Knysna Lakes Area- Garden Route National Park.
Knysna is a small town on South Africa’s Garden Route, on the shores of a tranquil lagoon. It’s surrounded by rich indigenous woods, peaceful lakes, and golden beaches, making it a true natural utopia.
The stunning Knysna National Lake Area is home to the critically endangered Knysna seahorse as well as a wide variety of marine life. To put it another way: Sand and salt marshes are alive with creatures that serve as food for an enormous number of other creatures. The lagoon, dominated by the rocky bastions of the Knysna Heads, has seen centuries of commerce in lumber, ivory, and gold. The Lake Area has a moderate climate, so tourists may enjoy the bright summer sun while they’re here.
The Knysna Estuary is the most notable natural feature in this part of South Africa. Several studies have emphasized the high conservation value of this estuary, which ranks third among South Africa’s estuaries in terms of botanical importance, eighth in terms of importance for fish conservation, and nineteenth in terms of water bird conservation, and first in terms of overall conservation value, which includes criteria such as size, diversity of habitat, zonal rarity, and biodiversity.
Khoekhoe herders joined San hunter-gatherers about 2000 years ago, after living in southern Africa for tens of thousands of years (pronounced koi-koi). Namaqua and Outeniqua were clan names among the Khokhoe and San, respectively.
Except for lighting fires to chase away game animals, their impact on natural systems was minimal. They may have lived in coastal caves, as evidenced by artefacts. They appeared to spend the winter at the seaside and the summer inland. In the adjacent forest, they hunted small animals, caught fish, and collected roots and bulbs from wild plants. After the arrival of the Europeans, the clans began to dissolve, and their members found work as farmers.
The logging of nearby woods has shaped recent history in significant ways.
Indigenous woodlands have played a critical part in the evolution of the nation from prehistory. The earliest inhabitants relied heavily on the wood from these woods to meet their daily timber needs. A lot of wood from the surrounding forests was used to build houses and wagons when the Dutch East India Company established the first settlement in Cape Town in 1652. Other household items were made from wood from the surrounding forests, protective fences were built, and boats and quays were built. These woods were quickly depleted, and the settlers were forced to move east in search of other sources of timber, including the forests of George, Knysna, and Tsitsikamma.
The Cape Colonial government was informed in 1711 that huge expanses of woodland existed in ‘Outeniqualand.’ The Knysna region’s natural woods have been exploited since 1763, a period spanning more than two centuries. From a woodcutter’s post near the present-day settlement of George, logs were brought to Cape Town by foot in 1776.
When Governor Joachim van Plettenberg visited the region in 1778, reckless forest devastation was already occurring. To slow the rate of exploitation, he assigned Johann Meeding as a resident of Plettenberg Bay. Meeding erected a timber shed and contracted with local woodcutters to provide lumber. There were no conservation measures put in place, but things were at least under control. It took a long time and a lot of effort to keep wood harvesting in the southern Cape woods under control and at a ‘sustainable’ level.
In 1812, the British Royal Navy began using the forest, and despite the treacherous passage through The Knysna Heads, a port was built at Knysna for the shipping of lumber. When the Dutch East India Company began building a loading port in 1776, they established this area as a major commercial harbour. The harbour used to receive up to 80 sailing and steamships a year at its prime.
Many people know about George Rex (a self-declared son of King George III) who created Knysna and controlled the entire area around the estuary until he died in 1839. Another well-known historical character is John Benn, who served as the harbour pilot for many years by helping ships through the heads. Several locations and structures in and around Knysna have been designated as national monuments. In 1959, the Port of Knysna was de-proclamated.
Beginning in 1836, the Great Trek increased demand for timber to build wagons, which in turn increased supply. Ten years later, in 1846, the government closed all of the cleared woods, split them up into lots, and sold them at public auction. The remaining woods were designated as Crown forests and placed under the jurisdiction of local judges, who issued cutting permits. However, by 1847, forest devastation had gotten so terrible that harvesting had been prohibited on all Crown lands. Due to a scarcity of lumber, the Crown woods were reopened in 1856.
