Set high upon the verdant southern slopes overlooking the Indian Ocean, Brenton on Sea is one of Greater Knysna's most popular seaside destinations. Characterised by lovely sweeping beaches, it serves as a bustling hub for holiday makers throughout the year.
Back in 1991, it received unique conservation status for being the last remaining stronghold for the rare Brenton Blue Butterfly, which exists here, and only here, on a small dedicated reserve. The protected colony thrives here along with many other indigenous species of fauna and flora.
Brenton is also renowned for its extraordinary ocean vistas and they say that one of the best ways to appreciate them, is by taking a leisurely stroll along Fisherman' Walk. So, that is exactly what we did, early one summer morning.
As we stepped on to the path of the Fisherman's Walk, the sky was still blushed pink and the vegetated southern slopes of Brenton on Sea were still cast in deep shadow. Only the sandy arc and homes of Buffalo Bay in the distance were lit up by the sun's early rays. The air was still and warm as we made our way along this popular trail which skirts the edges of this coastal cliff. The only sounds at that moment were that of Cape bulbuls and breaking waves. That is perhaps the true wonder and allure of this trail - that the Indian Ocean is your constant companion throughout and that from lofty heights, from east to west, we were able to experience sweeping views of this iconic coastline. Far down below, we could see the waves gently spilling onto “Millionare's Beach”, a small, isolated hidden gem popular among locals.
The upper reaches of the trail are relatively flat and easy to navigate and led us through diverse habitats and vegetation types, including coastal fynbos (Knysna Sand Fynbos and Southern Cape Dune Fynbos), coastal thicket and small tracts of Western Cape Milkwood Forest, all supporting incredible bird, mammal and insect life. One of the animals you may encounter at some point along this trail, if you are lucky, is bush buck, as Brenton residents enjoy frequent sightings. On many days you are also likely see either inshore- bottlenose or Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins close to shore, both species often seen feeding among the rocky reefs and surfing the waves throughout this stretch of coastline.
The indigenous vegetation along these southern slopes provide an important coastal ecological corridor, and the conservation of these various habitats and associated species is therefore of utmost importance. The plants rooted here also serve to stabilise potentially erodible and unstable dunes, as well as acting as a buffer for nearby homes from wind and salt sea spray.
Whilst the majority of the pathway is fairly open with views of the sea, there are several sections that are cloaked in beautiful coastal thicket. A total of 18 benches have been strategically placed along the trail, which gave us an excuse to stop, sit, and soak in the scenery before us. Some of the benches have commemorative plaques, in honour of loved ones. There are also larger viewing decks, which serve as popular whale viewing platforms. Every year we are privileged to witness thousands of humpback and southern right whales moving past our Garden Route coastline on their epic annual migration.
The trail eventually led us to a set of 255 stairs, which takes walkers down to Die Blokke Beach. Although the trail itself is not associated with any noteworthy cultural or historical heritage features, both Die Blokke Beach and Millionaire’s Beach contain shell middens and caves of paleontological significance from the Strandloper era and as such, should be conserved. We decided not to tackle the steep jaunt down to the beach and made our way slowly back to the entrance of Fisherman's Walk.
A significant portion of this trail is on land owned by the Knysna Municipality, but much of it runs directly adjacent to many private homes. The eastern section of the pathway and main access route down the dune cliffs to another beach named 'Die Blokke Beach', is located on land that is part of the Southern Right Private Nature Reserve and Estate. In order to collectively maintain the natural vegetation, a Fisherman’s Walk Maintenance Management Plan has been developed (but not yet implemented) to ensure the ongoing environmental protection of this truly incredible natural asset, which is open for both locals and visitors to enjoy.
(There are currently 4 points at which users can access Fisherman’s Walk, only two of which are official, signposted points of entry. These two official entry points are both located at Steenbras Street, more or less opposite the Sheercliff’s development, and opposite Freesia Road. )