At the base of the awe inspiring Tsitsikamma Mountains, alongside ancient rivers that make their way towards the Indian Ocean, lies the beautiful Forest Ferns Estate. Occupying a magnificent position on 109 hectares that borders onto the Tsitsikamma National Park, it has enchanting views of the rugged coastline, river gorge, and surrounding plantations. The Fernery is ranked as one of the top luxury hotels in South Africa featuring a breathtaking location and much lauded fined dining restaurant.
My mother had booked our family in a cute little cabin just up the road from the main lodge. Our little cabin reminded me of a cottage you might find in thick Canada’s West Coast. Funny how we were in the heart of South Africa and I was feeling as though a black bear or moose might pass by our window at any moment. Once settled into our cabin we suited up to dine in one of the most picturesque and petite dining rooms I have ever been. We spent the next few hours watching the sun set over the gorge, sipping on two bottles of wine and oohh’ing and ahhh’ing over each plate.
Amuse the Mouth
roasted cherry tomatoes, marinated artichokes, serrano ham, basil
Creamy Roasted Leek Tart
onion marmalade, rocket creme fraiche
Three Cheese, Pine Nut and Herb Stuffed Spinach Wrapped Chicken Breast
potato galette, balsamic glaze
Grilled Beef Fillet
mielie-meal pap, gem squash, butternut, tomato coulis
Bitter Chocolate Fondant Pudding
vanilla bean and espresso custard
Chilled Strawberry Soup
mixed berry jelly, frozen berry yogurt ice cream
The following morning we were up at the crack of dawn to explore all of the sites and sounds of Tsitsikamma. Our first stop was a quick peak at the Storms River Bridge followed by a brisk walk to the infamous “Big Tree,” a 800 year old yellowwood that measures 36.6m tall with a 9 meter trunk circumference.
Just down the road sits the entrance to one of the most beautiful national parks in Africa. The Storms River Tsitsikamma National Park is the heart of the picturesque Garden Route and incorporates 80 km of rocky coastline, a remote mountainous region with secluded valleys covered in mountain Fynbos and temperate high forests with deep river gorges leading down to the sea. We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day which featured colourful flowers, secluded beaches and a stunning suspension bridge adventure. After a considerable workout (thousands of steps) we planted ourselves at the restaurant overlooking the main beach and enjoyed a thirst quenching beer and lunch. The view was unforgettable, the beer was the best I’ve ever tasted and a well deserved reward after such an athletic endeavour.
Hopping back in the car we drove to Monkeyland a primate sanctuary in Plettenberg Bay. Monkeyland has captured the hearts of visitors in its efforts to rehabilitate and free previously caged primates. The sanctuary is exceptional as it caters for several species of primates who are not caged. They are free to move about the forest and this they do most harmoniously. On our guided “safari” we saw a variety of primates, ranging from the Gibbons of Asia to the Lemurs of Madagascar. Our tour ended as one of hte handlers dumped a massive bucket of fresh fruit at a feeding station. In seconds what seemed like hundreds of monkeys scrambled to stuff large orange slices in their tiny mouths. We licked our chops too, hopping back in the car and arriving in the town of Knysna for dinner an hour later.
Knysna, a town of just over fifty thousand is most famous for its oyster fishing, luxury homes and harbourfront which houses row after row of shiny yachts and sailboats. We sat down for dinner at the spacious 34 South Restaurant located right on the harbour. The restaurant is not exactly a restaurant, or a bar… management dub 34 South as a gift shop, clothing emporium, food store, fish monger, bakery, wine bar and sushi station. The restaurant is located 34° South – that’s your horizontal spot, your parallel position, your line of latitude.
I fell in love with the restaurants nautical decor, blue and white latticed tablecloth and relaxed waterfront vibe. We all shared a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc while devouring a plate full of cuddling shrimp, oysters sitting in hot butter and roquefort and soft shell crab sushi roll.
After dinner we drove another hour along the highway arriving at Sea Paradise Guest House in the town of Wilderness where we would be spending the night. It was pitch black when we arrived but I could smell the salt in the air and could hear the roar of the rolling waves. The following morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then savoured an early morning stroll along the beach. We dodged dead jelly fish and clapped our hands as kite surfers zipped along the shore. Pinch me, I think I’m in Vancouver.