Teniqua Treetops: A Blissful Stay in the South African Bush.
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Teniqua Treetops is a tranquil, hidden spot of peace and beauty, just far enough off the main Garden Route highway to allow travelers to escape blissfully and near invisibly into the South African bush. If you’ve ever dreamed of staying in a treehouse, this is the place!
After a full day canoeing in Wilderness, we pushed our way up into the mountains about twenty minutes off the N2, the main highway running down the Cape. We found ourselves on a gravel road passing through gates and greeting the smiling bunch of gatekeepers.
Owners Robyn and Viv run Teniqua Treetops; the two came to an epiphany, released their careers in computers and technology, downsized, moved south to the land of green and calm, and built their first treehouse. They’ve been experimenting, tinkering, and fine tuning in the forest ever since, and now share eight unique and individually crafted treehouses with visitors from near and far.
They strive to dwell lightly on the land, and it shows.
After Robyn escorted us from reception down the rustic road to the tucked away treehouse, she took a few minutes to explain the basics of the little abode, and then left us to enjoy the tranquility of time spent among the treetops.
Canvas walls secured the bedroom, and windows and end doors zipped down to mesh screens or fully opened flaps: trees and birdsong just beyond. Fluffy blankets and pillows and that beloved South African tradition: heated mattress pads to ward off nighttime chills.
Kitchen: complete with gas burners and microwave, wine glasses and refrigerator, and the most important item, a French press (a.k.a. “plunger”). Tap water ran cold from the river or hot from the solar heated tank; both ran light brown in color, evidence of the naturally occurring tannins from the forest growth. A drinking water spigot stood separately; but either water source is drinkable.
The kitchen and sunroom were framed in wood and fitted with generous glass windows to let in light and views, and the bathroom perched off the corner, perfectly private and open to the vista (not for the shy!). I’m not sure which was more impressive: the composting toilet or the solar heated natural-water bathtub.
The toilet scores big points: after using bathrooms on multiple continents ranging from squat holes on the Inca Trail to marbled throne rooms in Italy, I actually felt a curiously fondness for this little contraption. Bear with me. There’s no running water, simply a mechanism by which each “flush” is a revolution along a rotating compositor that works over several weeks’ time to process and decompose waste. Next to the toilet, instead of wastebaskets and signs proclaiming “do not flush toilet paper down the loo,” there is a bucket with a hand trowel and a generous stash of crunchy leaves and twigs gathered from the forest floor. Each toilet use, throw the paper down the shoot, add a shovel full of natural compost fuel, “flush” the mechanical lever, and done! Green and clean, odorless, and self-contained. No additional plumbing needed.
The bathtub was another story. Six handles felt like a space-station command center. Choices, choices. Solar heated water. Gas geyser heated water. Cold water. All for the tub. And another series of the same three for the shower head. Robyn had chuckled when she showed it to us: “It wasn’t necessary to have all the knobs separate, but I kind of liked it. It shows my sense of humor.” It turned out only two knobs were really needed: the solar water and the cold; the combo made for the most luxurious soak in the afternoon sunshine. Warm light streaming in the windows, ruddy water tinged with fynbos tannin, just the thing for sore muscles after canoeing and hiking through the Garden Route.
I loved the whimsey throughout the treehouse: little details here and there. Beautiful ironwood countertops and little hand-finished trim pieces. Railings marching up and down the decks. Artwork and hidden little shapes and figures here and there.
The real fun was the upper tower: a ladder/stairway led to an adult version of a kid’s treetop perch. Two things: the best wifi signal came in from up top, and Ted’s morning coffee tasted even better at high elevation.
Scenes from the surroundings tell the tale far better than words…
Our Favorite Memory: “Alexander the Pretty Great” the little bird who hopped in to greet us each evening and morning. He knew just the secret passages to make his way indoors and then escape faster than I could grab the camera. After bracing for the worst, preparing myself to come face to face with a terrifyingly fuzzy eight legged creature, I was more than thankful for his two legged, two winged hop/flutter around the place. Also: we both enjoyed the lovely trails leading down through the indigenous forests to the river below. Beautiful scenery just a step outside the door.
Wifi: None at present
Breakfast: Self-catering, with the all-important French press (“coffee plunger”) provided.
Our Favorite Amenities: The beautiful indigenous forest walk down to the river at the base of the valley; down comforter and electric mattress pad for keeping toasty warm in the woods. Eco-friendly composting toilet and genuinely hot solar-heated water (with back-up gas-powered hot water as a second measure). Birdwatching books and more available in the common lounge.
Setting: A fifteen minutes’ drive from the N2, up in one of the remaining patches of legacy indigenous Knysna Forest.
This Teniqua Treetops article is part of our twoOregonians Tour the Cape series featuring quintessential and offbeat South African experiences, one-of-a-kind accommodations and beautiful B&Bs, respectful wildlife programs, social service projects, and landscape photography from the South African Cape. As always, all opinions, photos, and stories are our own; many thanks to our kind hosts and partners along the way. It was our pleasure to experience such genuine kindness and hospitality!