A free travel app launched by go! Travel South Africa, taps into the wealth of information on SA-Venues.com, South Africa’s biggest online travel guide, to provide an exciting, interactive map-based resource for local and international visitors travelling in South Africa.
The go! Travel South Africa app,which features more than 25 000 points of interest and also incorporates content from go! travel magazine and restaurant guide Eat Out, is the first local app to provide such comprehensive information about everything from accommodation, restaurants and adventure activities, to hiking trails, wine estates, popular local events and even Wi-Fi hotspots.
Tania Stephenson, Marketing Manager at SA-Venues.com, describes the app as a ‘one stop resource’ for travellers, which is extremely user-friendly.
“It draws from the Accommodation, Things to Do and Attractions listings on our website and provides absolutely everything you need to plan your trip around South Africa, including directions,” says Tania. “There are even suggested routes in each of the nine provinces which highlight the top attractions in the area. The tablet version provides tools to plan your own trips with a trip planner timeline.”
Several routes can be plotted, planned and saved simultaneously. The distances between each place are provided, giving the user an indication of the time required for travelling.
The app also offers a number of offline maps which can be downloaded in areas where there is little or no internet connection, such as the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Kruger National Park, amongst others.
Says Tania: “All you have to do is choose your route, for example from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. Then select your accommodation, restaurants, activities and so on from all the available options, which are indicated with pins. When you tap on a pin, a pop-up appears with more information about your selection. “
Because the app is integrated with TravelGround, Expedia, gotravel24 and ComeDine’s online booking systems, you can use the app to actually book accommodation, restaurants and activities.
The app, which won a silver Pixel at the 2012 Bookmarks Awards and a bronze Loerie Award, was developed by Touchlab, a division of Media24 for use on an iPad, Android 10″ tablet or Android smartphone.
If you’re looking for a great child-friendly restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating and a kiddies play area, look no further than the River Deck, a rustic Knysna restaurant situated on the banks of the Goukamma River on the Buffalo Bay Road, just off the N2.
The restaurant is built on a raised deck with gorgeous views of the river. There’s plenty of parking on the property and the food, described as ‘traditional South African fare’ is tasty and well-priced.
We arrived for breakfast on the day after Boxing Day and found the toilets spotless and the service friendly and efficient, despite a chalk board sign saying: ’Welcome! If you enter please be patient’.
The owner reported a busy season and we could see why. A delicious mini breakfast of a fried egg, bacon, tomato and toast was just R32, and was also served with butter and jam for the toast, and a helping of fried onions and mushrooms. The egg was perfectly cooked, sunny side up as requested. The accompanying double espresso was excellent.
The full breakfast with 2 eggs is priced at R46. There is also a cheese omelette for R30.
For lunch you’re spoilt for choice. Homemade pies, quiches, salads, curries, a range of toasted sandwiches and pizzas all feature on the menu , priced between R28 and R85.
There’s a traditional braai with boerewors, lamb chops and ‘pap en sous’ for R86, and a variety of freshly baked cakes for tea or dessert, although at 10am we were too early for these.
The food is served in traditional enamel plates and bowls and pretty flowers arrangements in enamel jugs adorn the tables.
There are pedal boats and canoes for hire and a children’s play area with swings, climbing ropes and ladders. The outside seating area is comfortable and shaded. And, obviously, you can take a dip in the cool, inviting river while you’re waiting for your food!
This is our list of the top 8 things for holidaymakers to do in Knysna…
1. Brunch at East Head Café
Eggs Benedict at East Head Café
The food is fabulous and the location is probably one of the best in Knysna. Sit outside to maximise the superb views of the Knysna Heads. Watch the boats negotiate the famously dangerous passage through the sandstone heads and rocks from the ocean into the lagoon. I can recommend the eggs Benedict if you’re brunching and fish & chips if you’re lunching. More info
2. Pastries at ile de pain
Brioche & apple strudel at ile de pain
Ile de pain is a restaurant and bakery which has become an icon of Knysna. The bread is baked fresh daily by co-owner Markus Farbinger, while Liezie Mulder designs the menus and coordinates the outrageously delicious dishes which are served daily for breakfast and lunch. The couple is known for their passion for using the freshest local ingredients from suppliers in the area. The pastries are legendary throughout the Garden Route. More info
3. Picnic at Jubilee Creek
Stock up with pastries and sandwiches at ile de pain and head to the Knysna forest for a picnic. Jubilee Creek has a beautiful picnic site on the banks of Millwood Creek , a cool forest stream which meanders along the 1.8km trail to a pristine rock pool where you can swim. You will need a permit which is obtainable from the little office at the boom.
