Diepwalle (Garden Route National Park)

Originally, most of South Africa’s Garden Route between the mountains and the sea was covered by dense forests. Unfortunately these forests have been exploited on an industrial scale for wood and ivory since the 1760’s and the town of Knysna owns its existence to the lucrative trade that required access to a harbour for exporting. At various times attempts were made to protect pockets of forest from harvesting, but it is not until the 1880s, when a professional forester was appointed as superintendent by the colonial government, that any real effort went into the protection and sustainable use of what remained. Today only about a third of the indigenous forests remain, with a large proportion of it being protected in the Garden Route National Park, proclaimed in 2009 when several state forests were amalgamated with the Wilderness and Tsitsikamma National Parks and the Knysna National Lake Area.

North of Knysna, the Diepwalle State Forest was one of those pockets of forest afforded protection. One of the main attractions here is the enormous King Edward VII-tree, an Outeniqua Yellowwood tree estimated to be over 600 years old, towering almost 40m above the forest floor and so named by a group of British officials who were entertained to a picnic here in 1924. Diepwalle is also known to be part of the range of the last few remaining Knysna Elephants. In the 1880s it was estimated that between 400 and 600 elephants still roamed the Garden Route, yet today, a little over 100 years later, there may be only one lone cow remaining (even elephant researchers and park staff differ on exactly how many are left). Unless they are exceptionally lucky, the only contact visitors are likely to have with a Knysna Elephant is not along the Elephant Walk trail through the forest, but rather with the skeleton of one that is on display at the Forest Legends Museum at Diepwalle.

Diepwalle is easily accessible from Knysna, a short drive along the gravel R339 (Prince Albert’s Pass) leading to Uniondale. We spent a morning in the area while on our December holidays visiting eight of South Africa’s national parks. Guests can stay a night or two here on the unique camping decks set among the trees in the deep forest shade. Apart from the fascinating museum, there’s also picnic sites and a community-run tea garden serving delicious treats.

 

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11 thoughts on “Diepwalle (Garden Route National Park)

  1. kim blades, writer

    Hello. It is so sad that the Knysna elephants are no longer living. They would be a great attribute to the National Park. The Yellowoods are magnificent trees. My sister has a few hundred growing on her farm. The birds and local wildlife love them.

    Liked by 1 person

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