Iconic Knysna Forest unscathed by the recent fires

KNYSNA – Initial findings after the devastating fires in Knysna indicate the indigenous Knysna Forest was not affected by the fire.

“From Goudveld to Diepwalle, the forest is accessible at present and was not at all affected by the fire, ” said Nandi Mgwadlamba, spokesperson for SANParks.

The Knysna forests are South Africa’s largest portion of Southern Afrotemperate Forests, spanning across some 60,500 hectares of land, from George to Tsitsikamma in the East.

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She explained that SANParks Scientists have recorded and documented in the State of Knowledge report (2015) the presence of more than 30 terrestrial habitat types, representing more than 50 forest and fynbos communities within the boundaries of the GRNP.

READ more about Oupoot, the shy matriarch of the Knysna Forest

“The forest is a haven for 465 species occurring in the forest areas, over 22 species of amphibians, 24 reptile species, 305 species of birds and some 42% of South Africa’s 290 mammal species. At least 7.1% of the Park’s mammals are listed as Endangered (EN) and 14% as Vulnerable (VU),” emphasised Mgwadlamba.

Large grey mongoose. Photo: Jean Herons

Diepwalle. Photo: Theunis Schutte

The fynbos areas in the Park (Harkerville) were however affected. The Kranshoek Viewpoint and picnic areas were also gutted down by the recent inferno. The team in Harkerville are assessing the damage to see if that area will be ready for the town’s biggest Festival in July.

The fire in Hoekwil approaching parts of the Park. Photo: Len du Plessis.

The Knysna estuary was used to ferry people across from suburbs affected by the fire. The ferry is also operational and ready for the Knysna Oyster Festival in July.

Mgwadlamba said that SANParks have had an  overwhelming response to a call for volunteers for GIS mapping of lost infrastructure.

The team is also getting ready to finalise findings and should hand over maps and a report to the JOC (Joint Organizing Committee).

The Joint Operational Committee

This exercise will provide adequate information pertaining to the loss of infrastructure as a result of the devastating Knysna fires from Rheenendal right through to the town of Knysna.

The mystical Knysna forest is attractive to visitors for its indigenous trees some over 600 years old, the King Edward Big tree in Diepwalle, the Dalene Matthee Memorial, the Hoekwil Big tree and the 1000 year old Tsitsikamma Big Tree.

Photo: Martin Hatchuel

Other activities in the forest include birdspotting, camping spots, cycling trails, hiking trails, forest excursions (segways, scootours and ziplining).  There are also two museums in the Knsyna Forest. The Legends Museum in Diepwalle with the history of the Knysna forest is by far the most popular.


Elize Parker
Environmental Journalist Lowvelder

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