Knysna (pronounced NIZE-nuh) is a small resort town in South Africa’s Western Cape, on the picturesque section of coastline between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth called the Garden Route. I visited Knysna for the first time last week to attend the annual Knysna Oyster Festival.
I stayed in Knysna for five days and thanks to my hosts I squeezed many exciting activities into that short period. I’ll eventually write longer posts about a couple of the experiences that excited me the most. For now, here’s a quick rundown of my top five recommendations for fun things to do in Knysna.
1) Eat Oysters
I was in Knysna for the Oyster Festival so eating oysters was an obvious thing to do. But there is a huge oyster culture here and I recommend trying some no matter when you come. Not only are the oysters delicious, but eating them gives you a great excuse to drink champagne.
My first oysters of the week from Quay Four on Thesen Island. I really enjoyed the relaxed vibe at this restaurant.
In my opinion the best way to enjoy an oyster is with several drops of Tabasco, lemon juice, and some crushed black pepper. Pour it all on, loosen the oyster from its shell with a fork, and send it down the hatch.
My favorite oysters of the week were these from the Pezula Hotel, a spectacular resort/restaurant on a hillside overlooking Knysna. Half the oysters were plain and the other half were topped with a pineapple-lime granita.
2) Walk in the forest.
Knysna is surrounded by a beautiful indigenous forest, known for its 800-year-old yellowwood trees. Living in a dry place like Joburg, which is naturally a grassland, I find myself craving damp moss and the sound of wind whispering through thick foliage. So visiting the forest in Knysna was a priority for me.
I took a 10-kilometre hike through the forest in Harkerville (near Knysna) with my new friend Mark (@scrumpyjackson), who I previously knew only through Instagram. Mark and I made good hiking buddies. We were both up for a long walk but neither of us minded when the other stopped to take 20 shots of a mud puddle or a piece of fungus on a log. Instagrammers are cool like that.
Mark Instagrams a puddle.
Instagram taken from a weird little half-bridge over a small pond in the forest.
3) Hang out at the Turbine Hotel.
I didn’t stay at the Turbine Hotel, but I had a morning spa treatment there (a great way to start my birthday) and then dinner at the Turbine Hotel restaurant later that evening. I loved it and would highly recommend the Turbine Hotel to anyone who wants to splash out on something luxurious. It’s an old power station that was converted into a hotel and spa.
I didn’t have time to take photos inside the spa — after my fantastic massage I had to rush off to go bungee-jumping. (Several people have pointed out that perhaps I should have done those activities in reverse order.) Anyway, here’s a shot of the hotel’s posh lobby.
First course at my Turbine Hotel dinner: beef samoosa with bacon, micro greens, and other yummy stuff.
Turbine Hotel: We have a date on my next visit to Knysna.
4) Go whale-watching.
This activity pretty much speaks for itself.
Humpback whales right next to our (relatively small) boat. Peak season for viewing humpback whales is July to December so I was lucky to catch the beginning — the whales are on the way to their breeding grounds near Mozambique.
OMG. Whale. WHALE!
Beautiful whale tale. Look closely: It’s coated with barnacles.
Our whale-watching outing was with Ocean Odyssey and as you can see from the photos, it was incredible. The tour lasted for two hours and we saw five or six whales. Note that whale-watching tours aren’t advisable for people prone to sea-sickness. The water was rough, especially as we navigated out through the Knysna Heads. In fact the waves were so big that I was momentarily terrified and thought we’d have to turn back. It was totally worth it though and our captain did a great job getting us out there.
5) Visit Knysna Township.
I don’t want to write too much about this experience because I’m going to do a longer post later. But I’ll just say that a tour of Knysna Township with Emzini Tours is my #1 recommended activity in Knysna. I loved it so much and it was totally different from any other township tour I’ve been on. (And I’ve been on a lot of township tours.)
Brother Zebulon, tour guide at the Judah Square Rastafari community in Knysna Township. To say that Brother Zeb is an interesting guy would be the understatement of the year.
My friend Lucy’s nine-month-old baby, Kai, having a ball at the home of tour guide Ella Mahlulo in Knysna Township.
I haven’t included the Bloukrans bungee jump in my top five Knysna picks because Bloukrans is really not in Knysna. But there is still another post coming on that too. Prepare to be amazed.
In the meantime, stay tuned for some photo posts from Zimbabwe because that’s where I am right now.