Spending time in a forest is good for the soul. Stay at one of these charming woodland retreats to savour the hush of the forest and meet the birds and animals that call it home. By Gaynor Siljeur

Each year on 21 March, as South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day, the world also commemorates International Day of Forests. And what better way to appreciate South Africa’s enchanting forests than indulging in a woodland stay? Escape to these forested protected areas for peace, tranquillity and stunning views.

Grootvadersbosch Cabins, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

Have you ever yearned to escape to enchanted woods? Nestled in the Western Cape’s Langeberg region, Grootvadersbosch is a place of towering trees and mossy boulders. You can easily imagine magical creatures hiding among the undergrowth.

For a magical forest getaway, check into one of the reserve’s self-catering cabins. They are arranged in two rows – one row overlooking the ancient yellowwood, stinkwood and ironwood trees of the indigenous forest, and the other with expansive views of the valley.

All cabins have two bedrooms, a bathroom, fully equipped kitchen and a lounge with a built-in fireplace. Each cabin also has a covered braai and dinner area or kuierkamer – perfect for chilling out with friends and family after a long day of forest walking. Six of the units have garages and units 1-3 were designed with Universal Access in mind.

Good to know: Best bring your own wood and charcoal as the reserve is experiencing a shortage.

Cost: From R1,100 a night for the first two people during off-peak season, R230 an extra person. During peak season R1,560 or R1,760 depending on the cabin size.

Contact: CapeNature Call Centre at +27 (0)21 483 0190 or book online.

Read more about Grootvadersbosch in Wild 46 autumn 2019.

Admiring the beautiful forest view from the cabin. Photo courtesy of CapeNature.

Also read: Overnight hiking in Boosmansbos Wilderness Area

Knysna Tree Top Forest Chalet, Garden Route National Park

You’ll be blown away by the natural power that pervades Harkerville Forest. To tap into this force of nature, take your mountain bike on one of the MTB trails leading between the trees. Afterwards enjoy secluded bliss in four-star comfort when you stay at the Tree Top Forest Chalet, an enchanted hideaway high up in the canopy.

Situated between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, this two-bedroom chalet is perched on stilts to give you a bird’s eye view of the forest. Enjoy the vista from a lounger on the large wooden deck or scan neighbouring branches for forest-dwelling birds like the Knysna turaco or Narina trogon.

This cosy wooden chalet is equipped with all sorts of creature comforts: dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer, DStv, and indoor and outdoor fireplaces. Each bedroom has its own bathroom and since the chalet is alone in the forest, you’ll know complete seclusion.

Good to know: Due to the chalet’s remote location, guests must check in at the Garden of Eden kiosk by 17:00 on the day of arrival.

Cost: R2,341 for 1-2 people a night, R485 an extra adult, R243 an extra child (maximum 4).

Contact: SANParks Central Reservation Offices at +27 (0)12 428 9111 or book online.

The luxurious bedroom at the chalet.

Diepwalle Camping Decks, Garden Route National Park

Feel at one with nature when you overnight at Diepwalle Camping Decks. This campsite consists of 10 wooden camping decks which are situated amongst the trees. In the morning you’ll be woken by birdsong and during the day you can listen out for the tell-tale rustle of creatures bustling about the ferns.

This campsite has been designed with convenience in mind. Each deck has a braai and kitchen area plus electric plug points. The communal ablutions have hot showers and visitors have access to the communal fridge, washing machine and tumble dryer. If you don’t feel like pitching your own tent, opt to stay on one of the decks with a permanent tent.

Good to know: Tents and mattresses are available to rent from the Diepwalle Forest Office. Firewood is also available for purchase at the office.

Cost: R217 for 1-2 people a night, R89 an extra adult, R45 an extra child (maximum 4). Permanent tent R444 a night.

Contact: SANParks Central Reservation Offices at +27 (0)12 428 9111 or book online.

FamilyDiepwalleCampingDeck-KarinSchermbruker-Feb2013

The camping decks at Diepwalle plunge you into the magical forest. Picture by Karin Schermbrucker.

Buffalo Valley Forest Lodge, Goukamma Nature Reserve

Buffalo Valley has the best of both worlds: a serene river and a magical forest. Hidden away in the tranquil Goukamma Nature Reserve between Sedgefield and Knysna lies one of the Garden Route’s best kept secrets. This stunning forest stay ensures complete privacy on the edge of the Goukamma River.

The two-bedroom self-catering timber lodge sleeps four people and has a fully equipped kitchen and lounge area complete with a fireplace – perfect to cosy up to during the cold winter months. It also boasts a big sundeck looking out over the indigenous trees of the milkwood forest, the ideal spot for keen bird watchers to sit and admire the rich birdlife.

Good to know: Visitors can follow a short boardwalk to a private jetty. Why not take the canoe out on the river for a morning paddle?

Cost: R1,060 a night during off-peak season, R1,700 a night during peak season.

Contact: CapeNature Call Centre at +27 (0)21 483 0190 or book online.

Goukamma Nature Reserve

The sundeck is perfect to view the rich birdlife. Photo courtesy of CapeNature.

Bhubesi Camp, Hlane Royal National Park

Wake up to breathtaking views of the Swazi bush when you break away to one of the six self-catering cottages in Bhubesi Camp. These family cottages are situated in Hlane Royal National Park along the lush banks of the Muluzane River. In this corner of Eswatini (Swaziland), mahogany and leadwood trees are abundant and birding is the main activity.

Each cottage has two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a well-equipped kitchen and an open-plan lounge-diner centred around an inside fireplace. There is a private braai area outside where you can contemplate the world and have long fireside chats. Bhubesi Camp is a welcome destination for small groups, self-drive guests and birdlife enthusiasts.

Good to know: Visitors have to check in at Ndlovu Camp (14km away) with at least 30 minutes’ time left to drive to Bhubesi Camp. Movement to/from Bhubesi Camp is not permitted after dark.

Cost: R740 for one person a night, R1,060 for two people, R1,350 for three people and R1,640 for four people (maximum 4).

Contact: Big Game Parks Central Reservation office at +268 2528 3943/4 for more information. Make a booking online or email [email protected]

The cozy stone cottage. Picture courtesy of Big Game Parks.

Langebos Hut, Addo Elephant National Park

Nestled within the spellbinding Alexandria Forest in the Woody Cape section of Addo, Langebos is an inviting hideaway for keen hikers. With over 300 bird species recorded and bushpig, common duiker, grysbok and blue duiker calling the forest home, Alexandria rewards walkers with sightings aplenty. Visitors can pick up the 7km Tree Dassie Trail from the Woody Cape reception or tackle the two-day 32km Alexandria Hiking Trail, overnighting at Langebos before and after.

The camp has two huts, each sleeping up to four people in two bedrooms, and featuring a fully equipped kitchen, bathroom and open-plan lounge. You might never want to leave the outside deck with its view of the forest. There is also a central braai area to ensure some good family bonding around the fire.

Good to know: Guests have to book the two huts simultaneously which means you have the entire camp to yourself.

Cost: The base rate is R1,455 for four people a night. An extra adult is R260 a night and an extra child R130.

Contact: SANParks Central Reservation Offices at +27 (0)12 428 9111 or book online.

Picture courtesy of SANParks.

International Day of Forests 2019

The theme of International Day of Forests for 2019 is ‘forest and education’. The focus for the year is to bring awareness on how sustainably managed forests contribute to the surrounding areas.

Also read: One-of-a-kind park accommodation