What does the Knysna forest mean to you? It may conjure up pictures of exquisite and unspoiled indigenous forest, for some the thought of elephants lost, it may bring to mind fields of arum or calla lilies, it is home to the Knysna turaco or, in the local vernacular, the Knysna Loerie and for voracious readers it will undoubtedly bring to mind Dalene Matthee’s ‘forest series’.
The Garden Route National Park was established in 2009 and are being managed by SANParks (South African National Parks). The Knysna Forest Woodcutters – the subject of the above mentioned Dalene Matthee books – harvested wood from the forest from 1776 up to 1939 with an estimated 190 000 hectares (1 900 square kilometres) of forest being destroyed during this period.
The forest also bears silent witness to the short lived Millwood Gold Rush in the 1880’s and was home to the Hessequa or ‘people of the trees’ and the Outeniqua ‘bearers of honey’.
Garden Route National Parks, working closely with the Knysna Historical Society, launched Rooted in Time, a self-drive route to 10 historically significant sites, within the Knysna forest. Manager of People and Conservation for the park, Elzette Bester says: “Such routes are a platform to understand the communities better, especially culture and indigenous knowledge.”
She adds that there is no better place to develop cultural tourism than in an open access park such as the Garden Route National Park. “The idea of self-drive routes originated some years ago to encourage people to explore lesser known areas in the Garden Route National Park by providing information and maps about interesting places to visit, we enhance visitors’ experience of the area.”
This, the first leg of a much bigger route being planned from Wilderness to Tsitsikamma, is not just for history buffs though.
The route starts at Templeman Station, includes sites such as the Forest Legends Museum and “Old Suzie”, the King Edward VII Big Tree (said to be around 800 years old), the Dal van Varings or Valley of Ferns and ends at San Ambroso Chapel Museum.
The route is an enchanting drive back in time. Clear route markers will lead you along the way and an explicit sign board at each of the 10 stops explains the historical significance. SANParks suggests about four hours to complete the route but with all the magical stops on the way, you may just want to set aside the entire day.
Brochures about Rooted in Time can be obtained from the Diepwalle office, the SANParks Knysna office on Thesen Island or may be downloaded here:
You can contact the SANParks Thesen Island Office at 044 382 2095
Find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/South.African.National.Parks/
Or visit them at https://www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/tourism/general.php