Cape Town - Despite recent devastating fires causing parts of Knysna and the Garden Route to be declared a disaster zone, hope remains for one of South Africa’s favourite winter holiday destinations.
It has been confirmed that the Knysna Oyster Festival - one of the biggest winter festivals on the South African calendar - is going ahead as planned.
SEE: #KnysnaRises: SA shares their most memorable moments
And while many have raised concerns about the town's ability to host the upcoming event, Knysna Municipality Board Chairperson, Elmay Bouwer, confirms that Knysna has resumed normal business activities and is welcoming visitors.
“We would like tourists to know that it is safe to visit Knysna, and that almost all tourist activities are fully operational,” says Bouwer.
The town of Sedgefield is also welcoming visitors and has not lost any accommodation establishments. According to Bouwer, all tourist activities in the area are fully operational including the popular Scarab and Wild Oats Famer’s Markets.
SEE: #HopeForKnysna: 3 Aftermath videos you have to see
“Knysna is recovering from the devastation of the fires but for local businesses to survive, tourism must play a vital part,” says Bouwer. “We need to get the message out there that we are open for businesss and the Knysna visitor experience will be as good as ever.”
With a long weekend ahead, the winter school holidays coming up soon, and the Garden Route needing South Africa’s support now more than ever, why not take a trip to the Knysna and explore what the Garden Route has to offer?
Here are some of Knysna’s events and sites to check out:
Knysna Oyster Festival
The event taking place soonest - and one of the biggest events on SA’s food/sport calendar - the Knysna Oyster Festival (KOF) has been happening annually since 1983 where it began as the Knysna Winter Festival.
Promising to be the 'Best 10 Days of Your Winter', the festival – with the focus on sport and oysters - now occurs over two weekends with two parts to the event: the Momentum Cape Times Knysna Forest Marathon (full and half), and the Momentum Weekend Argus Knysna Cycle Tour - an event that is the biggest of its kind in the country.
Marketing director for the Momentum Knysna Cycle Tour, Andrew Finn says “Once all the fires have been extinguished, we will be able to assess the situation to see whether it is necessary to alter any of our routes and plans, and all entrants will be updated by email.”
The Festival starts on Friday 7 July and ends on Sunday 16 July. For inquiries contact Glendyrr Fick at 044 382 5510 or e-mail email@example.com
SEE: 5 Tips for those heading to the Knysna Oyster Festival
Bouwer says “The festival will be a great opportunity for people who want to help our residents to recover from this disaster and we are looking forward to welcoming a record number of people to our beautiful town.”
Featherbed Nature Reserve
Bouwer says that one of Knysna’s biggest tourist attractions, Featherbed Nature Reserve suffered severe damage, however the company’s three restaurants are still fully operational and so are the boat cruises on the John Benn, Paddle Cruiser and Heads Explorer Catamaran.
The animal sanctuaries between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay including Knysna Elephant Park, Birds of Eden, Monkeyland and Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre are all operating as usual.
SANParks’ picnic areas at Jubilee Creek and Diepwalle and the camping sites in Diepwalle are open and unaffected by the fires.
The Knysna Waterfront with all its restaurants and shops has not been affected in any way.
Simola, Pezula and Knysna Golf Courses are also open.
“Although a number of accommodation establishments have been damaged or destroyed [due to the fire], there are many others which have not been affected,” says Bouwer.
“If any visitors who have planned a stay in Knysna are unsure about the status of their accommodation booking, they should call Knysna Tourism on +27 44 382 5510 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
ALSO SEE: #KnysnaFires: What travellers need to know
Tourists who have been displaced are being accommodated in larger hotels and in surrounding towns, and Airbnb is providing free accommodation to those in need.
"We are helping connect travellers and temporarily displaced locals who have been impacted by the events in the Western Cape with Airbnb hosts nearby from now through June 30," the online booking platform says.
Upcoming events at Knysna
Leisure Isle Festival
This Festival, with the objective to support the broader community by providing financial support to selected charities, is a craft market that proudly encourages buying local and offers food stalls, arts and crafts, toys, a huge array of books, indigenous plants, among other delights.
There’s also the enjoyment of the barrel train and jumping castle for children, dog walks, a wheelchair walk along, and embroidery works of art.
It takes place from 4 November 2017 to 5 November 2017 at Leisure Island. Contact: 083 754 5390 / 044 384 1896 or e-mail email@example.com
Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival
Taking place annually at the end of April, the Festival hosts a series of cultural, entertainment and community fundraising events, while celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) culture and identity. Click here to find out more about the Festival.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- #KnysnaFires: What travellers need to know
- #KnysnaFire: Oyster Fest, Cycle Tour and Marathon going ahead, damage to be assessed
- 5 Tips for those heading to the Knysna Oyster Festival