It’s early morning in a forest in the Tsitsikamma. You’re buried beneath a thick duvet and soft pillows, not entirely awake yet. But the chatter of indigenous birds and the rustling of leaves and branches outside your forest suite served as a natural alarm. The sun creates long streams of misty light through the trunks and onto the wooden floors.
You wrap yourself in your fluffy gown and make a cup of coffee before settling on the balcony to watch the forest wake up. There’s no need to get dressed, as your deck is hidden from human sight and entirely enclosed within this naturally thick part of the Tsitsikamma Forest.
It’s not even necessary to step outside in order to drink in your enchanted surroundings, since your room takes the form of a glass pod, connected to the rest of the lodge by nothing but a winding wooden walkway.
As you sip your steaming cup, a blanket protecting you from the early morning bite, you truly see why forests are life giving and revitalizing.
This piece of paradise is Trogon House and Forest Spa. Situated in a private forest reserve outside Plettenberg Bay along South Africa’s Garden Route, the lodge itself is built in a way that is unobtrusive to the natural forest surroundings. The main lodge and forest suites are connected by a raised walkway and thick, naturally occurring trees swallow the entire property.
The secluded forest suites are perfect spot for a romantic getaway. The only other building you’ll find down this walkway is the private forest spa. Consisting of yet another glass pod, the single-roomed spa is booked exclusively use for 2.5 hours at a time. You, or you and your partner, have the spa completely to yourself.
Start your session with a full body massage, the fire crackling on your one side and the Jacuzzi bubbling away on the other. Then be left alone by the therapists to relax in the water with a glass of champagne, get rid of all the toxins in your body in the mini steam room or lay back on the day bed.
Meals are served in the main lodge, a short walk along the wooden path from your room. The dining area looks out over a valley, giving you the chance to look out over the canopy. The lodge also has en suite rooms for those who prefer a bigger area to relax in. A swimming pool and lounge with a fireplace is open to all guests.
More forest stays along the Garden Route
South Africa’s Garden Route is a top road trip destination in the country. The beaches and small towns are well known, but looking slightly deeper, you’ll find a handful of other forest lodges to escape to.
Set against a forested hill, Tsala Treetop Lodge is mostly enclosed in forest, but also looks out over the forest canopy. Suites and villas take the form of log cabins on stilts, with floor-to-ceiling windows and furniture reminiscent of a cushy, five-star hotel. Find them on the outskirts of Plettenberg Bay.
The tree suites in Phantom Forest Eco Reserve remind of a cozy mountain cabin, with a natural reed and wood structure and exposed wooden beams, but the surroundings aren’t mountains but a dense Afromontane Forest. Although you won’t see the forest around you all the time, features like a glass ceiling above the bath, private deck or an outdoor hot tub will bring you close your natural surroundings. Situated outside Knysna.
Your stay at Teniqua Treetops will be much less luxurious than the others, but this will almost bring you closer to the forest. These eco- conscious luxury tents and tree houses are very open to the surrounding trees and you’ll hear the bugs, birds and other colourful beings buzzing around you constantly. The chalets are self-catering, so you can bring your food and spend your time as you please. Situated outside Sedgefield.
Forest activities nearby
Finished all your books and ready to explore the surroundings? Spend a few hours enjoying these forest activities.
Monkeyland is located just outside Plettenberg Bay (on the road to Trogon House) and serves as a sanctuary for a range of different monkey and lemur. This thick 12ha reserve allows them to roam free, so you get to explore a forest and look for monkeys at the same time. The suspension bridge you’ll cross is the longest in Africa.
Birds of Eden, situated next to Monkeyland, is a home to a range of previously caged, African and exotic birds. The two-hectare dome that covers the indigenous forest where they live allows them to fly freely and is the only one of its kind in the world.
You can easily spend a day exploring the Garden Route (also known as the Tsitsikamma) National Park. Put on your boots and do an early morning hike or sleep in and come for a relaxed stroll. The Garden of Eden route never disappoints and neither does a visit to the Big Tree, which is more than 800 years old and one of the few giant trees left in the country. If ever you felt like hugging a tree, it’ll be here.
Venture into the Knysna Forest, a forest where elephants were known to live many years ago, and take a tranquil walk to the Forest Legends Museum if you feel like learning something new. The museum tells forgotten stories of the hardworking Woodcutters, the mighty Knysna Elephant and it might even reveal a few of the forest’s secrets.
If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, then a Zipline Canopy Tour above and through the Tsitsikamma Forest will make you very happy. There are 10 slides to take you from platform to platform and it’s a truly indulgent way to experience the forest. Your tour will start and end in the friendly backpacker’s village of Stormsriver.