The waterfall and pool at Jubilee Creek
To get to Jubilee Creek, take the N2 from Knysna towards George. Turn right onto the Rheenendal Road and follow it for just under 13km to the Bibby’s Hoek turnoff to the right. This road becomes a gravel road and will take you to a four way crossing with a boom where you will obtain your permit. The picnic site is 10km from the boom and well sign-posted. More info
4. Take a ferry trip across the lagoon
John Benn ferry
Take a cruise across the lagoon on the famous John Benn or River Cat ferries. These scenic cruises depart from the Waterfront or in front of Cruise Café restaurant, and take cruisers across the estuary to the famous Heads and will give you a fantastic and very different view of Knysna including Thesen Islands, Leisure Island, Featherbed Nature Reserve, and the Eastern and Western Heads.
The more luxurious Paddle Cruiser offers an hour and a half lunch-time cruise or a two hour supper cruise. More info
5. Indulge in sushi at 34 South
34 South restaurant, deli and sushi bar
34 South at the Knysna Quays is a well known restaurant, deli, wine shop and sushi bar. The sushi is possibly the best in Knysna and well priced. With its location right on the water, 34 South is a great venue to sit back, relax and watch the boats pass by. More info
6. Go to the beach!
Buffalo Bay, one of Knysna’s two Blue Flag beaches
Knysna has two beautiful beaches which this year received Blue Flag status – Brenton on Sea and Buffalo Bay (Buffels Baai) beaches have clean white sand and pristine dunes. You can swim at Buffalo Bay, which is in a SANParks Reserve, and there are life guards on duty during season. At low tide you can even cycle along the shore between the two beaches. The beach is popular with surfers and has a casual family-friendly restaurant. During high season (1 December to 31 January) dogs are only permitted before 9am and after 5pm daily in specially designated areas and must be on leashes.
7. Visit the Knysna Elephant Park
Knysna Elephant Park
Knysna’s many animal sanctuaries are well worth a visit, especially if you are travelling with children. Possibly the most exciting and well known of these is the Knysna Elephant Park, which offers the opportunity to feed and get close up to these majestic animals, which once roamed free in the Knysna forests. Tours last between 45 mins and an hour and depart half hourly from 8.30am until 4.30pm. This makes a great morning or afternoon outing and there is a good restaurant on site. More info
8. Hike Featherbed
Featherbed Nature Reserve
This pristine piece of paradise is a privately owned nature reserve and South African Heritage Site on the Western Head of Knysna only accessible by ferry. The four hour daily excursion is a wonderful outing which includes a ferry trip, a ride to the top of the Western Head, a 2km trail which takes you through Milkwood forests, along the sandstone cliffs to the sea caves and reveals spectacular views, and a light meal at the Forest Restaurant. More info
Myth and mystery surround the elusive Knysna elephants, but these pictures are proof beyond any doubt that they exist.
The photographs were taken this morning (4 December) by local Knysna GP Berend Maarsingh who was with some fellow cyclists on an early ride in the forest and used his cell phone to record the incredible find.
Fresh elephant dung
Despite numerous claimed sightings in recent years it is not known exactly how many elephants still live in the forest and, indeed, many people have doubted their existence.
Environmentalist Gareth Patterson, who began an independent study on the Knysna elephants in 2001, believes there to be at least seven of these majestic creatures and has written a book, The Secret Elephants, which records his time spent in the forest looking for them.
Just last year a group of five people spotted one large and one smaller elephant across a valley while hiking in Jubilee Creek but were unable to photograph them. Various incidents have also been recorded of elephants trashing SANParks and farmers’ tractors and machinery.
While the elephants remain elusive and one of the great mysteries of the vast, dense Knysna forests, pictures like these still excite and thrill those who hope that the world’s most southerly elephants are not extinct.
