|• Total||58.35 km2 (22.53 sq mi)|
|• Density||580/km2 ( 1,500/sq mi)|
|Racial makeup (2001)|
|• Black African||34.9%|
|First languages (2001)|
|Time zone||SAST (UTC+2)|
Knysna (//; probably from a Khoikhoi word meaning "ferns") is a town with 76,431 inhabitants in the Western Cape Province of South Africa and is part of the Garden Route. It lies 34 degrees south of the equator, and is 72 kilometres east from the town of George on the N2 highway, and 25 kilometres west of Plettenberg Bay on the same road.
A hamlet, Melville, appeared on the lakeshore in 1825, and was followed by another, Newhaven, in 1846. Knysna town, a 1882 amalgamation of these hamlets, was named after the Knysna River.
Knysna's port could provide shelter for up to 50 ships, and the region's abundant timber was exported from this bay 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 harbour 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 borne by a double-deck pleasure cruiser currently operating as a tourist attraction on the Knysna lagoon. The port was officially closed in 1954.
The Norwegian family, Thesen, played a considerable role in the development of Knysna from 1869 onwards. Arndt Leonard Thesen (1816–1875) and his son Charles Wilhelm Thesen in particular, founded and expanded the family timber and shipping business. Charles Thesen was mayor of Knysna for a number of terms.
From 1907 to 1949 the Knysna forest railway was used to haul timber from the inland forests to the harbour of Knysna.
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 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 favourite 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 Buffalo Bay, a popular surf spot.
Knysna is also home to Knysna Yacht Club.
Knysna's other claim to fame is its proximity to the fabled relict elephant population that survives in the region.
The city hosts the annual Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival in July, an event that attracts large numbers of visitors from far afield. The Knysna Forest Marathon is also held in July. The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras is also held annually, normally end of April/beginning of May, in the town. Gastronomica is a lifestyle festival, held annually in September, that promotes healthy eating and organic principles. The Rastafarian Earth Festival is held at the end of July and celebrates their religion, culture and lifestyle.
- Rudolf Eric Koertzen - International cricket umpire
- Charles Wilhelm Thesen - shipowner and timber merchant
- Thomas Henry Duthie - Land owner, Supervisor of Crown Forests and Lands
- George Rex - Founder of Knysna, Land owner, and Timber Merchant
- Thabo September - footballer
- "Chronological order of town establishment in South Africa based on Floyd (1960:20-26)". pp. xlv–lii.
- "Main Place Knysna". Census 2001.
- Volume 6 Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa (Nasionale Opvoedkundige Uitgewery 1972)
- du Plessis, E.J. (1973). Suid-Afrikaanse berg- en riviername. Tafelberg-uitgewers, Cape Town. p. 250. ISBN 0-624-00273-X.
- Raper, P.E. (2004). South African Place Names. Jonathan Ball, Jhb & Cape Town. p. 180. ISBN 1-86842-190-2.
- Robert Montgomery Martin (1835). History of the British Colonies. Cochrane. p. 24.
- Monica Wilson, Monica Hunter Wilson, Leonard Monteath Thompson (1969). The Oxford History of South Africa. Oxford University Press. p. 191.
- "Knysna Oyster Festival".
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