Loves and life on the Garden Route in South Africa

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

What I get up to as a volunteer liaison… January 12, 2015

And this is what I do as a volunteer liaison in Knysna…. An insert of one of my days…. My volunteer’s name has been taken out for anonymity

“As it is school holidays in South Africa at the moment, our volunteer knew that her placement at the safe house would be filled with lots of fun with the kids starting from her very first day.

The children all live in the township of Concordia East on the top of the hill above Knysna town so the first order of the day was to decide on what would be the day’s outing. It was decided that a trip to Diepwalle (Deep Walls in English) would be a great and educational outing too. Sandwiches were made for a picnic and fruit, cool drink and chips were bought, a blanket packed and then it was off to the forestry station taking a windy road through the indigenous forests home to the elusive Knysna elephants known to be the most southern free-roaming elephants in the world. On the way we spotted Vervet monkeys sitting on the road that quickly sprang into the tree tops and brought shrieks of laughter from the kids.

Once at the South African National Parks board (Sanparks) forestry station, the kids enjoyed their picnic giving them energy for the rest of the outing. It was then time for a tour of the museum with the guidance of Sanparks employee, Denzil, who explained all about the elephants. Denzil is employed by Sanparks to monitor, track and catch data on the elephants for ongoing research so is quite the elephant expert. As they have a large bull elephant skeleton at the museum, he was able to give the children information and ask them questions using the skeleton as a guideline.   Little Tracy even learnt that elephants do not snack on humans when they are hungry-which is pretty much all the time!

A final tour on the history of the woodcutters in the museum ended our time there with the children starting to lose focus and getting fidgety so it was on to the next stop of our outing.

Our next stop was down the road to the big tree which is a really famous Outeniqua Yellowwood found in the forest and estimated at being well over 600 years old. This was followed by a boarded walk through the forest enjoying all the greenery and nature around us and trying to hear the call of monkeys and baboons and sightings of the shy Knysna Loerie-a local bright green bird with red feathers underneath topped with a white crest on its head. It is a bird indigenous to these forests and often seen as a mascot for Knysna. Sadly we had no luck spotting the Loerie or primates.

Kids listening totally enthralled to Sanparks employer Denzil's stories about the Knysna elephants

Kids listening totally enthralled to Sanparks employer Denzil’s stories about the Knysna elephants

By this time it was time to head back to the safe house with all the kids dropping off one by one to sleep exhausted from all the food and fun. A true Knysna outing of forests and elephant stories and hopefully one that the kids will have fond memories of for life”


The Big Tree and walks in Wilderness on the Garden Route in South Africa September 22, 2014

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?


Magical forests with mystical elephants September 26, 2012

Filed under: elephants,knysna,Out & about,volunteering,youth — shadreyer @ 6:07 am
Tags: , , , ,

South African National Parks had a free entry week for all their national parks so we took the youth from Sinethemba Youth Development center for a day trip. About 17 kilometers down the dirt road in the direction of Uniondale lies the Diep Walle museum and the big tree. The museum gives an idea of what those first timber farmers and wood cutters must have lived like. A hard life not for the faint hearted! In the museum also stands a skeleton of a large bull elephant. One of the few remains of the legendary Knysna elephants. What to me was so amazing is the fact that his skeleton was found about 10 years after he died despite being in an area fairly close to one of our national road.
After the museum visit we took the Sinethemba Youth to the Big Tree. This famous tree is one of SA’s national trees, the Yellowwood. The age of the tree is estimated at between 650 and 800 years old. It is the oldest Yellowwood in the country. Sadly the older ones,which were in the age of a 1000 years old, were cut down a long time ago. The Big Tree though is safe, part of our national heritage and stands as a monument of our past.

Such a great day out and the guys really enjoyed it, the history, the fresh air and the beautiful nature surrounding us





A re-post on the beautiful Knysna forests August 27, 2012

Filed under: elephants,knysna,Out & about — shadreyer @ 2:07 pm
Tags: , ,

Beautiful description of our Knysna forests but I must correct the writer in that there is now evidence and sightings that prove that we still have elephants in our forests