On the banks of an enormous estuary, alongside South Africa’s most famous indigenous forests, lies Knysna, a town of supreme beauty. Surrounded by a natural playground, it has become the hub for adventure sport.
It's all about enjoying a host of activities in a spectacular environment of natural beauty, from hiking, canoeing, sailing, surfing, bowls and golf to adrenalin-thumping extreme sport such as kite surfing, mountain and quad biking or abseiling from the Heads.
The word "Knysna" originated from the Khoi language, but the exact meaning is open to debate. The most popular theories are "place of the dark green ferns" or "steep place" which could refer to the Heads. Very little known about the people who inhabitated the Knysna area before 1760 when the first European explorers passed through.
The area was part of Outeniqualand (as the Garden Route was then known) that lay to the east of the area that is now George. "The Knysna" referred to the river which opens into the large tidal estuary before exchanging its waters with the sea through the narrow gap between two rocky promontories known as "The Heads".
The deep gorges and high mountains that are today so easy to cross were then almost impassable for European travellers. In the earliest histories there is no mention of Knysna.
Visitors are encouraged to participate in the cultural tours that enable guests to gain a unique insight into both our African and European history. George Rex, the founder of Knysna, surely represents the biggest mystery of all. Some claim that he was an illegitimate son of George III of England. Others say that he was well connected to the ruling British authorities. The fact is that he was responsible for opening Knysna to the rest of the world by encouraging the creation of a port and harbour through the Heads.
Today Knysna is South africa's favourite holiday town - testimony to the unique friendliness of the town's folk. This area has always enthralled those who have unique talents and abilities. The community of Kynsna is an usual mix of people, many of whom have escaped the harsher life of cities and found sanctuary here - from aspiring young couples with children to enterprising artists and crafters.
The Knysna estuary, known as the Knysna National Lake Area, is managed and protected by SAN Parks and is a biologically rich and fascinating body of water with salt marshes and deep-water channels. Deep sea fishing trips are a must for the sports angler and the area boasts excellent estuarine, rock and surf angling. Salt water fly fishing is popular in the Knysna estuary and at the Goukamma Lagoon and Buffalo Bay. The bass fishing at Swartvlei is considered to be amongst the best in South Africa.
Cyclists have long acknowledged that Knysna offers some of the best off-road riding in the country and the annual Knysna Oyster Festival Cycle Tour has become South Africa biggest mountain biking event. A number of routes and trails, which vary from light-and-easy to strenous and technically demanding, have been laid out.
Knysna also plays host to the Cape Epic - a unique 700km ride from the Knysna Waterfront through some of the most magnificent passes in South Africa, to Cape Town. Equally exhilarating is the Karoo to Coast cycle ride, a tortuous ride from Uniondale to Knysna that annualy welcomes over 1000 enthusiants to the area.
Charter companies in the area offer scenic flights in motorised gliders, hang gliders, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.
The area is a popular paragliding destination and, if you're a beginner, professional pilot training is available. Our local golf courses are both popular and challenging. The Knysna Golf Club is built on the very edge of the estuary, while the Pezula Championship Course on the cliff tops of the eastern Head, is probably one of the most scenic in the world.
Knysna has spectacular beaches at Brenton-on-Sea, Buffalo Bay, Bollard Bay on Leisure Isle and at Noetzie. The warm currents of the Indian Ocean make for pleasant sea temperatures in the summer months. Between Brenton and Buffalo Bay beaches lie three kilometres of uninterrupted white sand in a heart-shaped bay which offers safe bathing with lifeguards in season.
Families with young children and those who are less energetic enjoy the estuarine, wave-free beach at Bollard Bay. on leisure Island Knysna forests are still one of the town's best kept secrets. Sublimely beautiful, the forests are today largely under the control of conservation authorities. Picnic sites and braai areas (the only places in which fires are permitted), swimming holes and river expeditions, walking trails, mountain bike routes and scenic drives - these are just some of the forest's many experiences. Visitors are free to explore them on their own or with trained and experienced guides. The indigenous forests, fynbos, lakes, rivers and mountains, combined with a moderate climate, make Knysna a natural Garden of Eden for flora and fauna lovers alike. The Tree Fern, Cyathea Capensis is a protected species and grows in groups along the banks of forest streams and under the canopy of moist forests.
Fynbos (fine bush) is an evergreen heath shrubland contributing a staggering 8000 species to the Fynbos flora kingdom. Visitors can explore the fynbos of the Knysna area - alone or with a guide on foot, on horseback, on a mountain bike or by car. And whilst you'll find something in blossom at any time of year, the best flowering occurs during winter and spring - between July and November.
The town of Knysna embarked on an ambitious greening project some 10 years ago to create a green lung in the centre of town. Pledge Nature Reserve is situated in the central Business District and just 100 metres off Main Road, with many of its plants marked for easy identification. Art, culture and history: Knysna is known as the art capital of the region with matchless creativity displayed by its artists. Numerous galleries highlight this talent in its many diverse expressions. A choice of rambles and craft routes allow visitors to truly experience this aspect of the town. An astonishing mix of cultures exists and various fascinating community experiences showcase these. Go and meet the people feasting on local food, hear the stories and share their skills. A Sangoma [traditional doctor] consults on appointment and community tours of the Judah Square Rastafarian Community, the largest of its kind in South Africa, are available. Various centres offer tours and products for sale which have been produced by community self-empowerment projects. A visit to the Knysna Museum, Millwood Goldfields and Bendigo Mine offer a glimpse of bygone days and the history of the town and its surrounds.