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

Posted by Adel Groenewald on 30 December 2011

Gansbaai, the shark cage diving capital of South Africa, is generally overlooked as a destination to go wandering about in a dense, canopied forest. And for years, even the locals denied the possibility of such a phenomenon. But hidden just outside this tiny fisherman’s town, on the way to Stanford, 50 hectares of green wonderland awaits the exploration of all tree lovers.

In an area where great agricultural ventures were attempted since as early as the 1930s, it is a miracle that such a large part of this ancient forest survived. When farmers realised that the ground was not fertile enough for their plans of major potato crops, the cleared areas became overgrown with alien trees, further hiding the forest from site. But in 2005, Francois and Melissa Krige decided to make it their life’s mission to protect Platbos indigenous forest and they’ve been living with their two children in a cozy, off-the-grid, forest house ever since.

The forest’s name comes from the fact that the trees are fairly short, creating a low canopy and the idea of a ‘flat-forest’. Visitors can either go on a guided tour of the winding forest paths, or they can grab a map at the visitors centre and explore for themselves – the latter being a much more adventurous option. It’s a truly magical experience navigating your way through the thicket, stumbling upon the Old Milkwood tree in one particular clearing and seeing the patterns created by the light that filters through the leaves.

Just recently, Melissa discovered a Leopard print in the ground and when other landowners in the area got together they realised that a young male leopard was roaming the area. Sightings of Caracal are also a regular occurrence, proving the importance of conserving the area and also upping the feel of truly exploring an untamed landscape.

A mere walk about in the forest is not the only thing on offer at Platbos though. As of next year, the new bush camp will be open to groups interested in a prolonged stay. The camp consists of three sturdy tents nestled under the trees, close to one of the forest edges. Each tent is fitted with either a double bed or two single beds and more than enough space to dance around in. In the clearing, there’s an open fireplace with nifty log seats and a rustic wooden table to sit at.

These are the essentials, but there’s much more to this forest experience. The inside-outside kitchen and bathroom offer just enough comfort without taking away the natural feel. The bathroom, for instance, is completely open to one side, offering an unspoiled view of the dense thicket. A brilliantly refreshing way to shower! The kitchen has neatly crafted cupboards, more than enough counter space and even a two plate gas stove for the items that are difficult to cook on a fire.

Of course, living in Platbos happens entirely off the grid, with enough alien wood to pump your fire and heat your shower water and renewable energy sources powering the gas stove. It costs R700 per night for 6 people, a very reasonable price considering the comfort and the amazing surrounds. And bigger groups are welcome to bring along their extra tents for R75 per tent.

You won’t need much time in Platbos forest to realise how important the work is that Francois and Melissa are doing. All the money goes to conserving the area and rehabilitating the surrounds, with projects like Trees for Tourism dedicated to restoring the valley to its former, forested glory. Seeing as alien trees, that burn much easier than the indigenous plants, tightly surround the forest, it constantly faces dangerous fire threats. The most recent project that received funding through the Platbos Trust is to create a 30-metre-wide firebreak at the forest edge. Work started last week on this crucial task and already a large divide is created between the forest edge and the neighbouring land.

To find out more about visiting the forest, camping in the bush camp or donating much needed money to rehabilitating the area and protecting Africa’s Southern most indigenous forest, visit Platbos forest’s website. The trust was recently registered at SARS, meaning that you can even claim back the tax charged on any donation made to the forest.


Looking for accommodation in Gansbaai? Look no further than Getaway Accommodation.

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