The magnificent indigenous forests along the Garden Route once stretched all the way from Humansdorp to Mossel Bay, but extensive logging operations in the 1800's and early 1900's meant that huge tracts of it have disappeared. Today the remains of the forest are all protected areas, most of them falling within the management areas of the Garden Route National Park. The biggest sections of the forest can be found in the Tsitsikamma and Knysna areas where the public can access parts of it through hiking trails and the odd forest road.
One of the most popular stops along the Garden Route where visitors can get into the forest is at The Big Tree in the Tsitsikamma. A boarded trail takes one about 500 meters into the forest. The shaded walk is comfortable and easy and all along the way information boards point out interesting trees and ferns.
The walk ends in a clearing before you approach the majestic Big Tree. The Big Tree is a 800 year old Outeniqua Yellowwood (South Africa's national tree), which means that it was 300 years old already when Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias came along our coastline in 1488. Trees like this one was widely targeted when the woodcutters were working in the forests a century or so ago, which means that there aren't that many of them around anymore and of those only a few are accessable like this one.
With Drama Princess standing at its base looking up one only realises how big the tree really is. It's 36,6 meters tall with a trunk length 18 meters and trunk circumference of 9 meters. This means that it will take 7 or 8 adults holding hands to reach around the girth. So next time you venture down the Garden Route again, look out for the Big Tree turnoff close to the Storms River Bridge.