The “Great Fire” of 1869, which raged from Humans-dorp to Riversdale and destroyed much of the region, prompted the government of the Cape to tighten its grip on the woodlands.
Count M. de Vasselot de Regné, a French forest officer with experience in the Cape Colony, was named Superintendent of Woods and Forests in 1880. As a result of his initiatives, the woods were first put under genuine conservation pressure. To help with forest management development in the region and the rest of the country for decades to come, the Forestry Department was created and forestry officers hired as professionals.
In 1888, the Cape Forest Act was established. The woodlands were better protected as a result of this. To minimize the need for timber from the indigenous forests, the first timber plantations were planted near Knysna. Despite this, forest degradation persisted even under the section system, as woodcutters continued to extract more than the government-recommended amount of timber each year. Woodcutters’ rights to work the forests were finally revoked in 1939, and non-sustainable harvesting was prohibited in state-owned forests in the region. From 1940 through 1964, the Department of Forestry prohibited any exploitation of the woods, with the exception of the removal of dead and dying trees and the use of windfalls.
The Tsitsikamma Coastal and Forest National Parks were declared in 1964 after extensive negotiations between the National Parks Board and the then-Secretary of the Department of Forestry and his Minister to establish South Africa’s first marine protected area and conserve the region’s coastal forests.
In the coastal strip between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains and the sea, the Garden Route National Park (GRNP) has evolved into a network of protected areas maintained by SANParks as one unitary entity.
What to do during your visit to Knysna Lakes Area-Garden Route National Park.
More than 280 bird species may be found in and around Knysna, including many water birds on the Thesen Islands, in Steenbok Park, and along the Rheendal Ramble at Groenvlei and Swartvlei Lakes. You may learn more about the species of the Knysna Lakes Section and about birding in general by visiting this website.
During the summer, the Knysna River’s tidal lagoon and open estuary are ideal places to see waders. In addition to Grey Plover, Whimbrel and Curlew Sandpiper are common. The lagoon is home to a few big non-migratory species throughout the year, but especially in the winter (egrets, spoonbills, gulls, cormorants, ibises). The endangered African Black Oystercatcher may be seen throughout the year, but its population swells during the winter months to levels that are considered internationally significant for the species. Additionally, Cape Shoveller, Kittlitz’s Plover, Pied Avocet, and the endangered black-winged stilt may be found in large numbers in this area. Osprey and the African Fish Eagle should also be on the lookout.
Forest walks within the Knysna Lakes Area are conducted around the following areas; Garden of Eden, Kranshoek Viewpoint and Picnic Site, Diepwalle Big Tree, Forest Legends Museum and Jubilee Creek.
Hiking and Nature Walks
Hiking tours within the Knysna Lakes Area in Garden Route national park is conducted along the Harkerville Coastal hiking trail, Garden of Eden, Floral trail, Kranshoek trail, Elephant trail, Perdekop trail and Terblanche trail.
Other activities offered in Knysna lakes area in Garden Route national park include; mountain biking, Knysna Estuary and Kayaking.
Where to stay when visiting Knysna Lakes Area in Garden Route National Park.
Accommodation within Knysna Lakes Area in Garden Route national park include; Diepwalle Forest Camp, Forester’s House, Harkerville Forest Treetop Chalet, Nature’s Valley and Storms River Rest Camps.
How to get to Knysna Lakes Area in Garden Route National Park.
The Knysna Lakes Section is located along the beautiful Garden Route, around 500 kilometers from Cape Town and 300 kilometers from Port Elizabeth. George, around 70 kilometers from Knysna, has rental services and a national airport.
Diepwalle camping sites and a guest home located 23 kilometers away from Knysna via the N2’s Uniondale Road (R339). Follow the dirt path that leads to the provincial highway.
The George Airport is home to all of the main car rental businesses, and Knysna has a number of firms that specialize in airport transfers. The newly constructed road between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth is excellent, making the beautiful Garden Route a joy to drive along.