Yes, yes, very waxing of the lyric but that is how one feels when on a paddle cruiser (yes, you heard right), sailing past the magnificent cliffs on either side in the last light of an autumn day, sipping champagne and eating oysters. The quaint town of Knysna always reminds me more of a movie set than a place where people live every-day, banal lives, concerned with the trite trivia and idle gossips of a small town community. The boat is a two-storey affair with soft lighting and the excited sounds of kids aged between very new and teenage fill the chilly sea air as we slowly drift across the olive coloured sea. The mist blurs the surrounding majestic cliffs and sky together.
This is the only paddle driven boat in South Africa by the way so don’t expect an adrenaline heart-stopping type thing at a top speed of 3.8 knots per hour…The cruise goes to the famous Knysna Heads and back and lasts for about an hour and a half. One of the best reasons for living in my opinion is one of the things Knysna is world famous for – oysters. God created oysters to make up for nasty things like that Black Plague incident, Hitler and boy bands. I’m staying at the smart and sophisticated four star Rex Hotel just this side of the Waterfront and located very centrally I have a delicious steak dinner at the restaurant DISH with my charming host Jeannine Orzechowski from Knysna Tourism.
The following morning I wake up regretting the copious amounts of Van Loveren Brut the previous night. Accompanied by my friend Meinie who lives in the area, we make our way along the coast to the world-famous primate sanctuary Monkeyland, just past Plettenberg Bay. Monkeyland is an astonishing place. It opened its doors to the public in 1998. According to their website, this unique primate sanctuary is currently the top eco-tourism attraction on the Garden Route and for very sound and sunny reasons. Monkeyland has captured the hearts of visitors in its efforts to rehabilitate and free previously caged primates. They are free to move about the forest and this they do most harmoniously.
Adjacent to the monkeys are the birds…of course. Birds of Eden is a bird sanctuary which is housed in a unique two hectare dome (the world’s largest) and spans over a gorge of indigenous forest. The sanctuary has its own mysterious ruin, which incorporates a walk-behind waterfall. Another feature is its amphitheatre, which has the ability to seat over 200 visitors. It boasts its own canopy walk and, while shorter than the 128m bridge at Monkeyland, it hangs above the clouds on this cold and rainy day. The sanctuary even enables bird owners to apply to release their own pet birds into the sanctuary. Next it’s off down the road to the Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre. Guests here are taken on a guided tour to meet captive-bred furry felines, living in a semi-natural environment. Not everyday you can say “I stroked a leopard…”
During the one hour guided tours you are guaranteed to see the charismatic cheetah, ZweLakhe the Leopard and enjoy a cat and mouse game with South Africa’s seldomly seen lesser indigenous cats, such as the African Wild Cat, servals, caracal and the rare Black-Footed Cat. For the more adventurous, the Centre offers a walk with the Tenikwa cheetahs. That night, after a glorious dinner at 34 Tapas, I crawl into my warm bed, lulled to sleep by the soft rain and the cool sea air. The next day, a terribly hedonistic massage and delectable lunch at the five star Simola Hotel await me. Located high up in the hills above Knysna, Simola Golf & Country Estate is a world apart.
Fairways merge seamlessly with lush indigenous vegetation and forests, creating an evocative vista of undulating green hills and dales descending gently down to the Knysna River. From its vantage point, the 325-hectare Estate looks out on a spectacular panorama encompassing the full expanse of the Knysna Lagoon, all the way to the Heads and beyond to the sea. I wish to stay but before I know it, the time has dragged me away from this special hide-away on our beautiful coast, one of the most beautiful towns in a lithe world…