Garden Route DestinationsKnysna, Garden Route
Knysna is a natural paradise of lush, indigenous forests, tranquil lakes and golden beaches. She nestles on the banks of a breathtakingly pretty lagoon, now a protected marine reserve that is home to the extraordinary sea horse and over 200 species of fish.
Beaches, lakes, mountains and rivers provide endless opportunity for leisure and outdoor adventure. Within the town, craft shops, flea-markets and cosy cafés beckon with small-town charm and hospitality. The area around Knysna is a veritable Garden of Eden. This is home of the only forest elephant in South Africa, the rare Pansy Shell, the brilliantly coloured, and elusive, Knysna Loerie, a plethora of waterfowl and forest birds, dolphins and visiting whales.
The indigenous forests in Knysna constitute the largest complex of closed-canopy forest in southern Africa, whilst the remarkable richness of the Fynbos vegetation contributes over 8000 plant species to the Cape floral kingdom. Exploring the Knysna forests, along demarcated walks, with the occasional call of the Loerie, provides a complete escape into a former time when many elephants trod these paths, particularly if you’ve read Dalene Matthee’s ‘Circles in a forest’.
Today a mere three elephants are reputed to still roam the forest. The Knysna Elephant Park has brought the elephant back to Knysna and all the elephants are former orphans rescued from culling operations in the Kruger National Park, except for Thandi who was born in the park.
A visit to Knysna would be incomplete without a trip to the heads - a striking geological feature made up of a pair of huge, brightly coloured cliffs lying at the mouth of the lagoon, flanking a channel of potentially treacherous water that flows into Knysna’s lagoon. The eastern head houses a lookout with spectacular views of the lagoon, Leisure Isle and Knysna whilst the western head is a privately owned nature reserve called Featherbed Nature Reserve. Visitors can get to the reserve via ferry.
The main street of Knysna, lined with small boutiques and shops, is actually a part of the N2 highway, which passes directly through the center of the town en route to the Eastern Cape and beyond. Reached from the Cape Town direction by a narrow causeway, and built on a natural lagoon, virtually enclosed by the famed Knysna heads, this small town is bound on all sides by hills and mountains, covered with indigenous vegetation. Taking advantage of this lagoon setting are the houseboat operators, who offer these leisure vessels on lease to the public. Renting a houseboat ensures both a unique accommodation experience, and an opportunity to explore the town and surrounds in an entirely different way.
A part of the migratory route of the Southern Right and other whale species, it is possible to view these marine mammals during the months of August and September, while dolphins are year round visitors. For thrillseekers, options abound, with everything from paragliding over the coastline, abseiling and skydiving, to scuba diving and tree top canopy tours within easy reach of the town.
In times gone by, the area was home to large family groups of elephants. These herds have since disappeared, however, a visit to the elephant sanctuary will give visitors the opportunity to view these majestic beasts in their natural element. Another sanctuary that will attract animal lovers is the wolf sanctuary, located on the N2 heading out of town, towards Plettenberg Bay.
Along this same stretch of highway, several local crafters and artists have set up studios and galleries that are well worth a visit. For lovers of the good life, a visit planned during the annual Knysna Oyster Festival will provide opportunities to sample these locally farmed delicacies, however, during the year, these and other delights are still available from various eateries located in the harbour and elsewhere in town.
The harbour area and the Knysna Waterfront is also home to most of Knysna’s nightlife, with several bars, restaurants and clubs where patrons can enjoy a cocktail while watching the sunset over the heads. Golf enthusiasts will find the area a treat, with several world-class courses on offer both in Knysna itself, and in neighbouring towns. Fancourt in George is within easy reach, and Simola, Pezula and the Knysna golf course are all located in the town itself.
The Featherbed Nature Reserve provides scenic views of Knysna and The Heads from the opposite shore of the Knysna Lagoon. Ferries depart daily. On arrival at the reserve, guests are taken in 4-wheel drive vehicles to the top of the Western Head. A foot trail leads through 2 km of coastal forest and along the water’s edge back to the Featherbed tavern, where a delicious lunch of grilled, fresh line fish can be enjoyed.
Knysna Elephant Park - This safari is undertaken in four-wheel-drive vehicles that depart from reception every half-hour. You are guaranteed an opportunity to touch the three elephants that roam the 75 hectare reserve. There are now seven elephants, most of whom were born in the Kruger Park, and have now been returned to "the home of their ancestors." You can walk with the elephants through the forests.
For more info see some of our articles about the town of Knysna on the SA Travel News Blog:
• A few reasons to visit Knysna ...
• 10 Great things to do when next in Knysna
• Knysna, South Africa's favourite holiday destination
• A visit to Featherbed Nature Reserve
• Knysna - A seaside town close to my heart
• Experiencing the Knysna Forests