Loves and life on the Garden Route in South Africa

Through the eyes of volunteer coordinator and crazy cat lady, Sharon

Is South Africa the best place to road trip? September 22, 2014

Is South Africa the best place to road trip?


The Big Tree and walks in Wilderness on the Garden Route in South Africa

The Big Tree & Forest Walk in Wilderness

by Desiree Haakonsen on 31 July, 2014 · 0 comments

Post image for The Big Tree & Forest Walk in WildernessMy kids and I are often off on mystical adventures with fairies, dragon birds, and giant grasshopper people. Fairy tales, nature, and creative play are a big part of our life, so we couldn’t pass up an outing to the Big Tree during our holiday in Wilderness.

The Woodville Big Tree is a giant old Outeniqua Yellowwood that has become an icon and popular attraction in the indigenous forests of Wilderness. Although it seems to have shrunk in the 20 years since I last visited it (oh the physics of age), its large crown is still a favourite nesting spot and its fruit is enjoyed by bats, bush pigs, and birds like the Knysna Turaco and Cape Parrot. Although Yellowwood is still used for furniture and construction, it is a protected tree under the National Forest Act.


Big Tree stats

Age: Over 800 years old

Height: 33m

Crown width: 34m

Circumference of stem: 12m

Stem length: 15m


Wandelpad Forest Walk

We expected a bit of a hike through the forest to see the Big Tree, but it’s only 80m from the parking area. Luckily, just past the Big Tree, you’ll find the very easy Wandelpad Forest Walk. This beautiful circular trail is only 2km long and follows a well-marked path through the forest, crossing the occasional moss-framed bridge and trickling stream. You’ll spot gnarled old trees, curtains of ferns, wild mushrooms growing on tree trunks, and pretty flowers showering in thin rays of sunlight. Many of the trees along the path are labelled so that you can identify them.

Distance: 2km

Difficulty: Easy

Permits: A free self-issue permit is available in the parking area, at the entrance to the forest. Permits are to be presented to officials upon request.

Fees: None



There is a designated picnic area at the parking lot and in the forest. There are ablutions and wheelchair-friendly walkways through the forest.


Getting there

Take the Hoekwil Road from the N2 in Wilderness. Hoekwil Road becomes the old Knysna-George Road and is well-marked with signs to the Woodville Big Tree. The Big Tree is approximately 16km from Wilderness and you’ll be spoiled with the most gorgeous panoramic views over the valley. GPS coordinates: S33 56.058 E22 38.698


Here are some photos from the forest:










The Woodville Big Tree and Wandelpad Forest Walk is a wonderful way to spend an unhurried day in the leafy Wilderness forest. Have you visited the Big Tree?


Another great blog from the “Going Homeless Project” :Photostory : Clifford’s Cave February 5, 2014

You can find the webpage at:

Photostory : Clifford’s Cave

August 15, 2012 by stu | 4 Comments

While hiking to Victoria Bay from Wilderness along the old Tjoe Tjoe Railway track, i encountered the cave dweller Clifford. Here’s the photostory.

the front door


You can read about the Going Homeless Project’s time in Wilderness here

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Wild walks and cave dwellers …

This was taken from the blog “The Going Homeless Project”

Wild walks and cave dwellers …

June 29, 2012 by stu | 2 Comments

So after a big weekend in PE and George, it was time to get back on the road, albeit for all of about 20 minutes down the Kaaiman’s River pass and into Wilderness. It has always been one of those places driven by and never visited. That was about to change.

That’s me on the top losing my religion

It’s a pretty striking view when you come out of the pass and the viewpoint on the N2 nearly does it justice but hides so much from view. If you are not in rush, head up to Wilderness Heights in the direction of the Map of Africa and you will truly get an understanding of what a spectacular part of the world this is.

Wilderness Heights Self Portrait

After being blown away by the view of the town and the Touws river mouth i turned around and stared down at the “Map of Africa”, Its resemblance is uncanny right down to two different rivers, The Kaaiman’s and Silver, meeting at its point much like the Indian and Atlantic do in Cape Town.

Map of Africa

I started to like Wilderness and i hadn’t even arrived yet.

I made my way back into town and sought out the Fairy Knowe Backpackers, which is beautiful hideaway right next to the Wilderness National Park. Within walking distance to town, 90% of the activities and some beautiful hikes, it’s a definite for a place to crash when you pass this way

Sunrise at Fairy Knowe Backpackers

The Backpackers is run by fellow by the name of Digby, who upon my arrival bombarded me with a gazillion things I could do, canoeing, horse riding, paragliding, hiking, abseiling and kloofing to mention just a smattering of what you can do in this super beautiful place of the world. I spent two days here i would recommend at the very least four!

