If you are planning to drive South Africa's Garden Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, there are dozens of places where you could break your journey, and each would offer a unique beauty. But one of the places that I always recommend that people should try to spend a few days in, is Knysna. Although it is always amusing to hear tourists' attempts to try and pronounce it, I will spare you the embarrassment – the k is silent and it's pronounced nigh-z-na
Established in 1882 and named after the Knysna river (probably from a Khoikhoi word), Knysna is today a bustling town of over 75,000 inhabitants. It is situated mostly on the northern shore of the large estuary fed by the Knysna river, known as the Knysna lagoon, and it was this lagoon that provided the town with its initial purpose. Once ships negotiated the treacherous entry into the lagoon through two rocky headlands known as The Heads, the port of Knysna could provide shelter and provisions for up to 50 ships. Much of the town's early economy was based on the export of timber through the Heads, but owing to the dangerous channel and the loss of many ships, the port was eventually closed in 1954. Today, tourism is the town's major source of income.
The Featherbed Private Nature Reserve is part of the Cape Floral Region South African Natural Heritage site situated on the Western Head and is privately owned by Mr William Smith who inherited this property from his father, Professor JLB Smith, the world renowned icthyologist who identified the coelocanth (a fish thought to have become extinct 180 million years ago). The Featherbed name is said to come from sailors, who, after enduring rough seas around the Cape of Good Hope, appreciated the calm and tranquil lagoon waters of the bay beside the western head and used the opportunity to rest and catch up on much needed sleep while waiting to dock. The Featherbed Company has been operating for 20 years and offers ferry trips on the Knysna Lagoon, sailing aboard a luxury catamaran yacht, fine dining on a paddle cruiser and a unique eco-experience in the Featherbed Private Nature Reserve.
Remembrance Lane (off Waterfront Drive)
This post is part of a new series for 2010 called Sundays in South Africa. As the entire football-conscious world knows by now, the FIFA World Cup 2010 will be taking place for the first time ever on African soil – in my home country of South Africa! I can't tell you how proud this makes me, or how good it is to see that all the stadiums that the naysayers said would never be built on time standing tall and proud and beautiful. The country is, of course, anticipating a huge surge in visitors and I know that many people will see the cup as a reason to visit a country they have long been meaning to visit, and use the tournament as a jumping-off point for visiting other, non-football South African destinations. With this in mind, as well as my backlog of posts about my South African trips, I will be trying to post a review of somewhere South African, or a South African recipe, every Sunday in the run-up to the tournament. I can't pretend it is going to be a comprehensive guide to South Africa – but it will certainly be enough to give you some ideas! Click here for previous posts in the series.