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The Knysna Forest is world famous for its magical beauty, dark and mystical recesses and giant Outeniqua Yellowwoods, some of which are almost a thousand years old.
It has achieved a mythical and permanent place in South African literature through the works of writer Dalene Matthee who has found inspiration for numerous novels in the heart of the forest.
5 Things To Seek:
- Knysna Seahorse - This peculiar fish occurs only in the Knysna, Keurbooms and Swartvlei estuaries and nowhere else in the world. Because of its limited distribution the Knysna Seahorse is listed as endangered on the IUCN's Red List - the first seahorse in the world to be listed as endangered. Hint: Visit the SANParks Thesen Island Office in Knysna to view the Knysna Seahorse up close!
- Big Tree - Also known as the King Edward VII tree, this famous landmark and visitor attraction near Diepwalle Forest Station is another Outeniqua yellowwood worth seeing up close. The tree is 800+ years old.
- The Forest Legends Museum - If you venture into the mysterious Knysna Forest you will find, at its heart, the Forest Legends Museum which houses stories about Woodcutters, Timber merchants, Botanists, Settlers and the elusive Knysna Elephant. The museum reveals some of the forest's best kept secrets and showcases the famous elephant skeleton.
- Knysna Dwarf Chameleon - A species of dwarf chameleon that is endemic to South Africa this forest dweller is the master of camouflage. They climb high into the forest canopy during the day to bask and then sleep in the centre of tree ferns at night, coiling their prehensile tails to look like fern fronds.
- Elephant walks - These three trails are a scenic delight with clear streams and mysterious green beauty. They follow old woodcutter trails in some parts, taking the hiker past some stately old Outeniqua yellowwood trees. Choose between the moderate White Elephant Trail with its enticing rock pools, the easy Black Elephant Trail or the moderate to difficult Red Elephant Trail.
Diepwalle Forest Camp
Set amidst the treetops of the Diepwalle Forest, this elevated camp affords the visitor an opportunity to feel at one with the forest whilst providing that perfect balance of outdoor living and basic amenities which the ardent camper will love.
These decks accommodate a three-man tent, come with braai and dining areas, and have electric points. Tents and mattresses are available to rent from the Diepwalle Forest Office. Communal ablutions have hot showers. Visitors have access to communal fridge, washing machine and tumble dryer. Firewood is available for purchase at the Forest Office.
Comes with a fixed tent which houses two beds, each with basic mattress (no bedding) and a bar fridge. Communal ablutions have hot showers. Visitors have access to a washing machine and tumble dryer. Firewood is available for purchase at the Forest Office.
These campsites are not suitable for Motorhomes, Roof-top Tents or Caravans. It is only appropriate for tents to be pitched on the timber decks.
Old Forester's House (Diepwalle)
This historical building was once forester D.E. Hutchins’ house. He was responsible for constructing stone houses at the Gouna, Diepwalle, Harkerville and Fisantehoek Forest Stations between 1888 and 1920. Rustic finishes add to the age-old charm of the building. An indoor fireplace warms during winter. Sleeps 6 and comes with fully equipped kitchen, lounge, and TV with DSTV (limited channels). Visitors have access to a washing machine and tumble dryer. Firewood provided.
Please note that check-in times at Diepwalle Office are 14:00 - 16:00. Visitors who arrive later than 16:00 are requested to contact the following numbers on arrival or make prior arrangements with the Office in Diepwalle on 044 382 9762
Harkerville Forest Treetop Chalet
This 4-star chalet has two double rooms, each with its own bathroom and sleeps four in comfort. This magical hideaway is tucked away at the head of a wide valley situated in the Harkerville forest. From this vantage point you can bird-watch, botanise, explore the walking trails close by or hop on your bike for an exhilarating cycle through the forest. Fully appointed with indoor and outdoor fireplace, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, DSTV, telephone and alarm system.
Overnight visitors have access to all day trails and cycle trails listed above for the duration of their stay.
Please note that check-in for the Tree Top Chalet is at the Garden of Eden Kiosk on the N2 from 14:00 - 17:00. Late arrivals should make prior arrangements with the reservation office at 044 302 5600.
Emergency number: Garden of Eden at 044 532 7793 from 08:00 to 17:00 or the Harkerville Section Ranger Office at 044 532 7770.
