around the fire, we played charades, sipped on hot chocolate and chatted into the night while a pair of owls hooted in the trees above us. We slept soundly, and awoke early, just when we could see the sun’s amber rays pierce through the boughs of a thousand trees. It was a perfect summer's day. We laced up our takkies and headed out on the Red Elephant Forest Trail, one of three walks in the Diepwalle Forest. It is marked along the route with a yellow plaque with a red elephant on it.
The kids raced off ahead of me, full of energy and enthusiasm. These forest trails have been blazed through a tightly-knit maze of diverse tree species, some so old that they rise up way beyond the canopy. I often had to remind the kids to stop and take a closer look at the intricate web of life thriving in this ancient forest sanctuary and to take the time to observe the little things along the way. Much of the beauty of the forest lies in the details, such as the velvety, bright green moss which clings to the bark of trees and rocks, which on close inspection are remarkable in their complexity; the multicoloured forest fungi that grows on fallen trunks of decaying timber; the various shades of pretty leaf litter; the wispy, pale green lichen which hangs like chandeliers from the limbs of the trees and the thick, dark green ferns which edge the pathway. Fascinating life forms wherever you cast your eye.
We spent several hours in the forest, stopping often to sit and linger and when we finally exited the comforting cloak of the forest, we felt both rejuvenated and elated. And that's pretty much how the weekend unfolded: long, languid alfresco meals at our tented deck and long, leisurely walks in the forest, time spent connecting with the natural world and with each other. I could have stayed there for a week, but the weekend had to suffice. When we left Diepwalle, our moods were elevated, energy levels increased and any stress we had arrived with was entirely dissipated. All from being one with this ancient forest. It was just what the doctor ordered.
For more info visit: www.sanparks.org
Every week Knysna & Partners highlights activities which can be enjoyed in the Greater Knysna area, from wild (sometimes adrenaline-fuelling) pursuits to milder, more relaxing options.
Wild Adventure - Acrobranch
Acrobranch is an adventurous outdoor pursuit which is guaranteed to give you a decent spike in adrenaline. Located at the Timberlake Village on the N2 between Sedgefield and the Wilderness, this above-the-ground obstacle course is constructed between the sturdy limbs of a lofty old pine forest.
When we arrived, we were introduced to our friendly and upbeat guides, Ole and Ashley, who fitted us with the necessary safety harnesses (designed to keep participants locked onto a zip line throughout this tree top adventure.) Once we were fully kitted out, we were taken through a brief training session on how to safely move between the trees.
For the next couple of hours we were professionally guided along a series of swings, balancing acts, nets, bridges, and other equally challenging aerial activities. It takes a little bit of time before one feels completely comfortable manoeuvring over the course and getting used to using the safety clips. The height of the obstacles caught me a little off guard at first and I took a deep breath of the pine-scented air in an attempt to calm my nerves. After the first few obstacles, however, I started to feel a little more relaxed and comfortably assured that I was in safe hands. If you have a fear of heights and want to overcome that fear, this adventure is perhaps the place to do it, because it is entirely safe if the safety measures are adhered to at all times.
The series of 48 obstacles are cleverly designed to test your mettle, strength and flexibility and it provided hours of entertainment. The last in the series is a 102m, gravity-assisted zipline which will transport you back to solid ground! It is certainly a good laugh when done with friends, because of the fear factor that some of the obstacles pose and the show of bravery required to get through some of them.
(There is also the very popular Acrotwigs Course for the youngsters!}
So get that heart racing and get hooked with Acrobranch! Bookings: 086 999 0369 or visit www.acrobranch.co.za
Mild Adventure – Garden of Eden
Looking for a place to enjoy a short forest jaunt with the family and a leisurely family picnic? There is an ideal spot just outside of Knysna called the Garden of Eden which boasts a pristine remnant of Afromontane forest. It is the perfect place to introduce young ones to the magic and splendour of our legendary forests, and will surely instil a lasting reverence for our natural world.
The route through this forest gem is suitable for everyone. It comprises an 800m circular board walk which is very child friendly and also wheelchair accessible. The boardwalk is flanked on either side by magnificently large indigenous tree specimens and lush tree ferns. Gently flowing streams transect this little piece of paradise. Many of the trees are marked and visitors are therefore able to can gain a better understanding of this ecosystem and the remarkable web of life it holds. There are several smaller trails which lead off the main walkway, so you can meander off a little further into the heart of the forest if you wish to. There are facilities set amongst the forest to enjoy a nice picnic.
Costs: R12/adult, R7/child. There is a small office at the entrance. Outside office hours you are allowed to enter and do the walk.
