The origins of the town name Knysna are probably from the Hottentot words 'Xthuys Xna', which mean 'place where the wood is'. An entire industry sprang up around the beautiful yellowwood trees in the forests of the Tsitsikamma until South Africa's national tree became an endangered species.

Some of the trees that were felled for their pale, unblemished wood were over a thousand years old, and now, the largest remaining yellowwood is doesn't even approach this venerable age. Fortunately some of these ancients have survived. In the Tsitsikamma Forest, near Plettenberg Bay, you can catch a glimpse of the majesty that once ruled the forests on a short walk to the big tree.

Although visitors to Plettenberg Bay are drawn to the scorching white beaches crammed full of sun worshippers in the summer months, they can find respite from the heat and crowds on the forest path to the Tsitsikamma Big Tree.

This tree is estimated to be between 600 and 800 years old, stands 36,6 m tall and has a trunk circumference of 9m. From a parking lot on the side of the N2, the area's famed Garden Route that stretches from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, a boardwalk path leads visitors through the dappled light of the lush, cool forest.

How to get here

The well sign-posted path to the big tree is just west of the Paul Sauer Bridge on the N2.

How to get around

A pathway through indigenous bush leads to the yellowwood giant. The walk to the tree takes about 10 minutes.

Tours to do

The world's highest bungee jump from the Bloukrans Bridge.

Accommodation

There is plenty of accommodation in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay to suit every budget.

The forest boardwalk is well maintained and visitors can walk the 1km round trip to the Tsitsikamma in a comfortable 10 minutes. Two additional trails start from the same spot for the slightly more intrepid hiker: one of 2,6km and another of 4,2km.

For anyone who loves trees, there are any number of other activities in the area to appeal to the nature lover in you, from zipline canopy tours to tubing down a black water gorge, or even taking on the world's highest bungee jump off the Bloukrans River Bridge for the truly adventurous.

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