This two day, 26 km hiking trail, starts and ends at Harkerville Forest Station. It passes through some prime examples of high-forest, crosses sections of coastal fynbos and takes the hiker along some breath taking natural scenery along a cliff coast with low water pools, eerie coastal caves and pebble beaches. Sleep over at two huts; the Harkerville hut and Sinclair hut. Each have basic facilities, including ablutions, single bunks with mattresses, water and fire wood. This is not your conventional two day hiking trail. If little wooden bridges, ladders, chains, steep cliffs, narrow wooden stairs and soaring heights are your cup of tea, you won't be disappointed. Hikers need to be quite fit as there are many ups and downs. Sea caves are often visible along the trail and tell of the sheer landscaping power of the Indian Ocean. Stop to rest, snack regularly and enjoy the spectacular views.
The section provides for everyone, from old and youth, to the fit and physically disabled. Stop at Garden of Eden and learn the marked indigenous trees by name as you stroll the forest on a comfortable 800m boardwalk. Picnic, water and ablution facilities are available. The facility is situated between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, on the N2.
Other short walks included the scenic Kranshoek day walk and picnic site, with spectacular views over the Indian Ocean, and transects through Afromontane Forest, Coastal Scrub Forest, low tide pools and Coastal Fynbos. This walk is 9km long and takes you 4 to 5 hours of walking. The Perdekop day walk is also 9km long and provides the hiker with a shady forest walk, ideally for educational and spiritual fulfillment.
- Perdekop trail
Distance: 9.5km; circular (Easy - moderate: 3-4 hours)
Description: This 9.5km circular walk starts and ends at the SANParks Harkerville Forest Office. The walk is relatively easy and can be completed at a leisurely pace in 3-4 hours. A majestic stand of Hard Pear trees (Olinia ventosa) can be found between the 2 and 3 km markers. These trees are known to be one of the fastest-growing trees under forest conditions, characterized by their reddish brown flaky bark and the strong smell of almonds in newly cut wood or crushed leaves. A wonderful natural swimming pool, below a waterfall and surrounded by a lush growth of ferns is situated along the route between the 5 and 6 km markers. This is a great place to stop, rest, and snack.
- Elephant trails
- 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)
- Terblanche trail
Distance: 6.5km; circular (Moderate: 3-4 hours)
Description: The Terblans Walk in the Gouna Forest is a relatively short walk which was heavily exploited by woodcutters in the past. It starts and ends at the Grootdraai picnic site, ideal for a picnic before or after the hike. From the Grootdraai picnic site the trail heads into the forest sharing the path with the Outeniqua overnight trail - be sure to keep right at the fork and follow the bush pig signs. The picnic site at the end of the trail has beautiful picnic tables under the trees and there are toilets as well. On departing, hikers can drive back the same way, or continue with Kom-se-pad which joins the R339 between Uniondale and Knysna - a beautiful round trip of about 60km from Knysna. Excellent route for bird watching and has a beautiful rock pool to swim in.
- Kranshoek day walk
Distance: 9km; circular (Moderate – difficult: 4-5 hours)
Description: The trail starts at the Kranshoek picnic site at the top of a tall waterfall and winds its way through the lush forest down into the gorge through which the waterfall's stream flows. It follows this stream towards the coast and then heads along the coast before veering up the slopes toward the Kranshoek View Point. From the viewpoint hikers can either walk back to the picnic site via the 1km fynbos trail or along the dirt road which links the viewpoint and picnic site. The full walk is fairly tough and demands a descent and ascent of 200 metres. Good walking shoes are essential. Highlights include natural rock pools, pebble beaches and a coastal cave.
- Kranshoek fynbos trail
Distance: 1km; one way (Very Easy: 20 - 30 min)
Description: This walk is ideal for young and old so take the kids and introduce them to this wonderful fynbos environment. A breath taking fynbos trail which runs along the very edge of the deep valley.
- Forest Flora trail
Distance: 1km; circular (Very easy: 20 - 30min)
Description: This very easy 1km walk is situated in the Harkerville Indigenous Forest between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, easily accessible from the N2 and starts and ends at the Kranshoek Picnic Site. This walk is ideal for young and old so take the kids and introduce them to the wonderful forest environment.
Harkerville forest is the ideal location for recreational mountain-biking. Four colour-coded routes – ranging from easy family rides to superb single track – meander through coastal fynbos and indigenous forest. All four start and finish at the Garden of Eden, on the N2, where permits must be obtained.
