Imagine inheriting a large piece of prime real estate and opting to keep it untouched, preserved, safe from development and sacred. In order that future generations will know the beauty of nature and be given the opportunity to appreciate it away from the fast paced ever-developing world… This in essence is the idea behind The Featherbed Nature Reserve and how it comes to stand as a protected heritage site.
Situated on the Western Head at the entrance to the Knysna lagoon, this privately owned nature reserve is only accessible by ferry. I took the four-hour tour option leaving the Knysna Waterfront by guided boat trip across the tranquil lagoon, to where sandstone cliffs tower over its entrance.
My local guide used the 20-minute cruise to share tales of Knysna’s history, the development of Thesen Island, early shipping days and the success of Knysna’s oyster industry. The tide was low and the water glistened calmly in the sun, yet it was deceptively cold.
On disembarking we took a slow drive with our specialist guide in a 4×4 vehicle and trailers to the top of the reserve, for a linger and to take in the endless views back towards Knysna. The guide informed on the ecology, fauna, flora, bird and marine life of the reserve. This truly is a sanctuary for small game and we were lucky to see bushbuck on the way up as well as a pair of breeding oystercatchers protectively guarding their nest on the way down. Yet here they need not worry.
The reserve’s current conservation focus is the blue duiker, inspired by Cape author Dalene Matthee novel Circles in the Forest where she described them as ‘the most beautiful of all. So tiny, so nimble of foot…’ The blue duiker appears on the Endangered List and is facing extinction in its natural habitat given the destruction of indigenous forest over the past two hundred years.
It was with this in mind that the owner of Featherbed Nature Reserve decided to start a breeding program in an area he keeps apart from the public. Although I’m told you may be lucky enough to see a Duiker on your walk; that they are quite tame and very curious, which makes them likely to come to the fence and take a closer look. I hold hope for this on my next visit.
From the top viewing point we hiked the 2,2 km trail down through Milkwood forests, visiting an ancient Khoi Khoi sea cave before reaching the coastal path which is fringed with aromatic fynbos and flowering aloes. You can even escape to the beach to put your feet in the water if you wish.
Our walk was followed by a delicious buffet meal on the wooden deck under a canopy of indigenous trees. From here there’s opportunity to look in the Curio Shop for a memento before returning to the Waterfront by ferry.
What a special place this is. One where you can be close to nature, where endless vistas draw your focus South to a place where there is nothing but deep blue waters … and eventually, Antarctica. There was a chill on the air, a gentle sea breeze and an intense feeling of gratitude that a family had the foresight to save this piece of natural paradise for us to share.
When in Knysna, make a Featherbed Nature Reserve excursion a priority.
As a guideline daily Departures from the Featherbed Ferry Terminus are at 08h30 and 14h30 for the 3-hour trip, which excludes lunch. Alternatively at 10h00, 11h30 and 12h30 for the 4-hour trip, which includes a delicious buffet luncheon. Subject to confirmation.
This is a perfect eco-experience for families and can be adjusted to suit your fitness level.Practical Advise – This is a year-round destination, all you’ll need is good walking shoes and your camera, a hat and sunblock in Summer and warm jacket and gloves in Winter. Also, it gets cold out on that water.
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This post first appeared on Traveller24.