When you think petrified forest, you may expect to see a forest in the traditional sense, but you would be wrong. The forest does not stand tall next to you but rather underneath – as you walk, you will see 80-million-year-old fossilised trees and deposits on the rocks.
An oblivious person walking along the beach will be completely unaware of what lies below their feet; therefore, a tour guide is essential to appreciate the history and sights from the Cretaceous period and volcanic remains.
Tour guide, Lonwabo Dlamini, is very knowledgeable and he showed our tour group the petrified trees, fossilised rocks, shells, animal and dinosaur fragments with great excitement, as if we were his first tour, not his 100th.
The tour meeting point is at the parking of the Wild Waves Water Park and down a short path onto the beach where the 2km (two-hour) tour starts.
The site was discovered in 1824 by Pioneer HF Fynn and brought to the notice of the scientific world by Captain JR Garden in 1855.
Kick off your shoes and walk along the rocks and discover the tree and log formations, as well as beautiful examples of tightly coiled ammonites, echinoids (sea urchins) and bivalve shells, with the magnificent Indian Ocean on one side and a 10-metre cliff on the other.
The cliff also consists of fossil material, and you follow it along the coast until you get to a series of caves, known as the “White Man’s Caves” – named after shipwrecked Portuguese sailors who sheltered in them during the 1800s.
The pandemic and lockdown restrictions have negatively impacted the livelihoods of these tour guides, who rely on tourists as their only source of income. Support them while ticking something local off your to do list.
For petrified forest guided tours, at R90 per person, contact Bheki Nzimande on (063) 338 8766.
* Tours are aligned to low tide, so times vary, liaise with the tour guides to schedule.
· Apply sunscreen
· Wear slops, as you walk through water and would need to carry your shoes
· Pack lightly if you pack anything at all – you only need water if a hot day
For hiking enthusiasts, contact Lonwabo Dlamini on (078) 631 2730 for inland guided tours. Your options are 8km half day tours or full day tours that range between one day or up to eight days hiking, where you do between 15km – 21 kms a day. All full day tours start inland hiking through the wilderness and end on the beach with the petrified forest and are charged at R100 per person per day.
The four-day hike is 83kms in total and hikers spend nights in homestay villages and experience the hospitality of the locals, the fee is R4,000 per person and includes catering in the villages and packed lunches and transport back to Wild Coast Sun.