The Big Tree of Tsitsikamma

Hike the Ratel Trail

Looking for a short walk while visiting Tsitsikamma , the well sign-posted “Big Tree” Outeniqua Yellow tree is situated on the N2 between the Paul Suer Bridge and the quaint historical village of Storms River is worth a visit.

The trail is divided into three routes. The green route is 1km long on it you follow a boardwalk through indigenous forest to the Big Tree. The yellow route is 2.6km, and the red route is 4.2km. The tree is estimated to be ±800 years old; it stands 36 meters high and has a circumference of almost 9 meters. Visitors can obtain trail information and permits at the entrance.

Keep a lookout for indigenous wildlife that may cross your path, such as vervet monkeys, baboons, Knysna loeries (turacos), bushbuck and the elusive blue duiker.

The tranquillity of the forest provides opportunities for quiet observation and appreciation of nature’s wonders.

Many of the Garden Route’s ancient yellowood trees are estimated to be between 600 and 800 years old. Tsitsikamma’s Big Tree is no different.

Interesting Facts about Yellowood Trees


  • National Tree of South Africa.
  • The yellowwood family has been present in South Africa for more than 100 million years, endemic to the super continent of Gondwana
  • Podocarp trees are either male or female, The male cones develop during early summer (November) on twigs produced the previous year and the pollen is released by the end of the next winter (a two-year period). The dry cones on the forest floor are indicative of male trees.
  • The female cones develop with new leaves in spring and are pollinated when the pollen is released from the almost one-year old male cones. They take about one year to develop into yellow, fleshy ‘fruit’ enclosing a woody ‘seed’ with the nut inside from which the seedling germinates.
  • It is the only bat-dispersed conifer we know. The bats remove the fleshy part around the ‘seed’, spit out the ‘seed’, suck the juice from the fleshy part, and then spit out the fleshy part in small, chewed chunks.
  • The seeds and chewed fruit chunks on the forest floor are indicative of female trees, and often accumulate in small clusters under a nearby tree of another species where the bats roost.
  • Larger birds such as the Louries swallow the seed to contribute to their dispersal.
  • Monkeys and baboons also disperse the fruit but often also destroy the seed.
  • Bush pigs destroy many of the seeds to get to the nut.
  • Rodents are partial to the seeds and accumulate them in holes in the stems of trees, they eat the kernel and destroy most of the seed.
  • While fairly resilient, the yellowood is a slow grower, taking several years to reach maturity.

The magnificent Knysna turaco is easily identified by it’s distinctive rasping call and bright crimson flight features.

The vervet monkeys – highly entertaining and worth taking a break for to observe their human-like behaviour.

Although rather shy, you have a good chance of spotting bushbuck in the forest.

The ever-present baboons in the area also provide much entertainment.