Nestled in the hills above Knysna (pronounced “nighs-na”), in the middle of South Africa’s Garden Route, is a lodge that blends luxurious accommodation with environmental responsibility. It’s called the Phantom Forest, and it’s one of the most unique places I’ve ever stayed.
The Phantom Forest consists of 14 wooden “tree suites,” which are set well apart from each other, allowing a complete sense of privacy. Each suite includes a bedroom, sitting area, deck, and en-suite bathroom. The rooms are exquisitely appointed with hand-crafted furnishings, ethnic artifacts, king-sized beds with silky percale cotton sheets and mosquito nets, a bath tub (large enough for two), and a double-headed shower (my favourite feature!).
Picture courtesy of Patty McCrary
The lodge was constructed with a systematic concept of conservation, which was instrumental in its winning the World Travel Awards’ Leading Eco Destination in Africa for 2007. No trees were removed to make way for the tree-suites; instead the design was adapted around the native foliage. Buildings were constructed from excess vegetation, which was cleared by hand and used to create the flooring, chairs, tables, doors, etc. Organically grown produce is purchased from small area growers and used in the preparation of meals. Biodegradable cleaning products are used, and water is recycled through the lodge’s own sewage plant, pumped to reed beds and filtered naturally back into the ground as clean reusable water.
A stay at the Phantom Forest begins when you leave your car at the base of the hill on which the lodge is built. The staff transfer your luggage to a green Land Rover and drive you to the reception area, where you are greeted and escorted to your suite. After relaxing on your deck while listening to the monkeys and birds outside your room, you dress for dinner and enjoy a “sundowner” drink in the bar. Dinner is a seven-course delight to the senses and would excite the most discriminating palate. It is followed by coffee and a campfire on the fire deck. Then, when you’ve had enough, you stroll down the boardwalk to your suite and enjoy a soak in your oversized bath tub.