5 fun activities in SA’s forest plantations

Posted on 27 November 2019

South Africa is home to 1.2 million hectares of timber plantations. Contrary to myths that harvested trees equate to deforestation, sustainably managed commercial trees (along with the products made from them) are renewable.

Saplings are planted in the place of mature harvested trees. In addition, timber has a carbon storage capacity of nearly one tonne of carbon per cubic metre of wood – even after harvesting and processing.

Around 30% of forestry-owned land is not managed for timber production and is set aside for biodiversity conservation, presenting countless recreational options.

The Forestry Explained recreational map highlights various activities and attractions found on forestry-owned land that is open to the public. Here are a few of the options:


1. Mountain biking

Karkloof near Howick in KZN is renowned for its mountain biking trails Photo: Jacques Marais

Take a long-weekend or holiday and explore the plantations, indigenous forests and open grasslands of Karkloof and Howick in KwaZulu-Natal. Enjoy the incredible scenery, amazing biodiversity and the 100km plus of biking trails.

2. ‘Big 4’ forestry hikes

The various plantations Photo: Luke Ellis

These hikes, found across four provinces, include the famed Fanie Botha and Tsitsikamma hikes, as well as the beautiful Magoebaskloof and Jonkershoek trails offer breathtaking views, diverse scenery and a wealth of biodiversity. These fantastic forestry trails are a great way to explore the distinctly different landscapes of four provinces.

3. Mpumalanga’s waterfalls

Take in the wonder of South Africa’s waterfalls, many of which are found of forestry-owned land, such as Lone Creek Falls in Mpumalanga. Photo: SAFCOL

Many of the famous ‘Panorama Route’ waterfalls are actually situated on forestry land. These include Berlin, Lisbon and Mac Mac falls and pools; Bridal Veil, Lone Creek and Maria Shires falls.

4. Kaapsehoop scooters

Take a two-hour scooter adventure through the Kaapsehoop plantations, over streams, beside magnificent rock formations and waterfalls. If you are really lucky, you might get a glimpse of the wild horses for which the town is renowned.

5. Trail running triple

If bird watching is your thing, you might even spot these Swee Waxbills during a visit to one of South Africa’s forests. Photo: David Everard

Three of South Africa’s best trail running venues are found on forestry-onwed land, with routes to suit all levels of experience and fitness. Jonkershoek’s Red Phoenix presents even experienced runners with a challenging descent, while the 20km Karkloof trail and 21km White River long route are great tests of endurance. All three have a number of great short trails that are perfect for those wanting to take their first steps in the sport.


By Dr Ronald Heath, Forestry South Africa

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