"Don't think, just jump."
A motto for life, really. But Africanyon guide Tebz Moloi was only urging me on to plunge into the tonic-coloured waters of the Salt River, standing behind me on the highest jumping point near a gushing waterfall.
I hesitated at first, distracted by a glint of red feathers higher up in the kloof. “Was that a Loerie?” Tebz gave another loud shout so I took the plunge and fell in love, once again, with the Garden Route's untouched and extraordinary charm.
A few hours before, while worming myself into two wetsuits at the Africanyon base camp just outside Plettenberg Bay, I wondered if a double-layer of insulation was really necessary... Confirmation came as soon as the icy mountain-river water started trickling through to my skin, making my chin quiver involuntarily.
WATCH: The quiet recovery of Goukamma on the Garden Route
I briefly thought of the fluffy, warm duvet from under which I crawled a few hours earlier at the Turbine Hotel & Spa, located on the exclusive Thesen Island in Knysna. I craved a cup of warm tea. But those luxuries were shoved aside when we approached the next waterfall jump and adrenaline took over.
Luckily, a part of a group of adventure-craving journalists, the promise of 5-star boutique hotel luxury was still within reach - a beacon at the end of a deep and cold but astoundingly beautiful river crevasse.
Staying at the Turbine Hotel & Spa is staying in the very heart of Knysna. It tells the story of this coastal icon, its people and its rich history - all while giving you access to the inner circle of modern Thesen Island living.
In the previous century, the Turbine was initially a power station that used wood to generate the electricity that powered Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. Later, when the use of indigenous wood became an environmental concern, operations seized, leaving behind the heavy equipment and a piece of rather cringe-worthy history.
But when new owners Geoff Engel and Dandre Lerm-Engel decided to create the hotel around the old machinery, they effectively and genuinely re-appropriated the unsustainable operations of times passed into a proud eco-establishment.
Guests of the Turbine Hotel & Spa, these days, are included in both the history and modern-day eco-travel endeavours wherever possible... like the little rubber-duckie that has replaced your bathtub plug, rendering it unusable in the current water-crisis.
SEE: 9 Secret beaches along the Garden Route
Each of the 26 rooms is themed to showcase Knysna’s rich cultural and historical diversity, which is well in reach for travellers looking to take home a little bit of South Africa. The Turbine Hotel & Spa doubles as a modern-day 'moving' art gallery - showcasing original artworks that are for sale. The art on display is curated by one of Knysna's galleries, Knysna Fine Art, and is a collection of work done by local South African artists.
You can also opt for the edible art, found in the two in-house restaurants, Island Cafe and Gastro Pub. A small menu selection ensures that every dish is a masterpiece. The famous Eggs Hollandaise from Island Cafe is always recommended as a breakfast delight, but just be sure you don't overindulge before embarking on a four-hour abseil-zipslide-canyoning adventure!
For the upcoming festive season, the Turbine’s Island Café will host a decadent family Christmas Day lunch with three courses. The buffet lunch will cost you R395 per person and R165 per child under 12. Then on 31 December, the Turbine’s Masquerade New Year’s Eve Dinner will usher in 2019 in Knysna. No children under 18 will be allowed, and tickets are selling for R730 per person. Booking is essential.
SEE: Coast along SA's tranquil Garden Route for your next road trip
Adventures in and around Knysna
If it's adventure you're after, you'll find it in all shapes and forms at the hotel's very own Turbine Water Club adventure centre. On our first night in Knysna, we jumped their bicycles for a ride through the lake town crescents as the sun was setting over the world-famous Knysna Heads.
You can also explore the Heads from up close on a sunset cruise which departs only a few metres from the hotel's entrance. We organised a few bottles of bubbly for the occasion... which comes highly recommended if it's ultimate relaxation you're after.
A guided walk through the indigenous Goudveld Forest just outside town is also a must. The hike starts at the Dalene Matthee Big Tree & Memorial and is a 9km' Circles in the Forest' loop. If you look closely, you might even spot 'Fiela se Kind', or perhaps a real forest fairy.
You can also organise a canoe to paddle through the canals of Thesen Island via the Turbine Water Club. For this one, you're free to go at your own pace exploring the stately homes and exclusive properties situated on the banks of the marina.
Then there are the Africanyon guys. If you're going for ultra-adventure, this is the best there is... Highly recommended is the four-hour tour which includes swimming, abseiling, jumps from some of the waterfalls and zip-lining! And if all that adventure doesn't get your heart-rate going, the charmingly expert guides surely will...
SEE: Take a break in Knysna
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