Directions: Next to the N2, about halfway between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
Summer is in full swing and Knysna & Partners will be highlighting many of the varied activities which can be enjoyed throughout the Greater Knysna area over the season, from wild (sometimes adrenaline-fuelling) pursuits to milder, more relaxing options.
Mild Adventure _ Moonlight Meander & Starlight Trail
Judy Dixon's has been conducting her legendary Moonlight Meander educational walk for 18 years now and it is one of the most popular activities in the region. Her classroom is one of the region’s most prized, and popular natural assets: Gericke’s Point. On these walks Judy Dixon provides insight into the fascinating life cycles and incredible adaptations of the many creatures that can be found thriving within the intertidal zones of our Garden Route coastline. A marine biologist and accredited field guide, Judy exudes a real passion and love for the sea’s complex web of life. Her knowledge is spellbinding. Evening and spring low tides provide the perfect opportunity to observe the various species of life found within the myriad of tidal pools. During the day, many are hidden away in nooks and crannies to avoid predators, but at night the tidal pools visibly teem with life of all shapes and colours; spiny starfish, octopus, crabs, purple urchins, plum anemones, giant periwinkels, orange nudibranch and a variety of fish. Throughout the tour, Judy gives a fascinating commentary about this most enchanting tidal pool spectacle.
Wild Adventure – Sail through the Knysna Heads
The aesthetic nature of the Knysna Estuary and adjacent rugged coastline provide our local sailing operators with the perfect backdrop for charters. You will start by gliding across the the iconic Knysna Estuary, which holds a profusion of life above and beneath the surface. As you approach the aperture of this estuarine system you will immediately be in awe of the towering sandstone cliffs that rise up on either side. This dynamic environment shifts continually in accordance with the tides and the conditions at sea. Some days a safe passage through the heads in not possible. But when conditions are right, vessels can navigate the heads and sail out into the open ocean, moving parallel to the spectacular craggy coastline, propelled by nothing but the wind. So cast off the bowlines and raise sails to the wind, it will be an adventure of a lifetime.
Operators: www.springtide.ca.za, www.featherbed.co.za , www.southernyachting.co.za
Summer is in full swing and over the next couple of months, Knysna & Partners will be highlighting many of the varied activities which can be enjoyed throughout the Greater Knysna region, from wild, adrenaline-fuelling pursuits to milder, more relaxing options.
Wild Adventure – Sandboarding with Dune Adventures
Our Greater Knysna coastline is well known for its long, sweeping beaches and sinuous coastal dune fields, which serve as the ideal playground for sandboarding - an adrenaline-peaking adventure sport which has seen a spike in popularity in recent years. It is somewhat similar to snowboarding in technique, but instead of carving up powder-white snow, one careens swiftly over soft sand dunes instead. Sound like fun? Well, if you are keen to test your mettle on our local dune fields, call local adventure company Dune Adventures. They offer sandboarding tours perfectly geared towards adventure seekers, kids and families looking for a great day outdoors. All their guides are fully trained to instruct you on how to ‘carve up your first tracks’ on these soft dune fields or to hone your existing sandboarding skills. They use only professionally built boards with high quality straps designed for the sole purpose of sandboarding. Instruction takes place on an ideally suited dune in Brenton on Sea which is well known among South African sandboarding enthusiasts as one of the most superior in South Africa for sand quality, dune heights and ease of riding
Cost: R350 per person for 2 ½ – 3hrs.
Bring along: Sunscreen, sun hat, sunglasses, tons of energy and a sense of adventure!
Mild Adventure – Bird Watching at Rondevlei Bird Hide
Are you looking to escape the madding crowds? Head out at dawn to the Rondevlei Bird Hide, the perfect place to enjoy quiet reflection and the pleasant observation of our avian wonders. Part of the Wilderness Lakes System, Rondevlei is a very special natural asset, and one of three interconnected lakes linked to the Indian Ocean. All three lakes support such an amazing variety of bird species that it was designated a Ramsar site in 1991; meaning that it has been acknowledged as a wetland of international importance and thus worthy of special protection.
These wetlands cradle immense biodiversity, supporting high concentrations of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrate species. They play an important ecological role, such as providing nursery areas for fish, and feeding and staging areas for significant populations of resident and migratory birds. At the Rondevlei Bird Hide, may be lucky to have sightings of Yellow Wagtails, Greater-crested Grebes, Red-knobbed Coots (which can number here in their thousands), Purple Herons, Blacksmith Plovers, Purple Swamphens.