After a quick run around of the facilities of the Backpackers, which is set on about 10ha of land covered in indigenous bush and forms part of the Pied King Fisher trail, i set about planning the next two days with a sinking feeling I wasn’t going to experience a smidgen of what i wanted to do.

I worked hard for this … well my legs did

Digby also makes a hell of an effort to get everyone socializing by offering a cooked meal in the evening for 55 bucks, the plate of food you get could feed three and is damn tasty. A bunch of us sat around a dinner table and had a great chat about just about everything worth shooting the shit about. He also offers a killer breakfast for 35 bucks, cooked or healthy and did i mention the daily fresh-baked muffins?

There are also the usual’s, free wi-fi, an epic bar, comfy sofa’s, a few idiot boxes although with a location like this who needs it! The self catering kitchen is super well equipped and there is a porch that catches the morning sun and is an excellent place to start the day with a coffee looking over the lake bordering the Backpackers. There is also a great outdoor area under some Milkwoods next to the bar with hammocks, a fire pit and braai area which was set upon this earth for the sole purpose of dropping anchor and never leaving.

The hikes are all about the details

The room i was given was a double, super comfy, an epic duvet that didn’t require additional effort to keep warm and goes for 350 a night. Fairy Knowe Backpackers also offer out of season rates so check HI South Africa for great deals.

I got up the next morning to a chilly sunrise and headed to the Wilderness National Park, which was a 10 minute walk from the Backpackers, my Wild Card got me in free and i immediately headed in to a thick indigenous forest which was very much alive. There are two routes to follow on this hike up to a spectacular waterfall.


The Bosdruif and the way more chilled stroll along the banks. Do both, the Bosdruif loops back onto the chilled route, but offers a spectacular view from the peak of its route, it’s a steep hike but the reward is worth it. The walk is through amazing bush, thick forest and runs parallel to the Touws river.

Go early as later in the day there is a fairly steady stream of people visiting the falls, I got there and had the place to myself for an hour, if you feeling brave scramble up above the waterfall and there is another Waterfall and a fantastic swimming hole. It was super cold but after the Bosdruif i needed it.

The Falls

Reluctantly i packed up and a walk that should have taken me three hours had taken me closer to five, with the numerous views, photo opportunities and the desire not to leave the falls. I would recommend packing a picnic and spending the day up there, it’s well worth it.

This walk is not optional

Digby recommended i do the railway line hike to Victoria Bay, after doing it twice, it is something you have to do when you visit Wilderness. Seriously. If you don’t you missing out. It’s not strenuous, but the views, the hair-raising crossing of the bridge across the Kaaiman’s, scrambling through old railway tunnels and finally a spectacular view of Vic Bay make it an epic experience.

You head through three tunnels

Just as you pass through the first tunnel, there is a cave, like no other you have experienced. It is inhabited by Clifford. He has spent nearly six years turning it into a seriously amazing spectacle, its is decorated with shell mobiles, drift wood and all manner of things. It has an amazing Garden and can sleep upward of ten people. It’s hard to describe in words, it is something you have to see for yourself.

The caves entrance

Drop by, don’t be afraid and hook him up with some moolah, as technically he is homeless, despite owning the finest cave in the Southern Hemisphere. I went back the next day to shoot more images and it just re-enforced that this cave is in fact a living breathing work of art perpetuated by a slightly mad genius.

Cliffords Cave

Shortly after the cave comes the harrowing bridge crossing, I normally have no issue with heights but some casual efforts to grab some imagery resulted in me realizing that walking down the middle of the track wasn’t the best idea, stick to the rickety walkway. After that the rest of the walk is über chilled but still spectacular. Go in the afternoon for better light.

Discovered rickety bridges scare the bejebbers out of me

As i headed back to the Fairy Knowe, I was bushed. I showered, ate and crashed into oblivion. The next morning felt like I was attached to the bed and after a slow start i headed back out to the cave to shoot some more images of the Cliffords cave.

The Cave is also all about the details

It didn’t take long before lunchtime had come and gone and i needed to get moving to my next stop. After a packing and another chat with the super cool and seriously knowledgeable Digby, I reluctantly headed towards Sedgefield and Myoli Beach to experience the AfroVibes Adventure lodge, knowing i hadn’t got close to getting the full Wilderness experience.

Many thanks and a promise that i will definitely return must go out to Digby at Fairy Knowe Backpackers for hosting me on Hi South Africa’s blogging adventure. I felt like I was home.

** I shot the cave in detail and when i get a chance to actually look at the photo’s i’ll do a full story … it was incredible.

Fairy Knowe Backpackers Lodge

Fairy Knowe Backpackers Lodge is well positioned, with Wilderness being at the pivot of all that can be enjoyed on the Garden Route. The many adventure attractions of Wilderness are on the doorstep: from amazing hiking trails, to endless beach walks and stunning canoe trips through the Wilderness National Park to the waterfalls.

TEL: +27 (0) 44 877 1285

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