Knysna , probably from a Khoikhoi word meaning “ferns”, is a town in the Western Cape Province of South Africa and is part of the Garden Route.
Knysna was founded around its port, which could provide shelter for up to 50 ships, as well as the region’s abundant timber which was exported from here from as early as 1787.Landowner George Rex, who landed at the Cape in 1796, played a significant role in the town’s early development and is considered the town’s founder. Being a difficult port to enter, a harbor pilot was employed to assist large vessels. One of the better-known pilots was John Benn, originally a shipwright from Mossel Bay, appointed as pilot in 1868 and whose name is born by a double-deck pleasure cruiser currently operating as a tourist attraction on the Knysna lagoon. The port was officially closed in 1954.
The town is primarily built on the northern shore of a large warm-water estuary, fed by the Knysna River. The estuary opens to the ocean after passing between two large headlands. These are popularly known as the “The Heads”, and have become infamous due to the loss of boats and fishermen passing through their treacherous and unpredictable waters. Near them are geological formations, known locally as “The Map Stones.” To the north of Knysna, Afro-Montane or temperate rainforest covers the hilly terrain for 20 km until changing to fynbos or macchia high up in the Outeniqua Mountains.
The town is a popular destination for both tourists and senior citizens entering retirement, especially among the British and former expatriates due to the year-round warm climate. Recently the town has also become a preferred destination among golfers, as the town boasts several world class golf courses including Pezula Golf Course, Simola Golf Course and the well established Knysna Golf Course situated on the lagoon. Knysna too is a favorite haunt of artists, restaurateurs and hippies. The nearest beach is located at Brenton-on-sea which lies directly west of the heads and is continuous with Buffels Bay, a popular surf spot.
Knysna’s other claims to fame are as the end point of the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe steam railway, and as home to the fabled Knysna forest elephant.