Best 5 Forest Escapes in Cape Town
March 22, 2013, Posted by Dylan de Castro
Forests have always provided man with a sense of sanctuary. They are havens for introspection, exploration and pure fascination. However, with the rapid growth of industrialisation and urban expansion, trees are being depleted faster than they are being replenished. That’s why it’s crucial for us to support conservation efforts by appreciating forests, teaching children about their value and more importantly, contributing to preservation funds – all of which can be done by simply frequenting them.
Here are Cape Town’s 5 best forests:
Located south of Contantia, Tokai Forest forms part of the Table Mountain Heritage Site. Pack a picnic basket and head to the lower, right-hand side of the forest where you’ll find a picnic and braai area. Alternatively, continue up Tokai Road until you reach the Tokai Manor House which was built in 1795. After the house, turn left and follow the road to the arboretum, a park-like expanse that was created in the 1880s to establish which trees from around the world would be compatible with the area. To the left-hand side of the entrance is Lister’s Place Tea Room. In addition to these attractions, Tokai Forest is most famous for its mountain biking trails and a 2-hour hike up to Elephant’s Eye. Do look out for signs prohibiting food as baboons are known to frequent the area and they are not afraid to fight for your grub. Entrance fees are R5 per car and per adult, R15 per bicycle.
Contact Lister’s Place Tea Garden on +27 (0)21 715 4512
Image courtesy of Sam Town - http://bit.ly/16JoH78
Situated on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, just to the left of Devil’s Peak, Newlands Forest is less than a 20-minute drive from Cape Town’s city centre. As such, it’s a popular hangout for locals seeking solitude after a rough day at the office. Come weekend, hikers use it as an entryway to a number of trails that wind their way up mountain. If you yourself are in the mood for a leisurely stroll, there are numerous interlinking paths with a few streams and stunning views of the surrounding suburbs. If you wander off and get lost, walk with your back to the mountain and you’ll hit a trail that’ll take you back down to the road. There’s also a braai and picnic area with an entrance fee of R30 for up to six people and R10 per person thereafter.
For more information, contact Newlands Forest on +27 (0)21 422 1601/2
Cecilia Forest lies to the south of Kirstenbosh National Botanical Garden and north of Constantia Nek. In the 19th century Cecil Rhodes felled much of the natural vegetation to make way for European trees such as oaks, birches and pines. Commercial logging then took over and cleared much of the remaining indigenous forest in order to cultivate Eucalyptus and Pinus Radiata. Fortunately, it has now been given protected status and indigenous trees and fynbos will be reintroduced over the next few years. Suitable for hiking rather than picnicking, Cecilia Forest features a classic trail up to the De Villiers Reservoir. The walk is a bit hard on the legs but well worth the effort thanks to breathtaking views of False Bay and the Peninsula. The path is not well marked so you may end up on a plantation road, in which case you’ll probably come across local horse-riders and dog walkers who will be more than happy to supply you with directions.
Image courtesy of warrenski - http://bit.ly/YX327n
Orange Kloof Forest
Not too far from Cecilia Forest, you’ll stumble upon Orange Kloof Forest at the northern end of Hout Bay valley. It is a conservation area and access is highly restricted in order to protect its now-threatened indigenous fynbos. With its lofty cliffs, streaming rivers and subtle green valleys, it is described by many as a magical forest. That said, walking beneath its canopies of Milkwood trees is akin to that of an enchanted rainforest adventure. Another notable feature is the Disa River which originates further up the slopes of Table Mountain and runs through the forest at a relatively fast pace. To enter you’ll need to acquire a permit from the Hout Bay Forestry Station. Alternatively, if you wish to stay a longer than a day, you can spend a night in one of the Hoerikwaggo Orange Kloof tented camps, in which case you will not be required to obtain a permit.
For more information, contact Hoerikwaggo Trails on +27(0)21 422 2816
Platbos lies a little further out of Cape Town, about 40 minutes from Hermanus. It is a scientific anomaly and should have died off millions of years ago due to climate change. And with no river to sustain it, it’s a wonder that its Milkwood trees – some estimated to be over 1000 years old – still exist. Platbos is home to numerous animals including a variety of birds, owls, frogs, snakes, porcupines and even caracal.
You can visit for the day or spend a night or two at the eco-friendly tented camp site. Guided tours may be arranged for a fee of R350 and entrance fees are R50 per adult and R20 per child, the proceeds of which go towards preserving the area’s priceless ecosystem. Booking is essential.
For more information, contact the Platbos Conservation Trust on +27(0)82 4110448
Image courtesy of Damien du Toit - http://bit.ly/15yPQ9w
Do you know of any magical forests in and around Cape Town? Please share in the comments section below.