An elephant footprint shown in comparison to a human foot
Knysna’s Buffalo Bay and Brenton on Sea beaches have officially been awarded Blue Flag status.
Chairman of the Knysna Tourism Board, Greg Vogt said that there are 36 Blue Flag beaches along the South African coastline. “There are nine Blue Flags proudly flying on beaches between Mossel Bay and Bitou – two of which are now located within the greater Knysna area.”
The Blue Flag organisation works towards the sustainable development of beaches and marinas and 46 countries across Southern Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, the Caribbean, Brazil, Canada, Europe and New Zealand now carry the coveted Blue Flag on their beaches and marinas.
“Beaches have to adhere to a variety of strict criteria to be allowed to fly the Blue Flag,” explained Vogt. “These include water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management and safety and other services.”
The local Blue Flag drive was spearheaded by the Eden District Municipality.
The weekend of Saturday 20 & Sunday 21 October will see the 10th annual Leisure Isle Festival take place in Knysna.
The entrance park on Leisure Isle will be alive with activities. Stalls catering for every taste will be offering a mouthwatering array of food and drink and fresh produce, as well as arts and crafts, toys, a huge array of books, indigenous and other plants and many other delights.
In addition to activities such as the ever-popular barrel train and jumping castle for children and the doggie walk around the island for all ages, this year Knysna’s elderly folk will be specially catered for with a wheelchair walk along a selected route.
Take the whole family and relax in idyllic surroundings in the tea and beer gardens. About 100 stalls will offer old favourites as well as exciting new items.
All proceeds will be channelled to local charities.
Chairman of the Knysna Tourism Board Greg Vogt announced today that the organisation’s CEO, Shaun van Eck, has been suspended.
“Shaun was suspended during a special meeting held this morning,” said Vogt. “A date has been set for a disciplinary hearing to take place, but at the moment we cannot divulge any more information without compromising the integrity of both Shaun and this Board.”
“Knysna may rest assured that we have acted with its best interest at heart,” assured Vogt. “Communication structures and procedures are in place to ensure that the Board, and Knysna Tourism as an organisation, continues to operate with marketing and promoting our members and our town as its highest priority. We shall keep residents well informed of any further developments.”
I’d heard that Grand Café in Robertson had changed hands, and this week had the opportunity to see if our favourite stop en route to Knysna from Cape Town was still the great eatery it was under the previous owner, Rodney Sandwith.
Simon and Wendy Bernstein have had an impressive number of years’ experience in the hospitality industry, including six years working together at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, he as GM and she in the kitchen. Their experience is evident in the way they have already made their mark on the Grand Café, tweaking the menu, and implementing a marketing campaign which has resulted in the restaurant now being ranked #1 of 10 restaurants in Robertson.
The menu hasn’t changed much and I looked for and found old favourites including bubble and squeak (poached or fried eggs served with potato rosti on a bed of sauteed spinach garnished with bacon and cherry tomatoes); chicken and mushroom pie; and for tea, scones with clotted cream.
Having had a late breakfast in Stellenbosch, we decided to share a fresh vegetable wrap filled with humous, feta cheese, roasted vegetables and baby leaves. It was an extremely generous portion, served with a balsamic cream and presented beautifully. My daughter was so keen to dig in that she couldn’t wait for me to photograph it! It tasted as good as it looked.
I have no doubt that the Grand Café is continuing its grand tradition of good food, good value and friendly service. It is still our favourite stop between Cape Town and the Garden Route.
The Knysna forests offer wonderful opportunities for picnicking, cycling and hiking.
Trail walkers of all levels of fitness and experience will enjoy the Jubilee Creek Walk, which is a short section of the Outeniqua Hiking Trail and is an interesting walk along a path that the miners used over 100 years ago.
The path follows the creek passing numerous reminders of the mining activities of the 1880s, when gold was discovered in this area, including abandoned mining shafts. The walk to the waterfall and back to the picnic site at Krisjan-se-Nek is approximately 3,6 kms.
Wear comfortable walking shoes which you can wade through the water in as you will cross the creek a number of times. Take a picnic to enjoy at the waterfall, a swimming costume and towel.