What makes a forest survive in an unsuitable climate? How do you reclaim an area ravaged by felling and alien vegetation? Why protect a unique ecosystem that should’ve become extinct millions of years ago? Find the answers, and more than you bargained for, under the dense canopy of indigenous trees.

Did you know?

Sixty million years ago, forests of palms, yellowwoods and euphorbias covered southern Africa's lowlands. 

If you’ve ever doubted that there is magic hidden around every corner of South Africa, pay a visit to Platbos Forest near Hermanus in the Western Cape. This indigenous forest, with its ancient trees, is considered a scientific oddity.

The forest should’ve become extinct millions of years ago when the area’s climate changed from subtropical to the warmer, drier climate of today. With no river course to feed it, the survival of this relic forest fascinates botanists. Aged trees – some estimated to be over 1 000 years old – have survived.

The Platbos experience is a personal one. Owners Francois and Melissa Krige interact closely with guests and have a wealth of information about this unique place, which they are most happy to share with visitors. The website and visitor centre are also extremely informative.

An enchanting two-hour forest trail has gentle gradients, making it ideal for young and old. See how trees of different species have formed clusters to conserve water and have created 'nutrient islands' to ensure their survival.

The forest teems with life. Bird watchers can spot flycatchers, robins and woodpeckers. At night, owls hoot from treetops. Tree frogs, toads and snakes have a home here. The Kriges’ forest camera has captured porcupines and the elusive caracal (lynx).

Stay a night or two at the rustic but exquisite Platbos forest tented camp. Sheltered and private, you’ll have exclusive use of this corner of the forest. Don’t expect electricity at this self-catering facility. Rather, make a fire and haul out the sleeping bags for a night. Beds are provided.

Platbos gets the responsible tourism thumbs up. Most of the nursery, office and household activities are powered by renewable energy sources and all waste is recycled. The nursery runs according to organic growing principles.

Through the Trees for Tomorrow Reforestation Project, you can sponsor the planting of an indigenous tree. You will assist in the reclamation of at least some of the area that, in the past, was felled to make way for cultivation and agriculture.

Visit this anomaly of nature and leave with more than when you arrived.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Platbos Forest
Melissa Krige
Tel: +27 (0)82 411 0448
Email: info@platbos.co.za

How to get here

Platbos Forest is in the Baviaanspoort Hills on the Grootbos Road between Stanford and Gansbaai. The forest is just 40 minutes from Hermanus, South Africa's whale watching capital. Please call ahead to book, at which point directions will be given.

Best time to visit

Winter is recommended as the forest's mosses, bulbs, ferns and epiphytes come to life. In summer, Platbos provides welcome relief from strong winds.

Around the area

Platbos is close to coastal towns - Stanford (for wine tasting), Gansbaai (for great white shark cage diving) and Hermanus (for whale watching).

What will it cost

Hire out the entire tented camp for R700 a night (sleeps six people comfortably). Linen can be arranged at a small additional cost. A self-catering cabin, the Old Olive, is situated next to an 800+ year-old wild olive tree (sleeps four).

Best buys

Melissa has created African Tree Essences, infused from the flowers of the 13 major tree species found at Platbos. You can take some forest magic home with you.

Related articles