Whether you’re into family fun, adventure action or chilling with your loved one, you’ll be smitten with this place to stay on the Garden Route in South Africa. Find Forest Edge off the Rheenendal Road, a 30km scenic drive from the buzz of town. At this self-catering accommodation in Knysna, there are five cottages on the margins of indigenous forest, alive with the call of birds and the lure of forest walks.
It was our first time away after the Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa – a difficult six months without a single road trip. Forest Edge seemed perfect; on the edge of indigenous forest, surrounded by blue sky and green gardens, and only five cottages so social distancing wouldn’t be a problem.
Turned out it was perfect.
If you love the Knysna forest as I do, you’ll want to know more. The five cottages of this Knysna forest accommodation were built to the same design as the historical cottage at 26 Pitt Street that now forms part of the Millwood Museum in Knysna (so you can go to visit the real deal if you’re interested). They’re redolent of the past, when woodcutters, gold miners and elephant herds lived in Knysna’s forests. Luckily, each has been adapted for modern convenience, with a wooden deck in front, and a second bedroom and bathroom behind. Heaters, fans, and electric blankets in the bedrooms cater for either very hot or cold weather.
Next time we come – and we’ll definitely be back – we’ll try to book Froggy Pond Cottage (see the intro pic) which looks out over a pond awash in water lilies. For the cynics among you, there are mosquito screens on a window in each of the rooms in all cottages. The cottage names are part of the nature appeal, the others being Firefly, Fairy Den and Foxglove. At Firefly, you can open a panel on the side to see how woodcutters’ cottages – called sleigh houses because they were built on top of strong wooden beams – used to be hooked up to an ox wagon in the old days to be moved from place to place in the forest. It’s an intriguing recreation of a fascinating bit of history.
If you care about the environment – and of course we all should – you’ll be pleased to notice that these folks are ‘greenies’ who practise rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling for the garden and toilet flushing. Since there’s no municipal water here, do try to save water during your stay. There’s also a fruit and veggie patch that incorporates the principles of companion planting, permaculture and vermiculture. You’ll find a plastic container in your kitchen for any food scraps they can use for their worm farm, so nothing goes to waste.
Who would enjoy this Knysna accommodation?
As unashamed nature lovers, we enjoyed the setting in attractive gardens on the edge of the indigenous forest. Although Forest Edge is close enough to all the excitements of Knysna – activities, restaurants, shops, and so forth – we loved that we could be completely at peace here. We visited during the week and it was so quiet that we could sit on the deck and listen to the breeze rustling through the forest leaves, watch sunbirds and a barthroated apalis flit from tree to tree. We could chill with a picnic under a tree near our cottage, swing gently in the hammock on our porch.
But it’s not just a place for nature lovers and couples looking for a romantic break. There’s a jungle gym, swings and a swimming pool in the communal area, so it’s family friendly too. I suggest families try to book Fieldmouse cottage, which is closest to the play area and pool. Kids will also love a visit from the resident bunnies.
Finally, if you’re all about exercise and adventure, there are plenty of hiking and mountain biking routes in the area that will satisfy your lust for action.
That’s three diverse groups that would all get a kick out of this self-catering accommodation in Knysna.
1. Go on a self-guided walk around the property and stop at 11 points of interest, like a pond that woodcutters used to use. At each there’s an info board packed with interesting facts about things to do in the area and some history, like the story of the elephant herds that used to live in the indigenous forest, the woodcutters who used to work these forests, the discovery of gold at Millwood in 1860.
2. Look out for animal visitors to the cottages, like baboons and bushbuck. Stay alert around your braai at night and you might be lucky to spot porcupine or honey badger.
3. Visit the meditation centre and slowly walk the labyrinth or meditate on the wooden deck looking out towards the forest. You could even bring your yoga mat to the deck, or simply relax on one of the benches and soak in the silence.
5. In winter, snuggle up near your living room fireplace with a glass of red wine and a good book. In summer, cool off in the pool.
6. Don’t forget to look up at night for some stargazing. Lie on your back on the lawn so you don’t get a crick in your neck.
7. Visit the small woodcutter graveyard with its white crosses. Find it beyond Fairy Den cottage (the one furthest from reception). The people who are buried here have not been formally identified although Forest Edge’s old woodcutter neighbours have shared ideas of who some of them might be.
10. Enjoy breakfast on the Lily Pond Deck. This is usually included in your stay although there was no breakfast when we visited because buffets aren’t allowed under Level 1 Covid-19 lockdown. It’s a beautiful spot well worth enjoying at any time of day.
12. The fabulous Drupkelders walk starts right at the gate to Forest Edge but you need to get a permit from SANParks. The trail takes you through indigenous forest down to big rock pools where you can swim. It should take about 40min to get there and there’s a steep section of about 400m (much harder on the way back!). Listen to the stream, see a half-moon cave where water drips from the roof – hence the name Drupkelders, or dripping cellars. There are a few rock pools and a small waterfall off to your right.
- There are lots of things to do nearby, from forest hiking, a forest cycle route, a visit to the nearby historical goldfields of Knysna, Dalene Matthee’s memorial in the Goudveld Forest, whale-watching (best in June to November) and lunch at a restaurant that used to be the home of the Van Reenens of Knysna sawmill fame. Read more about these in my post about things to do near Knysna.
- There’s more info in the comprehensive booklet in your cottage at Forest Edge. The owners have listed boatloads of possible activities in the area with the contact numbers you need to make them happen. Think everything from abseiling, kayaking, cycling, snorkeling, kloofing, hiking, paragliding, sky diving, quad biking, marine wildlife excursions, forest excursions and more.
- Don’t miss driving at least part of the fabulous Seven Passes road along the back roads between George and Knysna. You’ll find some historic bridges over the rivers that wind their way through the indigenous forests. The Woodville Big Tree and circular forest walk is along this route.
- If you’re a Dalene Matthee fan or a lover of heritage, you’ll enjoy a visit to San Ambroso chapel in the Gouna Forest north of Knysna to catch up with the story she told in her novel Moerbeibos, based on Italian immigrants who came to the area in the late 1800s. The chapel is about 40km from Forest Edge.
- If you’re prepared to travel some 80km, kids and adults alike will enjoy a visit to Birds of Eden and the Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary at The Crags in Plettenberg Bay.
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