A historic town lazing by a warm, shallow estuary, Knysna’s highlights include sampling legendary oysters, shopping for beautiful wood-carved birds and a spectacular eco-experience at the Featherbed Nature Reserve.
Knysna (pronounced “NIZE-nuh”) is located along South Africa’s famed Garden Route in the Western Cape province. The name Knysna is a Khoisan word but it’s exact meaning is unclear. It could mean “’place of wood“ or “fern leaves“ but its most probable meaning is “straight down“ – an obvious reference to the Heads. Knysna Heads must be the most striking geological features along the entire southern African coastline. These sandstone cliffs flank a deep but potentially treacherous channel through which the sea pours in to flood the wide and breathtakingly pretty estuary at the mouth of the Knysna River.
Knysna’s history began in the year 1804 with the arrival of George Rex, rumoured to be the illegitimate son of King George lll. He purchased the estate known as Melkhoutkraal on the shores of the lagoon and moved his entire family and considerable entourage from Cape Town to Knysna.
Knysna is one of the southern Cape coast’s best known holiday destinations, situated between lush forests and the shores of the peaceful estuary. Knysna is a natural paradise of lush, indigenous forests, tranquil lakes and golden beaches, which combine with a moderate climate make the area a natural Eden.
A highlight is a visit to the Featherbed Nature Reserve, accessible only by boat, which includes a trailer ride to the reserve summit to enjoy amazing views, followed by a guided hike back down to the sea through coastal forest and ancient sea caves. The surrounding areas are worth exploring too including the Knysna Forest It is the largest indigenous forest in South Africa comprising tall, ancient trees such as yellowwood, ironwood and Cape chestnut, as well as ferns, creepers and wild flowers which add colour to this endless green collage. The forest is vast and extremely dense in places. Animal life is limited to a few small antelope and a large variety of birds, such as the famous Knysna turaco. Home to once large herds of elephants, it is believed that only 2 or 3 remain today.