10 Nights camping at Diepwalle

Knysna, Tsitsikamma, Wilderness

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francoisd
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10 Nights camping at Diepwalle

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Before I get into the actual report, I need to say that this report is based on our experience and your experience and expectations might be different than ours. This is also a rather long post as I wanted to cover as much as possible.

Also, we are a family of three, me and my two daughters and our normal camp set-up, especially when standing for several days consists of our 2 x 3m canvas dome tents connect with a gazebo between them that serve as our kitchen area as well as the area we can sit and play games, eat, etc. especially when the weather is not that good. We camp heavy which include stretchers, mattresses, chairs, gas cooktop, 100L camping fridge, normally enough provisions to last for the duration of our stay up to 10 days, etc.

Our booking
10 nights from 19-29 December 2022. We left one day earlier as heavy rain was predicted for the morning of 30 December when we were supposed to break up camp.

We booked 2 decks as the decks are only large enough to accommodate one of our tents, which meant we would be split up. I was also not able to request decks in advanced as I was informed that the decks are allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Road access to Diepwalle
From the N1 you turn off on to the R339 that is a tar road for a short section. The first 2.5km of this road runs through the Khayalethu suburb of Knysna so be on the lookout for pedestrians, taxis, and cyclists. The tar road ends about 5km’s after the start of the R339 and the rest of the road is gravel. From the start of the gravel section, you travel for about 10.5km surrounded by forest before you get the turn-off to Diepwalle on your right (coming from Knysna). The turn-off might be a little inconspicuous so setting your GPS for -33.9552, 23.1538 will make sure you do not miss the turn-off. The Diepwalle turn off is however opposite the Diepwalle Big Tree site so if you overshot that you know you need to turn around. Just more that 1km later you will arrive at the camp offices.

As I drive a 4x4 Hilux my experience of the gravel road might be different to those driving a sedan. The day of our arrival saw a lot of rain, so the road was a little muddy in some places, some spots was a little rocky but there were many sedans on the road, and I even had an Audi sports car with little ground clearance coming down the road from the opposite side, albeit travelling at snail’s pace.

The gravel road is popular with mountain bike riders so look out for them and then you also have those SUV drivers that think it is a rally track so had a couple of near misses rounding a corner on a couple of occasions during our stay.

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Camp sites
Even though there is a good map at the reception showing the site layout, I could not find such a map on the internet so perhaps SANParks can add it to their website? If it is on the website, I did not find it and it could be placed in a more conspicuous place.

At check-in we were allocated site 3 and 5. Site 3 was the larger of the two and site 5 closer to the ablution so we decided that the kids will use site 5. This meant that most of the camping equipment had to be carried down to site 3 which is about 30-40m from the closest spot you can temporarily park your vehicle to off load and close to 80m from the parking area. So, if you have a lot of stuff to off load like we did it is a decent work out.

As we arrived in the rain the boardwalks were wet and extremely slippery, I fell 3 times while carrying stuff and slipped a couple of times during our stay as we had several days of rain.

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The camping decks consists of an area that will fit a 3x3m dome tent, a covered area that can be used as a kitchen and a built-in braai. As mentioned, site 5 was small and did not leave much room with the tent pitched, while site 3 had sufficient space remaining for our camping table and chairs. As you pitch your tent on the deck you will not be able to use tent pegs for your ropes holding open the windows, etc. But we just tied these to the railing. Even though the wind may blow up in the tree canopy, there is hardly any wind down on ground level.

Be careful at site 3 as the last step down onto the deck is not level and slants down wards so is an added hazard especially when wet]. There are lights along the board walks that helps at night. The switch for these is at the start of the board walk so if someone switches it off there is no way to switch them on if you need to leave your tent at night so have a torch handy.

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The kitchen has a light, three 3-pin plugs (sharing a 20A breaker) and some open storage below the counter. The counter is quite high and if you use a gas plate with a pot on it people on the shorter side might have an issue (for reference to the photo I am 6 foot or 1.84m tall). You will have to put your stored dried goods either in your tent or lockable containers as there are vervet monkeys around that will try and get whatever is left out. Note that there are no taps at the decks and the taps are found at the start of the board walks.

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For me Diepwalle is about relaxing and enjoying nature. So having view such as these from my tent did my soul a lot of good after a busy year. The start of the red hiking route does pass in front (below) the deck, but I never had people that were loud and not a lot of foot traffic.

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Cell phone reception and internet were spotty at best on the Vodacom network, and we used our two-way radios for communication when the kids were at their site.

Ablution facilities
Even though there are sites that are wheelchair accessible and the wooden door in the top right of the photo below supposed to be the disability access restrooms the uneven road, difference in hight between the road and the cement slab as well as the angle of the ramp up to the ablution level will make it extremely difficult for a person in a wheelchair to access and SANParks should invest some time into correcting this.

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Ablution facilities is the part of a camp site that most people’s opinions and/or experience will differ vastly, and I will describe the ablutions at Diepwalle as adequate, and my daughters indicated that they would score the ladies ablution a 2/5. I unfortunately do not have photos of the inside of the ladies ablution but my understanding is that it is much the same as the gents.

As you enter there are three wash basins with mirrors above to the left, urinals to the right and in the passage, you will find three showers on the right and two toilets on the left. Bring along your won toilet paper, during our stay it was not replaced regularly.

