The magical, mystical Diepwalle Forest near Knysna offers an incomparable woodland escape. Explore on foot, learn more about the area’s history and forest elephants, and finally fall asleep to the sound of rustling leaves. By Gaynor Siljeur

Garden Route National Park. Photo by Gaynor Siljeur

There is a reason why well-known writer Dalene Matthee wrote more than one book about the forests around Knysna. Once frequented by elephants, the majestic grey giants of the wild, these woodlands are hugely atmospheric.

A visit to the Diepwalle Section of Garden Route National Park transports you to a peaceful paradise sheltered by impressive trees. If you listen long enough, you may hear the secrets the trees whisper to one another. To get a deeper understanding of the forest, try these activities:

Camp among the trees

It’s not difficult to fall in love with the forest when you arrive at the Diepwalle Camping Decks. The tall trees cast a captivating spell once you set foot on the wooden decks hidden amongst green branches of stinkwood, yellowwood and Cape pear trees. Time stands still as you get lost in the sounds of your surroundings: birds chirping away and the sound of the rustling branches as vervet monkeys travel from tree to tree.

The campsite conveniently consists of 10 wooden camping decks, each equipped with power, a kitchen area and an outdoor braai. You can pitch your own tent under this magnificent arboreal roof or opt to stay in one of the dome tents already erected. The fixed tents have two single beds with mattresses (no bedding) and a bar fridge.

Rates: Camping deck from R230 for one or two people, R94 an extra adult, R47 a child, maximum four people. Dome tent on camping deck from R470 for one or two people.
Contact: SANParks Central Reservations at 021-428-9111

Diepwalle Camping Decks. Photo by Gaynor Siljeur

Walk along the Elephant Trails

Lace up your walking shoes for an early start as you venture into the forest. Your route: one of three Elephant Walking Trails, the same paths walked by elephants many years ago. These trails will have you exploring clear streams, colourful fungi and nature’s critters along the way. The enticing rock pool you meet on the White Elephant Trail is absolute bliss on hot summer days. The stream you cross on the Black Elephant Trail presents the perfect lunch break. The Black Elephant Trail will see you passing large forest giants like the 600-year-old, 36m-tall King Edward VII Big Tree, an Outeniqua yellowwood.

Elephant Trails. Photo by Gaynor Siljeur

Visit the Forest Legends Museum and Diepwalle Tea Garden

Elephants once roamed in their hundreds through the Knysna forests. The Forest Legends Museum, the historic treasure situated at Diepwalle Forest Station, is the answer to all your ellie questions. The museum tells forgotten tales about the large-tusked legends of the forest, as well as the woodcutters who once lived there. It is home to many historical artifacts including a complete skeleton of a Knysna elephant. At Diepwalle Tea Garden delicious sweet treats and an aromatic cup of Earl Grey await you – the perfect end to your day as recollect the day’s adventures.

An elephant skeleton in the Forest Legends Museum. Photo by Gaynor Siljeur