Year in the Wild Blog

Arriving in heaven

I think we have arrived in heaven. For the next two weeks we are staying in the Garden Route National Park, in the four different sections of the park – Storms River Rest Camp, Natures Valley, Wilderness and Knysna.

Storms river rest camp was very kitted out for tourists, and is a popular international stay-over spot. There are a variety of different types of accommodation (all self-catering), with a shop and restaurant for those who like to eat out. Most of the chalets and camp sites are right by the sea and we fell asleep and woke up to the sound of the crashing of the stormy waves against the rocks. There is a lovely walkway through the forest to the dramatic storms river mouth, which can be crossed on a suspension bridge spanning the mouth.

We also visited the ‘Big Tree’, off the N2 and just past Storms River Village. This is one of South Africa’s more famous trees, being 1000 years old and standing 36.6m high, with a circumference of 8.5m. The tree started growing in 1190, and has witnessed many political and environmental changes in its time.  The Big Tree is an Outeniqua Yellowwood – a wood in high demand for furniture and house construction. The trunks of these trees were once used as topmasts of ships; popular in the 1800’s and brought out of the forests by the traditional woodcutters who lived and died in these tsitsikamma forests.

We are now in an adorable wooden chalet looking out on to the tannin-coloured Groot River in Natures Valley at the de Vasselot Camp Site. The birds are truly spectacular here; the ‘Piet my vrous’ are calling, the Knysna loeries are chuckling and the bullbulls are singing, and, to top it all off we both saw our first Narina Trogon yesterday! He was quietly ‘koo-kooing’ away to himself directly above us and we could see his scarlet underbelly and dark blue-green feathers from behind the branch. There are numerous frogs in the river here, and they are now croaking happily away as the rain falls in the valley. We feel completely privileged to be in this piece of relatively untouched nature.

We really feel that Natures Valley is very untouched and like a little secret hideout for those who know it is here. There is beautiful indigenous forest growing all around the little village, with old Outeniqua yellowwoods, Ironwoods, White Pears, Cape Chestnuts, and Wild Olives all around (to name a few!). You can tell that the long sandy beach is on the edge of a marine protected area because of all the bird and mollusk-life on the beach… there is always something interesting to examine and ponder over!

“The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyong reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see.” – Edward Abbey

This Knysna Loerie is one of two that comes most days to eat the berries off the tree outside our chalet at Nature's Valley


Can you see Thandi in the bottom left corner? The Big Tree...over 1000 years old and one of the huge Outeniqua Yellow Wood trees which grow in the prodigious forests of the Tsitsikamma

Some of the huge yellow woods which grow near the De Vasselot camping area in Natures Valley

This is the slice of a trunk of a huge yellow wood which was cut down in the 1970s, after the crown broke off.

And the plaque describing how old it is...

The view from our chalet at the SANParks De Vasselot camping area in Natures Valley

Thandi going for a dip in the gulley at the end of Natures Valley beach

The lagoon of the Groot River which flows through Natures Valley into the sea...

These forests are mightily impressive...if you haven't read Dalene Matthee's book Circles in the Forest, then please do. But the best thing is to visit here and see for yourself how special this place is.

Another huge Outeniqua Yellow Wood tree near our camping site. This one is probably close to 1 000 years old.

One of the chalets you can stay in at De Vasselot in Natures Valley


Thanks again to my sponsors for making it all possible. CapeNature, South African National Parks, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Eastern Cape Parks, iSimangaliso Wetland ParkFord, Total, Evosat, Conqueror TrailersVodacom, Digicape, Lacie, Frontrunner, Safari Centre Cape TownK-Way, EeziAwnNational Luna, Nokia , Goodyear, Global Fleet Sales, Hetzner and Clearstream Consulting.

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