Knysna - A Natural Wonderland
Lagoon view property in Knysna is very much sort after, but luckily there are plenty properties offering spectacular views in different directions. A temperate climate, indigenous forests, fynbos, lakes, rivers and towering mountains make Knysna a natural Eden for flora and fauna alike:
Home to the only forest elephant in South Africa, the indigenous forests in this area constitute the largest complex of natural, closed-canopy forest in southern Africa. The remarkable richness of Fynbos vegetation contributes 8000 plant species to the Cape floral kingdom.
Of the 95 species of waterfowl recorded in South Africa, 75 can be seen in the Wilderness National Lake Area, while the colourful Knysna Loerie and Narina Trogon delight bird watching enthusiasts in the forests.
Humpback and Southern Right whales frolic along these coastal waters from May to December, whilst dolphins are year-round residents.The unique Knysna seahorse and Pansy shells grace the Knysna lagoon. Walks, trails, boating excursions and scenic drives offer the visitor endless opportunity
THE KNYSNA LAGOON
The heart of Knysna is the lagoon itself, home to the unique Knysna seahorse, the delicate Pansy shell, and at least 200 species of fish. The 18 sq. kilometer big lagoon is, more correctly, an estuary, since the Knysna River meets the tides of the Indian Ocean here. The tides rise and fall an average 1,7m, flooding the lagoon through a turbulent channel between two great sandstone cliffs known as The Heads. Many a vessel came to grief trying to ‘cross the bar’ here during the years when Knysna was used as a harbour.
Its biological richness and the beauty of the surrounding landscapes and forests make the lagoon particularly attractive for recreational, tourist and commercial activities. These include angling, canoeing, diving, camping, swimming, walking, boating and commercial oyster cultivation.
The lagoon is permanently open to the sea, and the volume of influent fresh water is relatively small. This stable, saline environment accounts for the remarkable diversity of species recorded here, the highest in any South African estuary. Swampy areas, saltmarshes and eelgrass areas of the estuary, exposed at low tide, produce almost all the food used by other organisms in the estuary, as well as reducing water velocities during floods, and trapping sediment.
This sensitive ecotone is seriously threatened by extensive pollution and silting. In addition, the removal of water for agriculture, industry and for the town restrict freshwater. The sheer volume of human activity, boating, bait collection and fishing on the lagoon puts extreme pressure on the environment.
Today the lagoon is administered by the South African National Parks Board as part of the Knysna National Lake Area. The lagoon has been zoned: certain parts are maintained as nature reserves and others set aside for powerboating, water-skiing and sailing. The Board also enforces boating safety regulations, and angling and bait control.
‘While development on or around the estuary cannot be halted simply because of a wish to conserve the ecosystem, it is imperative that planning for development should take the environment into consideration so that damage may be minimized.’ (S. Yssel, Manager: Environmental Management, Southern Parks)
The magnificent Southern Cape forests are one of South Africa’s greatest natural heritages, owing their existence to the regular, orographic rainfall in the region. For many years the forests were mercilessly robbed of their rich resources, supplying timber to the furniture, construction and mining industries. Today, however, the forests are managed according to strict conservation principles. Outeniqua yellowwood trees draped with Old Man’s Beard lichen present an imposing sight. A particularly big, old specimen can be seen at Diepwalle forest station: the ‘King Edward VII’ tree, named in 1924 on a visit by the Empire Parliamentary Association, is an estimated 600 years old; its total height is 39 m, the bole’s circumference is 6 m. Other common and well-known species in the Knysna forest include Stinkwood; Real yellowwood; Blackwood; White alder; Ironwood and Hard pear.
Fynbos (fine bush) is an evergreen heath-shrubland contributing a staggering 8000 species to the Fynbos floral kingdom, found only in the south-western areas of South Africa. Three plant families characterise this abundance: Proteas, including the famous King protea, which can grow up to 20cm in diameter; Ericas (heather); and Restios, which are reed-like grasses. .
Fine examples of fynbos vegetation can be enjoyed on scenic drives and day walks around Knysna. Sunbirds and the Cape sugarbird can frequently be observed pollinating proteas; most other fynbos species use ants as seed dispersers. Many seeds are released only after fire. Alien tree species, such as hakea, various Australian acacias, and pines are posing a threat to this unique floral biome.
VALLEY OF FERNS
The Tree fern, Cyathea capensis, is a protected species and grows in groups along banks of forest streams and under the canopy of moist forests. The ferns in the wet, high forests of Diepwalle have grown in abundance, to heights of 3-6 m. The Valley of Ferns is situated on the road between Knysna and Uniondale, approximately 10 km after the Diepwalle forest station. It offers a pleasant, tranquil picnic site and a short walk through the grove of ferns. Stinkwood trees, Ironwood, Red Alder and the Forest Elder may also be seen here.