Other birds seen here include the seasonal roosting of the African Spoonbill, and the Malachite Kingfisher, (this bird is a resident which is very often seen at the hide as it fishes from the dead stump). Other highlights of this small pan includes both the Black-eared and Great Crested Grebes, (the former is relatively rare, the latter nest on this pan and may be seen in fishing flocks of up 50, where they drive shoals of fish into the shallow water for capture.)
The bird hide is located about 5km from Sedgefield and is accessed via Wilderness National Park Research Laboratory at Rondevlei.
Summer is in full swing and over the next couple of months, Knysna & Partners will be highlighting many of the varied activities which can be enjoyed throughout the Greater Knysna area over the season, from wild adrenaline-fuelling pursuits to milder, more relaxing options.
Mild Option – Stand up Paddling
The Greater Knysna region is characterised by many diverse and beautiful bodies of water. We have an estuary, two lagoons, several lakes, meandering rivers and, of course, an extensive coastline. One of the most popular and rewarding ways in which to explore these liquid landscapes is on a Stand Up Paddling (SUP) board.
Stand up Paddling is one of the fastest growing watersports in the world and is an ideal recreational activity for those seeking to soak up the splendour of our region. It is relatively easy to learn on calm waters and is thus ideal for beginners. This traditional Hawaiian sport is a lot of fun and provides a full body workout that promotes balance and strengthens the body's core muscle groups.
There are several service providers in the area which offer SUP lessons, excursions or rentals for those keen on navigating our diverse liquid realms.
Tony Cook Adventures: www.tonycookadventures.co.za
Ocean Odyssey: www.oceanodyssey.co.za
Afrovibe Backpackers: www.afrovibe.co.za
Wild Option – Paragliding
Have you ever dreamt of soaring on coastal thermals? Well the Greater Knysna area is a genuine Mecca for paragliding, because our warmer months deliver the ultimate thermal conditions necessary for this fast growing, adrenalin-fuelled adventure sport. If you travel through our area along the N2 during this time, you may be witness to the regular spectacle of summer skies peppered with the colourful ‘wings’ of high-flying adrenalin seekers.
The allure of paragliding is not merely the ultimate sense of freedom that hanging around high up in the sky gives you. Another plus is that, at such elevation, you are able to quietly grasp the absolute loveliness of this part of the world; a never ending coastline fringed by forested dunes, mountains, lakes and estuaries.
There are several different launch sites used by the various operators in the area, and the site for each flight is chosen according to whether the essential thermal conditions are present.
Dolphin Paragliding: www.dolphinparagliding.co.za
Altitude Paragliding: www.altitudeparagliding.com
Cloudbase Paragliding: www.cloudbase.co.za
Flytime Paragliding: www.flytimeparagliding.com
The Greater Knysna Area is the perfect playground for a child. There are a wide range of entertaining activities which promise not only rip-roaring fun but which also afford children the opportunity to connect with - and gain an appreciation of - our natural environment.
Knysna & Partners presents just a few popular outdoor pursuits for adventurous youngsters.
Hit the Pump Track
Make your way to the Garden Route Trail Park, which is situated in Barrington at the base of the lofty Outeniqua Mountain range near the Karatara River Gorge. Along with a host of single track trails, the park has a really popular Pumptrack which boasts fluidly designed loops which keep kids entertained for hours on end. The park’s Trail Café, which is fully operational during season, offers choice treats, coffees and coolies.
Mini Magic Buffalo Bay Horse Rides
A firm favourite with youngsters, Mini Magic offers horse trails and rides for young and old and is situated on the beautiful Buffelsbaai Road, halfway between Knysna and Sedgefield, less than 1 km from the N2. The stableyard lies on the banks of the Goukamma River, right next to the Riverdeck Restaurant.
They facilitate horse rides for big and small, on horses ranging from thoroughbred down to miniature. Their horses are selected for temperament and dependability.
Call Adri: 073 251 3122
This delightful spot, situated near the Buffalo Bay turn off, sits right on the banks of the cola coloured Goukamma River is an ideal spot for kids and families looking to while away the day. A large collection of one-man and two-man canoes, hydro-bikes and paddle boats are available for hire (with life jackets included for your safety.) A total of 50 canoes are available.
Surf the dunes
Sandboarding is an activity which has seen a massive rise in popularity over the past few years and it is the perfect beach activity to get the blood flowing this winter. It is similar to snowboarding in technique, but instead of carving your way through the snow, one cruises over soft sand dunes instead. Our coastline comprises endless beaches and coastal dune fields, providing the ideal terrain for this growing sport.
Brenton-On-Sea and Dune Adventures is a local adventure company which offers 3hr sandboarding stints geared towards adventure seekers. All their guides are fully trained to instruct you on how to ‘carve up your first tracks’ in the soft dune sand or how to hone your existing sandboarding skills.
