Forest Bathing

Forest bathing, a Japanese concept, is the broad reference to taking in the full spectrum of the forest through your five senses. Extending beyond the simple activity of walking through a forest, it is the process of absorbing the entire experience of the forest through your sight, touch and smell.

Preparing for Forest Bathing

  • Switch digital devices off
  • Slow down and observe nature
  • Breathe in an extended cyclical pattern
  • Pause and smell your surroundings.

In the Garden Route, we are fortunate to be surrounded by medium to mature climax Afro-montane forests which extend from George to Storms River in the east. Flanking the southern slopes of the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountain ranges, the forest offers a cool, quiet environment for forest bathing.

Forest Bathing is about cultivating a primeval reconnection, an awakening of your senses for an integrated experience in nature.

Forest Bathing on the Woodcutter Trail

While there are many trails suitable for Forest Bathing in the Garden Route, the Woodcutter Trail is a perfect trail to begin. Offering the choice of a 3km or 9km loop, you can plan how long you would like to spend in the forest.

Recently, while relaxing in a stream below a small rapid, a stick drifted past will a Knysna Dwarf Chameleon clinging to it. An endemic species to the region, it was fortuitous to see it on the stick. Once the stick was lifted out of the water, the chameleon transitioned from a dark black brown colour to a light tan shade, an indication of it destressing.

Fungus are vital to the chemical recycling and communication in a forest and contribute to the scent of the forest. Each Forest, even in a region has it’s own unique fragrance distilled from the fungal community supporting the wellbeing of the forest community (flora and fauna).
‘Black water’ streams flow through the forest of the Garden Route. Stained by tannins from the Fynbos and humus layer of the forest floor, their babbling sound, scent and visual tones are perfect to spend time to take in, either swimming or sitting on the river bank.
Streams attract a multitude of forest life, some only for drinking, while others for their entire life cycle. Goldtail Damselflies are active around sunny sections of the stream and are worthwhile watching their antics,
A juvenile Knysnan Dwarf Chameleon drifting downstream on a floating twig.
Within ten minutes of watching the chameleon, fortified with the act of rescuing it, a sense of wellbeing infused our guests.
After observing the chameleon for half an hour we liberated it onto a mature stinkwood tree.
Swimming in a fern lined pool amplified the sensory perception of sight, smell and hearing.
Ticked away behind the veil of the waterfall, a Cape River Frog, rested on the damp moss, it’s clicking song blending with the sound of running water.
Shades of green, a colour appreciated for it’s soothing properties, present in many hues beneath the forest canopy.
Ferns, an ancient plant form, have an innate ability to to link us to our primeval past, a gateway to appreciating nature and a catalyst to slow down.
Delicate orchid flowers emit a subtle fragrance, particularly in the evening, and provides a phycological anchor to the soothing experience of forest bathing.
When you have finished forest bathing you will have traded imprints with the forest.

Alternative Trails for Forest Bathing in the Garden Route

Fortunately the Garden Route has numerous established forest trails between Storms River and George ranging from 2.5km up to 18km, each trail with it’s own special offering and experience.

To start off, here are some of the more well known hikes to consider : Top 5 Forest Trails in the Garden Route

For a guided forest experience : Read More


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