One thing you have to love about this beautiful country of ours is the multitude of public holidays. If you’re smart about it, you can get a week off for just one day of leave. That was our plan – we took a day of leave for 28th April and were set for 4 days in the beautiful Platbos forest.
As none of us had been there before, we were more than excited to hit the road early on Thursday morning. The forest is located an hour and a half’s drive from Cape Town, between Stanford and Gansbaai. The drive takes you up the beautiful Sir Lowry’s pass, through the Elgin Valley, into the fishing town of Hermanus and the quaint town of Stanford before reaching the Platbos reserve.
We stopped in laid back Hermanus for a quick bite to eat. As one does in a fishing town, we opted for seafood. You have to try the fish at Fishman’s Cottage. It is mouthwatering, their prices are reasonable and staff are friendly.
The drive from Hermanus to Platbos is green and lush so you would be excused for thinking “What Drought?” About 7km after Stanford, you will reach the signboard for the “Grootbos” turnoff. After taking the turnoff, you’ll encounter a short piece of tar road, which turns into gravel after 800m. The graded gravel road is not the best, but can definitely be driven by standard road car. Platbos is around 3km down the gravel road, on your right.
Once your booking is confirmed, the Platbos the owners send a very detailed map to ensure you do not get lost. The area is also very well demarcated, so finding your way around is definitely not a problem.
We stopped at the info hut to pick up some braai wood. Wood is priced at R20 per bag and is definitely worth the money, as they are fairly big bags. There is no electricity in the forest, but Platbos has a communal freezer at the hut where you can store your items. Opposite the info hut is the start of 4 forest trails – something every visitor to the forest has to do!
On arrival at the site, we were pleasantly surprised. The setup of the forest camp is fantastic to say the least. The two tents provided are canvas and have 2 single beds in each. Linen and Towels are also provided. The tents are on opposite sides of the camp site, which for some might be a good thing. We felt that the second tent could be a little closer, but that’s just personal preference. On the website, we read about the long drop toilet, which we were excited (and nervous) to see. It could be a bit scary with the first experience, as you’d basically be doing your business in a big hole in the ground. Thankfully, this one was nicely built up and sheltered. After doing what you need, you throw down some sawdust. It takes some getting used to. We developed a new appreciation for flushing water toilets and a realization of our heavy reliance on water… WE NEED TO SAVE WATER GUYS!
The kitchen area is covered and VERY well equipped. We learnt very soon that all we had to bring along was our food and clothing. EVERYTHING else is provided for. Shortly after arrival, the owners popped around… first to start the fire for the donkey boiler and again later to check that we were settled. The donkey boiler, to put it plainly, is a fire driven geyser. We had our doubts as to whether the water would be warm in the morning, but was assured it would be.
The shower area is located behind the kitchen complex. It is a true outdoor shower in every sense… no ceiling and just 3 walls.
The forest camp definitely makes you feel at one with nature. We settled into the obligatory braai and headed off to bed, knowing we had a busy day ahead.
Sleep was broken shortly after 5am, when we discovered one of the many forest visitors in our tent… this time, a sizeable 8 legged variant. Not having a close relationship with these friends, we decided to get up and make the most of the day ahead. To our surprise and disbelief, the water was still warm and well pressured – great start to the day.
After discovering we packed everything but bacon, we abandoned the idea of cooking that morning and headed out. After all, what is a camp breakfast without bacon?
Our first stop was Kleinbaai, also known as Shark Bay. As the name implies, it is a popular spot for shark cage diving. We met a friendly local tour guide, who shared some interesting shark facts and ideas for future road trips. After, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the Whitehouse and continued on.
We love these road trips because it affords us the opportunity to visit smaller towns and experience the culture and friendliness they exude. Two of these towns we got to drive through on our way to Cape Agulhas – Baardskeerdersbos and Elim. It is very heartwarming to see the smiles on the faces of the residents when driving through, always followed by a friendly wave.
After 50km of scenic gravel roads, we arrived at the beautiful sea town of Cape Agulhas. It really has a special atmosphere with the lighthouse sitting high on the hill overlooking the town, like something out of a story book. We managed to grab a pic at the meeting of the oceans and learn a bit of the history of the area from a very friendly and informative lady at the Lighthouse.
Heading back to camp on the R317, we popped in at Strandveld Wine Farm. We did not expect a wine farm on that road, which literally felt like the middle of nowhere. The friendly staff offered an 11 set tasting across their range of white and red wines. Most of the wines we tasted were really good and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, eventually ending up closing the place.
Along the way (still on gravel), we also stopped in at Die Dam Campsite. For the avid fisherman, this is a cool campsite, as you’re basically camping on the beach on grass. Our last stop was the Spar in Gansbaai, to get bacon for the next day’s breakfast.
When we got back to camp, we started a fire and appreciated the forest’s serenity. We also started the fire for the donkey boiler, to ensure we could have hot water for the next morning. It did get a bit chilly sitting under the trees, but that was nothing a little braai and camp stories couldn’t fix. It was an early night after the day’s driving.
After a proper camp breakfast, bacon included, and a lazy morning, we set off to explore the little town of Stanford. They have a Saturday market, which was on top of our to-do list. Just walking around the town, absorbing the atmosphere was amazing. We also visited the local butcher, choosing from fine cuts of meat for our Potjie later that evening.
We were pleasantly surprised to find an Oumeul bakery in the town and, of course, had to stop for lunch. Their famous pies were on the menu…never disappoints! With the temperature in the high 30’s, we cooled off at at the Table13 pub.
While chatting to the locals, we learnt of a secluded beach in Walker Bay. As soon as they said you need a 4×4 to get there, we were sold and headed off, down a gravel road leading out of the town. It is worth a mention that the ladies did the driving to the beach and did a fine job on both gravel and thick sand.
Eddie braved the icy water and took a dip… the swim was just what he needed in the sweltering heat of the day. We were the only people on that beach for as far as we could see. What an amazingly beautiful coastline! With that perfect end, we headed back to camp.
Driving up the fire belt at camp, we spotted something in the road that had not been there before… a shiny, black, almost 2 meter long snake! Being in and one with nature, we are aware they may be around, but seeing one so close to camp gave us the shivers. We spent a few minutes watching his movements, but it became apparent he was fairly passive, just taking advantage of the hot sun.
We were obviously still nervous at camp and immediately checked the tents for unwanted guests. Much to our relief, they were clear and we could start the fire, relax and enjoy evening… albeit a bit more aware of the animals sharing the forest with us.
We had another slow start to the next morning and headed to De Kelders Cave walks. An overcast, cool morning allowed for a stunning walk on the beach, checking out the caves along the untouched coastline, passing the fishermen on the way down to the water.
After some time in the sea air, we decided to head home, a day earlier than we expected the rest of the long weekenders to do so. We’d experienced traffic coming down Sir Lowry’s pass before and would rather avoid it.
And thus, we signed off another awesome weekend spent in the beautiful Overberg!
Thank you Platbos Nature Reserve.