Situated in the Goudveld Forest, this is a favourite picnic spot among locals and very popular for visitors to the area as well. If you are looking to spend a day embraced entirely by nature, this is the perfect setting in which to do it. It is situated on the banks of a gentle stream which cuts through a dense tract of indigenous forest, a site ideal for youngsters to play. Dotted along this stream are lots of picnic spots from which to choose.
There are a couple very enjoyable walks to enjoy in this section of forest, one being a 3.1km circular walk perfect for the family. This is Knysna’s natural world at its best!
Permits obtainable from the Goudveld entrance gate at Bibby's Hoek.
Sanparks, Thesen Island Office - 044 302 5600
Get up and go Stand Up Paddling (SUP)
Stand Up Paddling is a fast growing water-sport that is relatively easy to participate in and which gives you a great core body workout. Ocean Odyssey has several boards for hire by the hour. Boards are launched from their jetty on Thesen Island, from where one can explore the calm waters of this popular island’s waterways and to take in the lovely scenery of the iconic Knysna Lagoon.
A Wild Adventure
Wildwoods Tree Adventures Acrobranch, located at the Timberlake Village on the N2 between Sedgefield and the Wilderness, is an obstacle course constructed above ground, between the leafy limbs of lofty trees. All of the 48 obstacles are designed to test your mettle, strength and flexibility and it provides hours of entertainment for kids. Once you are kitted out with a safety harness you will have a thorough training session that will let you know how to move through the trees on your harness. Then you will set off on a guided tour of swings, balancing acts, nets, bridges, and other equally challenging aerial activities.
After two and half hours of Tarzan fun, you’ll be safely transported back to the ground on a 102m, gravity assisted zip-line, which is sure to get your heart racing. For the less adventurous, or those with time restraints, they offer 2 shorter stages, as well as the Monkey Moves course for the young adventurers.
This is just one of many things to do at the Timberlake and is the perfect place for a family outing. There is a Wildwoods Adventure Land, Go Quad biking, a delightful Fairy Garden that will transport your child into a world of the fantastical.
Tel: 078 251 4458 / www.acrobranch.co.za
Take a walk in the Garden of Eden
Are you looking for a place to enjoy a short forest jaunt with the family. There is an ideal spot just outside Knysna called the Garden of Eden which boasts a pristine example of Afromontane forest. It is the perfect place to introduce young ones to the magic and splendour of this verdant realm, and will surely instil reverence for our natural world.
The route through this cathedral of nature is suitable for everyone. It comprises an 800m circular board walk which is very child friendly and also wheelchair accessible. The board-walk is flanked on either side by magnificently large indigenous tree specimens and lush tree ferns. Gently flowing streams transect this little forest gem. Many of the trees are marked and visitors are therefore able to can gain a better understanding of this ecosystem and the remarkable life it holds. There are several additional trails which lead off the main walkway, so you can meander off a little further into the heart of the forest if you so wish. There are facilities within the forest where one can enjoy a lovely picnic.
Costs: R12/adult, R7/child. There is a small office at the entrance. Outside office hours you are allowed to enter and do the walk.
Garden of Eden Office - 044 532 7793, office hours - 8:00-17:00
For many years the small seaside town of Buffalo Bay, (fondly dubbed Buffs) just 20km from Knysna, has lured those drawn to sand and surf. It is a hub for water sport enthusiasts; surfers, stand- up paddle boarders and kayakers often frequent this relatively sheltered beach. There are several surfing instructors who offer children surfing lessons. It is the perfect place to take your kids so that they can begin to appreciate the wonders of our marine environment. There are often dolphins skimming through the surf.
Call Tourism for a list of operators: 044 382 5510
Hit the beach
Kids are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches in this area. The Greater Knysna Area baosts which stretches of shoreline that will delight and amuse. Go soak up the sun, ride the waves, breathe the salt air and have good old fashioned fun!!!
Knysna’s famous breath-taking estuary offers an array of boating activities by various operators, all of which serve to reveal the beauty and showcase the diversity of this vast liquid realm.
Set in a beautiful natural setting on a 24 hectare estate, Adventure Land offers you a day never to forget. Relax on the large lawns or on one of the wooden decks. Enjoy a picnic or have a braai and watch your family and friends enjoy the water activities and playground. For the hungry, there is a take-away kiosk. Centrally situated between Plettenberg Bay & Knysna with easy access off the N2.
Pezula Championship Golf Course is located in Western Cape, South Africa, in the picturesque town of Knysna, the jewel of the world famous Garden Route.