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The showers were adequate at best, and I had the following issues with them:
  • A little small on the inside which means there is no space for a bench to either sit one when getting dressed or placing your items other than on the floor.
  • Only one hook behind the door (see comment further down) to hang clothes, towel, etc.
  • Mixer taps did not show hot/cold, so the first time took a while to figure out which side to have it set too.
  • Shower head was not that great.
  • Floor is slanting to the middle from all side, like a funnel effect, which made standing a little awkward.
  • On day 4 I discovered that the shower the furthest from the door had more hooks behind the door and the best showerhead so try and get this one.


[This post is based on a visit in 2022 so loadshedding played a role. During loadshedding the pumps do not seem to work so there might not be water at times in the showers so keep that in mind. There is also a notice to this effect posted on the door but is seemed most people did not bother reading it and was then caught off guard.]

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I assume that water on site comes from the mountain streams, so the water has a brownish colour to it due to the tannins but is fine for washing your face, shaving, and brushing teeth. (We also used the tap water for coffee and cooking.)

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At the back of the ablution building, you will find the small scullery.

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Shop
There is no shop on site so stock up on food and fuel beforehand. We had sufficient food for the 10 nights but had to stock up on water and visited the East End Kwikspar in Knysna which is about 20km away. Wood is available from the reception office. I paid at the office and the wood was delivered to my deck. The wood bundles cost R35 each and looked good from the outside, but once chopped revealed that it was still green on the inside. Luckily, I had some other wood that I brought from home so I had to place the wet wood around the fire to dry out.

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Activities

The star of the show is the forest and all it holds within its green cloak. The best way to enjoy the forest is to walk the hiking trails.

Hiking
Three hiking trails starts and finish at Diepwalle.
  • Black Route: 9km; circular (Easy: 3-4 hours)
  • White Route: 8km; circular (Moderate: 3-4 hours)
  • Red Route: 7km; circular (Moderate – Difficult: 3-4 hours)
We beforehand decided we will walk each of the trails with a day in between. We are not hikers; in fact, these were the first trails the girls ever did. In the end we think that the black trail was more strenuous due to the many uphill sections. I will not consider myself fit at all but going slow and steady with enough rest and water breaks most will be able to finish the trails. The white route has a nice water hole to cool off in but only my eldest was brave enough to get in the freezing water. Be warned that someone had a sadistic streak when laying out these routes as the last 1km of all the routes is a steep uphill – we just called it “the kilometre of death”!

The magic of the forest lies in the many shades of green, magnificent trees, mushrooms, lichens, insects and hearing the bird life. It is a place to enjoy the smaller things in nature so if you have a macro lens make sure you take it with you.

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Little Fern Forest
11 km north of Diepwalle camp one finds the Little Fern Forest. Even though the description on the maps shows that there should be a short circular route through the fern forest we struggled to find it as the path ended after a short distance. Was still great being amongst these tall ferns and other flowers that grew there.

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Spitzkop viewpoint
If you drive a 4x4 or high clearance vehicle, then either on your way to the fern forest or on your return it is worth driving up to the Spitzkop viewpoint as one is greeted with spectacular views from up there.

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Museum
Close to the reception building there is a small museum highlighting some of the history of the forest, its animals and the woodcutters that worked the area. It is amazing to see how these people lived and worked the forest with the modest tools they had available. There is a monitor in one of the rooms to play a short movie about the history but when we visited the museum there was no park staff that could answer some questions etc. and we did not see any official visiting times when perhaps an official tour might take place.

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Birdlife
As my kids are not into birding and it was rainy weather most days, I did not do any focussed birding but managed to add some birds to my Western Cape list and Grey Cuckooshrike, Narina Trogon, Black-headed Oriole, Knysna Turaco, Red-chested Cuckoo, Chorister Robin-chat, Green-backed Camaroptera, Olive Thrush and Collard Sunbird were some of the nice birds seen from my deck while reading. During the hikes other nice birds included White-starred Robin, Terrestrial Brownbull, Black-backed Puffback and many more. African Wood Owl was also calling every night. So plenty of bird life around should you want to focus on that.

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In closing

If you are looking for a relaxed break away in a beautiful natural area a visit to Diepwalle might just be what you need. Here you will not find swimming pools, restaurants, play parks, etc. The sound of cicadas in the trees, birds calling, the whisper of the wind in the trees and the pallet of greens and browns of the forest will ease you into a state of relaxation. An extended stay as we had might however not be for everyone but allow yourself at least 2-3 nights. This is a good base to do some of the day hikes, mountain bike trails and forest birding.

Definitly my most relaxing holiday in a while
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MATTHYS
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Re: 10 Nights camping at Diepwalle

Unread post by MATTHYS »

Thank you for a very informative and detailed report, francoisd.
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Elsa
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Re: 10 Nights camping at Diepwalle

Unread post by Elsa »

Very comprehensive and good report!
Thanks for sharing francoisd. :clap:
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hilda
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Re: 10 Nights camping at Diepwalle

Unread post by hilda »

Thanks for a great report francoisd! Beautiful pictures of the awesome bird sightings, walking trails and lovely camping sites. :clap: :clap:
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RichardJ
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Re: 10 Nights camping at Diepwalle

Unread post by RichardJ »

Thanks for sharing :thumbs_up:

Considered the site but as no caravaning.... maybe take a tent one day :hmz:
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Re: 10 Nights camping at Diepwalle

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The perfect place to just RELAX!!!
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Re: 10 Nights camping at Diepwalle

Unread post by Meandering Mouse »

Thank you for a very comprehensive report. As you said, not for everyone. It certainly seems to be a birders paradise and for those interested in hiking and flora.

The Spitzkop viewpoint certainly looks spectacular. :thumbs_up:
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