Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Into the leafy greenwood...

Thinking back now, I'm not quite sure how or when I first heard about Platbos forest, but when I took the time to read up about it, I knew it was one of those places I was dying to see. Even better, it's situated within driving distance of home – on the road between Stanford and Gansbaai. As much as I'd have loved to have gone to stay over in the location's accommodation, this was a feasible day trip for us as well.

Special note: Taking a drive through the Overberg during mid- to late-August is always a treat because the flowering canola fields are *spectacular*. This day's colour palette was a combination of shocking canary yellow splashes against vivid green and aquamarine sky filled with wispy clouds. Take the back roads between Caledon and Napier, and you'll miss the worst of the traffic (don't be tempted to take a short cut through Hermanus – it's going to take longer for all the twists and turns).

So, what makes this forest special? Well, apart from it being a secret world tucked away in the heart of the fynbos biome, it is its own unique ecosystem. Though none of the trees are comparable to some of the giants you'd find further east at Knysna, some of them are positively *ancient* like the milkwood at the heart of Platbos that is said to be more than 1000 years old. Yep. that's pretty darn old. 

Platbos is a bird-lover's paradise. I have a feeling if we'd come specifically to get some twitching done, we'd have seen a lot more, but I did spot southern boubou, sombre greenbul and Cape batis. Granted, I see these chaps nearly daily at my own home, but it's nice to point them out elsewhere.

The moment you step out of the car and tread upon the forest path, you are immersed in another world. Bird calls. But also a kind of watchful silence as your soles press down into a thick carpet of leaf litter. Low-hanging boughs are furred in moss and lichen, and twisted lianas festoon branches. Ferns flourish in nooks and hollows, and if you look carefully, you may find mushrooms. Occasionally there are picnic tables that invite you to sit down and enjoy refreshments, but there's also a scaffold that will allow you a view over the canopy. A secret labyrinth made from old alikreukel shells also beckons you to follow the twisting path.

This is the kind of lost world that beckons you to stay. If you hadn't been told that Platbos exists, you might drive past it every day without even knowing it's there, for it is not a large forest, nor are the trees tall. Because it is cupped between the rolling hills of the Overberg, it is easy to mistake it for merely brushwood that you pass on your way elsewhere. That is, until you take a closer look.

Apart from this being a lovely excursion for day visitors who're exploring the region, Platbos also offers a range of rustic accommodation. And by rustic, I mean, don't expect to be plugged into any of your devices. Pack them away. Perhaps bring art supplies, board games, physical books to read. Go for walks in the forest, relax in your private area. You have no idea how tempting this is for me – so I will be back – and this time I'll stay overnight.

So yeah, I've mentioned the birds, but there are other critters here too, ranging from baboons and bushbuck, all the way to genets and caracals (red lynx) ... and even the rather retiring Cape leopard. I am beyond excited about the latter, knowing that these big cats still roam the Overberg despite it being so agriculturally developed. Which reminds me I have seen one of these kitties many years ago, crossing the big road between Napier and Bredasdorp, but that is another story for another time.

NB: The cost per adult is R50, per child R20 – look out for the honesty box at the information cabin.


  1. Awesome! I love forests and am going here asap.

  2. Beautifully written - thank you for sharing your experience of this wonderful wee forest :)