Off-the-grid camping the Platbos indigineous forest in Gansbaai MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

Exploring the Hidden Gem: Camping in the Platbos Indigenous Forest

When you think of Gansbaai, a coastal town famous for shark cage diving, camping in a lush, leafy forest may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Surprisingly, even the locals were unaware of this enchanting place. However, just a stone’s throw away from this charming fishing village, on the route to Stanford, lies a 50-hectare paradise of trees, waiting to be discovered by nature enthusiasts like you.

Imagine this: in the 1930s, ambitious farmers set their sights on this land, hoping to turn it into a thriving agricultural paradise. But nature had other plans. The soil proved too stubborn for their dreams of vast potato fields, and as a result, large areas of the land remained untouched. Trees and plants, foreign to this ancient forest, took over the abandoned spaces, camouflaging the forest and keeping it hidden.

Fast forward to 2005, and meet Francois and Melissa Krige. They embarked on a remarkable mission: to safeguard the Platbos indigenous forest. With their two children, they decided to make this forest their home, living in a cozy, eco-friendly house right in the heart of it all.

Welcome to the enchanting world of the Flat Forest! This unique woodland gets its name from the short stature of the trees, which creates a low and inviting ceiling of foliage. As you embark on your adventure, you have two options: join a guided tour along the twisting forest paths or take the road less traveled and explore on your own. The latter choice promises a more daring and thrilling experience.

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Imagine yourself deep within the thicket, weaving your way through the wilderness. Suddenly, you stumble upon an ancient wonder, the Old Milkwood tree, standing proudly in a serene clearing. The sunlight dances through the leaves, casting mesmerizing patterns on the forest floor, truly captivating your senses.

Recently, an extraordinary discovery added to the allure of the Flat Forest. Melissa, a keen explorer, uncovered the unmistakable tracks of a leopard imprinted in the ground. This finding prompted fellow landowners in the area to come together, discovering that a young male leopard was freely roaming this untamed landscape. And it doesn’t stop there! Sightings of the elusive Caracal, a wild feline, are also quite frequent. These encounters serve as a poignant reminder of the importance of preservation and conservation efforts in the area, amplifying the atmosphere of genuine exploration and discovery.

When you visit Platbos, you’ll discover that there’s more than just a simple walk in the forest. Starting next year, we’re excited to open our new bush camp for groups who want to stay awhile. Our camp is made up of three strong tents, tucked away among the trees near the edge of the forest. Inside each tent, you’ll find a cozy double bed or two comfortable single beds, with plenty of room to move around and have some fun. In the clearing, there’s a welcoming open fireplace surrounded by well-crafted log seats, as well as a charming wooden table where you can relax and enjoy a meal.

There’s so much more to discover in this forest experience, beyond the essentials. The kitchen and bathroom are truly unique, providing just the right amount of comfort while still letting you feel connected to nature. Take the bathroom, for example – it’s completely open on one side, giving you an uninterrupted view of the lush forest. It’s an invigorating and refreshing way to shower!

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The kitchen is well-designed, with plenty of cupboards and ample counter space. Plus, there’s a convenient two plate gas stove for those dishes that are tricky to cook over an open fire.

Living in Platbos means going off the grid, but don’t worry – there’s plenty of alien wood to keep your fire going and heat your shower water. And you’ll also have access to renewable energy sources to power the gas stove. At just R700 per night for 6 people, it’s a reasonable price for the comfort and the incredible surroundings. If you have a larger group, you can even bring your own tents for just R75 per tent.

When you step foot in Platbos forest, you quickly realize just how vital Francois and Melissa’s work is. Every cent goes toward conserving the area and restoring the surrounding land. Their Trees for Tourism project, for instance, is devoted to bringing the valley back to its lush, forested state. This is especially crucial because the forest is constantly threatened by fires, which spread easily due to the non-native trees that tightly encircle it. Thankfully, the Platbos Trust recently received funding for a project that aims to create a 30-meter-wide firebreak along the forest’s edge. They started work on this essential task last week, and already there is a noticeable divide between the forest and the neighboring land.

If you’d like to learn more about visiting Platbos forest, camping in the bush camp, or making a donation to support the rehabilitation and protection of Africa’s southernmost indigenous forest, I encourage you to visit the Platbos forest website. The trust has recently been registered with SARS, allowing you to claim back the taxes on any donation you make to the forest.

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