Knysna is literally surrounded by lush indigenous forests and with the holidays coming up, the time for exploration has arrived. You may feel a bit overwhelmed by the choices available to you when it comes to forest exploration and self-driven tours.
Here are two recommended routes you can do in your own car. Browse through them and see whether one (or both!) sparks an interest in your adventurous side.
This attractive route starts on the Rheenendal Road, just off the N2 and will lead you to the Millwood Forest. On your way there stop to visit the sites and attractions of the Rheenendal Ramble (pick up a map from Knysna Tourism office in Main Road). You will find a host of delightful coffee shops, a dairy and much more. It’s well worth making this a day trip as there is really so much to see.
Continue along the Rheenendal Road until you reach Totties’ Farmhouse Restaurant (you will also see a small petrol station) – drive about 200m’s further until you see a sign for Bibby’s Hoek. Take a right when you see the sign. A few kilometres up you will come to a boom, during peak season you will have to pay a small fee per head to enter the area (not more than R18 per person).
This road is full of charming stops and hiking trails. Look out for the 9km Woodcutters Walk. You will also see the Dalene Matthee Memorial (a fantastic South African author, well worth reading) and the Circles in the Forest Walk which is a short 3.1km.
About 3.6km further down this road you will reach Jubilee Creek. This is a magical place which both kids and adults will enjoy. It’s a great spot for hot days as the picnic benches are under tall leafy trees which provide plenty of shade. Dip into the cool stream waters and let the kids have a go at catching crabs. In the summer months, it’s easy to spend a few hours down there- braai (BBQ) facilities are available and toilets are close-by.
Gouna and Diepwalle
A great route for your self-drive tour is to drive the Gouna and Diepwalle routes; it is a circular route that starts and ends on the N2 (Main Road Knysna). Start at the Gouna Pass side and make your way (about 60km’s) through Diepwalle and back around to the N2 (you will come out at Nekkies - an informal settlement just outside of Knysna).
The Gouna Pass is a quiet world of lush green forests and a must see on your trip to Knysna. This Pass consists of a gravel road that can be rather uneven in places, so be prepared to drive slowly. It branches off from the Old Cape Road close to the Simola Golf Estate.
To get the Pass take a left at Old Cape Road (direction Knysna). Wind up a steep tarred road until you reach the top entrance of Simola Golf Estate. At this point, you will have three turn-offs. If you go left, you will enter the Simola Golf Estate, if you go straight you will get onto the Blaricum Heights Road - to get onto the Gouna Pass you must take a sharp left as you pass the entrance to Simola.
Travelling along this road is a real treat. The dense indigenous forest allows only streams of light to filter down onto the road, creating a magical atmosphere. This road is also called the R339 (make sure you have a map just in case). If you continue down this road, you will eventually pass the Gouna Forest Station and San Ambrosia historical church. The church is a quaint little church that is steeped in Knysna’s forestry history. Interestingly enough, there is a descendent of the original Italian settlers who came to this land a few hundred years ago. He still lives in a house adjoining the church and may well sell you some locally produced veggies or give you some information about the area. Make a stop there - the little church is always open.
If you continue straight along this road you will get to a big tree that is almost in the middle of the road. You will see three turn-offs - you want to take the one going to the right hand-side. This stretch of road is known as Kom–se-Pad, which is a beautiful scenic drive through thick indigenous forests and which terminates near the Diepwalle Forestry Station; contact number 044-382 9762/3.
At Kom-se-Pad stop and park your car and do the Terblans Walk. The walk is only 6.5 kms in length. It is a short circular route which starts and ends at the Grootdraai picnic site. It’s the perfect place to have a picnic or braai after your hike. There are also toilets available there.
When you have finished with relaxing and enjoying the sounds of the numerous birds, continue your drive continue on the Kom-se-Pad. You will eventually get to a T-junction. If you go left, you will head to Uniondale (and the Prince Alfred’s Pass) and if you go right, you will head back to Knysna, and connect again with the N2.
Take the opportunity while visiting the Garden Route to explore the region in your car. It allows you to experience first hand adventure and also gives you the opportunity to drive at your own pace. Make lots of stops along the way to really appreciate this gorgeous landscape – just make sure you have a tank full of fuel, your hiking boots and a couple of cold beers in the boot. Enjoy (but remember - don’t drink and drive!)