Across Africa are only a handful of sheltered, remote pockets of Afromontane forest; all that remains of huge tracts of the ancient forest that covered large parts of the continent. On the Garden Route is one such forest. Knysna Forest, in some places so dense it borders on impenetrable, is a marvelous mix of ancient trees, both local and exotic. Tree ferns, creepers, flowers, and the elusive Knysna lourie, its call heard more often than it is seen, are also part of the forest.
No visit to Golden Gate would be complete without a hike to the top of Brandwag Buttress (Afrikaans for “Sentinal Buttress). This sandstone cliff adorns all the postcards of the park as it has a golden glow at sunrise and sunset; hence the name Golden Gate. The back-and-forth route from the Glen Reenen Rest Camp is just 2.4 km and should take roughly an hour to complete. The majority of the hike is along a very gentle and clearly-marked path with exception of the final stretch before the cliff itself; here you’ll find a moderate rocky outcrop that has to be climbed carefully. Although there is a fixed chain to help you with this, it shouldn’t pose much of a challenge for anyone with the ability to climb a ladder or steep staircase.
This fun-for-all picnic spot is 13 km from Sabie on the Graskop (R532) road. A nominal fee is payable at the access control gate. This is a series of pools at the Mac Mac falls – great for swimming – with a braai and picnic area, so timing your visit for lunchtime and an afternoon swim is not a bad idea. A 3km Secretary Bird Trail takes you through the bush in which, if you are lucky and quiet, you will hear the calls of the robin, thrush, cuckoo, greenbul, and even the odd Secretary bird.