It’s one of the jewels of South Africa’s Garden Route, offers a multitude of activities and attractions and is famous for its oysters… There’s no doubting Knysna’s list of accomplishments!
Or its pulling power for both international and local visitors.
For a start its location is unique, situated between coastal forests and a beautiful estuarine lagoon which meets the sea between two towering cliffs of sandstone – the Knysna Heads.
The Knysna lagoon is the largest estuary of its kind in the Southern Cape, and is rich in plant, marine and bird life. This is the home of the Knysna seahorse, a rare creature only found in this lagoon.
Nicknamed the “chameleon of the estuary” because of its ability to change colour, as well as being able to move its eyes independently in its search for prey, the Knysna seahorse is a fitting mascot for this colourful seaside town.
The coast around Knysna offers visitors endless opportunities to explore its natural beauty. Neighboring towns like Brenton-on-Sea, Buffalo Bay, Bollard Bay on Leisure Isle, and the beach and estuary at Noetzie are prime spots for walking, swimming, fishing, surfing, boardsailing, beach games or lazy sunbathing.
But it is perhaps the magnificent Southern Cape forests, themselves one of South Africa´s greatest natural heritages, which help to make Knysna truly special.
Part of the world-renowned Tsitsikamma National Park, the forests surround the town, offering visitors the chance to explore their narrow pathways, often intersected by clear streams which meander silently through the cool undergrowth.
This haven of peace and tranquility is home to massive Outeniqua yellowwoods (some estimated to be over 800 years old), and was once the home of huge herds of forest elephant.
The forest covers an area of some 80,000 ha and besides the yellowwood contains a huge variety of fauna and flora. Common tree species include the stinkwood, blackwood, white alder, ironwood and hard pear, as well as the tree fern.
The Tsitsikamma National Park is also home to an area of fynbos – evergreen heath-type shrubland which contributes an amazing 8000 species to the fynbos floral kingdom. These include proteas such as the king protea which can grow up to 20 cm in diameter, as well as ericas and restios – reed-like grasses.
The forest is obviously a huge attraction for nature lovers, conservationists and birdwatchers alike, and is also home to hundreds of bird species, including the riotously colorful Knysna loerie, or turaco as it is now known.
It’s also the home of the renowned Otter Trail – a two-day hiking trail which takes in the breathtaking coastline of the park with secluded coves, beaches and sparkling streams – the home of the cape clawless otter.
Knysna is a perfect place to base yourself for the Otter Trail and is packed with things to do, with some marvelous restaurants, excellent shopping and great accommodation options.
And every year in July the town has an Oyster Festival when it hosts a jam-packed programme of sport, entertainment and more than 200 000 oysters, for which the town has become famous.