Knysna at Sunset

Sunset over the Lagoon. Photo by Gerald Browne

If you’re thinking of purchasing some of the property for sale in Knysna but haven’t decided for sure just yet, perhaps the following pages will help with your decision…

Is it a river or a lagoon? The Knysna River defines the lagoon even if it’s only 64 km in length. The river is the fresh water source for the estuary and the town of Knysna. The river brings approximately 133 million cubic meters of water into Knysna Lagoon annually. These facts should clarify that there exists both a Knysna River and a Knysna Lagoon.

Is it an estuary or a lagoon? By definition, an estuary opens to the sea while a lagoon is protected by sand bars allowing the waters to remain fresh. However, while the Knysna Lagoon has no sand bars, the men and women from the town’s history have always referred to it as a lagoon. The sentimental name stuck. Technically, scientists have termed the body of water as a unique marine embayment because it supports estuary life forms.

In the entire Western Cape in South Africa – a great place to explore in a Toyota Fortuner – , there is no richer lagoon, biologically, than Knysna Lagoon. The number of diverse species and the stable conditions of the lagoon is the perfect setting for a natural aquatic estuary. It is narrow with the widest stretch measuring a mere 3 kilometres. It is possible to navigate through the channel with small shallow boats able to go the full length and yachts or small ships having to stop after the 5km mark. Before heading out on the lagoon or the open waters, it is advised that one buy a GPS with sonar capabilities to give you an idea of the features which lie below the water surface.

There are 3 islands around the lagoon: Leisure Island, Rex Island, and Thesen’s Island. The Knysna Heads on the other hand are at the Knysna River mouth. It’s 3.9 meters deep and approximately 230 meters wide. Most locals refer to it simply as “the Heads.” It is a treacherous waterway that leads to the sea, and is full of submerged rocks and undercurrents. Inexperienced skippers should never try to pass through the Heads to go out to sea. It’s just too dangerous and unpredictable because of the wind, current, and hidden perils. Close by are the fascinating Map Stones which are geological stone formations that through the decades have formed unique shapes and edges as a testament of the force of Mother Earth.

Aside from being a lagoon of ecological value, the Knysna Lagoon is also a haven for water sports enthusiasts. The choices are not so much disturbing the lagoon rather than enjoying the bounties of what it has to offer. For instance, one can go fishing, diving, sailing, yachting, kayaking, and swimming.

Knysna town proper along the lagoon has become a popular melting pot for retiring seniors, expatriates, sports buffs, artists, hippies, scientists, researchers, and tourists. It’s a busy hub that maintains its serene colours and laid-back lifestyle. It boasts of first class golf courses, a protected environment, dive spots, restaurants, and a yacht club whose main claim to fame is being one of the oldest and respected clubs in South Africa.

Finally, Knysna is famous for the forest elephant. The Knysna elephant can be found in the Garden Route but remains elusive for the most part. The Knysna elephant is known as the last of the Cape Bush elephants in Africa. In 1876, experts estimated there to be only 500 left in Knysna. By 1908, the elephants were as exclusive as royal game, but experts at that time estimated the population to be only 20. The numbers dwindled so fast because of the ivory smuggling trade and poaching. By 1962, only 10 remained and by 1983, the population was recorded as a sad, depressing count of 4. However, as recent as year 2000, scientist, Lyall Watson claims to have seen a female Knysna elephant at the edge of Knysna forest which leads many to hope that the species has not gone extinct.

If you’re planning to visit this beautiful garden-route town, it might be time to buy a watch that can work according to Knysna time. In Knysna, the passing of seconds, minutes, hours and days fades imperceptibly into an indefinite background. Time, if measured at all, is understood in terms of beautiful sunsets and the sound of water lapping at the edges of the lagoon shore…

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