The Garden of Eden is situated right on the N2 between Knysna and Plett and serves as a great place to stretch your legs and freshen up in the cool, green forest. This is one of the most lush and beautiful parts of the Knysna forest and definitely a must-see when visiting the Garden Route. The major attraction is the forest itself; absolutely beautiful yellowwood trees, thick green foliage and fresh, trickling streams. A short walk follows over 1km of wooden boardwalks and bridges and is entirely wheelchair friendly. There are a number of wooden benches and tables along the trail, great for a picnic.
This museum holds some of the forests best kept secrets where the lives of woodcutters, gold-diggers, settlers and foresters will intrigue you. Get up close with one of the most southerly elephants of the African continent, albeit just a skeleton. The museum houses a variety of displays and exhibitions which tell the long and winding story of the legendary Knysna Forest, its forest folk and the elusive Knysna Elephant.
The deep and mysterious forests of the Garden Route National Park hold many cultural
stories, sites and artefacts to explore. This self-drive route takes the visitor on
a half-day meander through Diepwalle and Gouna forests. From old forester’s houses
to more modern forest museums, visit the biggest trees in the forest and stand in
awe at the highest mountain tops. As the name suggests, the route was originally
designed around 10 places of cultural interest and significance in the area. Each
stop can be explored and experienced along with guidance from a newly designed route
map and well placed interpretive boards.
View the Rooted in Time brochure.
One of the most beautiful spots on the southern Cape coast. Kranshoek offers the visitor dramatic cliff-top views of the coast at the edge of this majestic forest. From the Kranshoek viewpoint, numerous lovely rocky bays along the coastline can be seen. Enjoy the picnic area which has braai facilities plus a little stream where the kids can get their feet wet while searching for frogs and other interesting creatures. Enjoy the peaceful sound of the waterfall just a stone’s throw away and take a short refreshing walk in the forest close by.
The Big Tree, also known as the King Edward VII tree, is a famous landmark and visitor attraction near the Diepwalle Forest Station. This giant Outeniqua yellowwood (Podocarpus falcatus) tree is more than 800 years old and is one of the few giant trees left after the unsustainable method of tree harvesting was stopped in 1939.
Kayaks can now be hired directly from the SANParks Thesen Island office: +27 (0)44 302 5600.
How to get there
Directions to the Knysna indigenous forest complex:
Includes the Diepwalle Forest area, camping decks, Tea Garden and Forest Legends Museum.
- Follow the N2 for 6km east of Knysna.
- Take the Uniondale (R339) turn-off to the left and drive another 16km to Diepwalle.
- The R339 is a provincial gravel road to Diepwalle.
Directions to the Treetop Chalet:
- The Treetop Chalet is about 15 - 17km past Knysna, towards Plettenberg Bay.
- There is a small sign on the N2 which directs you to the Garden of Eden on the right, where you can check-in to the Treetop Chalet.
Directions to the Garden of Eden:
- The Garden of Eden is about 15 - 17km past Knysna, towards Plettenberg Bay.
- There is a small sign on the N2 which directs you to the Garden of Eden on the right.
Directions to Kranshoek view point:
- From Knysna, take the N2 East for 20km to Harkerville.
- Turn right (south) onto a gravel road for 1.5km.
- At the T-junction keep left and drive about 500m. Turn right, through the Harkerville State Forest to the site about 5km further on.
Map of the Knysna Lagoon
Map of Diepwalle
Route to Diepwalle
Daily Conservation Fees
Daily Conservation Fee for 1 November 2016 to 31 October 2017
|South African Citizens and Residents (with ID):||R30 per adult, per day
R15 per child, per day
|SADC Nationals (with passport):||R60 per adult, per day
R30 per child, per day
|Standard Conservation Fee (Foreign Visitors):||R120 per adult, per day
R60 per child, per day
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General Tariff Information
- General Tariffs Information
- 2016/2017 Tariffs
- Pensioners' Discount
- Members of SANParks’ loyalty programme WILD do not pay conservation fees provided that proof of Identity and their WILD card are shown on arrival.
- Cost of a Wild Card
- Activity tariffs
- Tariffs for the use of sport & recreation vessels on the Knysna Estuary
- View accommodation pictures and availability for Garden Route National Park