History of Knysna
A brief outline of Knysna's history
1770 - The first colonist farmer to settle in the area was Stephanus Terblanche.
His loan farm, which he called Melkhoutkraal, was established on the eastern bank of the Knysna River.
His brother, Pieter, settled at Buffelsvermaak on the Goukamma River.
1775 - A portion of Buffelsvermaak was excised and called Uitzicht and was first occupied by Hendrik Barnard.
1798 - James Callendar, a Scottish master mariner, was sent by the Cape Colonial government to survey and report on the forests, bays and rivers in the area. He drew the first map of the Knysna River "Chart of the Knysna, An Arm of the Sea, Seven Leagues to the Westward of Plettenberg's Bay" and expressed his opinion that the Knysna was far superior to the (Plettenberg) Bay as an outlet for shipping timber.
1802 - During the Third Frontier War the area was invaded by renegade Khoikhoi warriors. Most of the farms between Plettenberg Bay and the Keurbooms River, as well as some at Knysna (including Melkhoutkraal), were burned to the ground.
1804 - George Rex, originally reputed to be the illegitimate son of George III of England, settled in Knysna. He is generally credited as being the founder of Knysna. He bought Melkhoutkraal, and later other farms including Sandkraal (renamed Westford) and Welbedacht (renamed Eastford). When he purchased Uitzicht in 1830 he owned all the land surrounding the lagoon.
1817 - The Knysna River was declared a port. Unfortunately the first ship to try to enter through the Knysna Heads on 11th February, the transport brig Emu, struck a submerged rock (now known as Emu Rock). A few weeks later HMS Podargus arrived to conduct salvage operations and on 22nd April became the first ship to successfully enter Knysna through The Heads.
1819 - John Gough was appointed as the first permanent Pilot (Harbour Master) at The Heads. His job was ensure the safety of craft entering / exiting the lagoon and he would row out to ships at sea to guide them in.
1820 - George Rex gave 40 morgen (c.80 acres) of Eastford to the Cape Colonial Government. This enabled the British Royal Navy to establish a shipyard on the banks of the lagoon. However, the buildings burnt down twice and were closed after less than 5 years. On the remainder of this land, the naval town of Melville was laid down in 1825.
1831 - Due to the dangers of crossing the bar at the Heads, and the wrecking of ships, insurance underwriters pushed up their premiums to such levels that it became no longer profitable to do business. George Rex decided to build his own brig and become his own underwriter. On 26th July, the 139 ton brig Knysna sailed out through the Heads with her first cargo of timber destined for Table Bay in Cape Town. The Knysna was sold in 1842 and was wrecked off the English coast a year later.
1834 - The next major settler in Knysna was Captain Thomas Henry Duthie (born in Stirling, Scotland in 1805), who married George Rex's daughter Caroline on 12th February 1833. He bought the farm Uitzicht from his father-in-law, and renamed part of it Belvidere (later the other part was renamed Brenton). After the death of George Rex on 3rd April 1839, Duthie also bought the farms Westford and Portland out of the George Rex Estate.
1844 - Lt. Col. John Sutherland bought the northern section of Melkhoutkraal, out of the Rex Estate, His son, also a John, proceeded with the establishment of the village of Newhaven on this property, which was laid down in 1845.
1848 - In February, the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town, the Rt. Rev. Robert Gray, arrived from England, and on Sunday 17th September held the first Service in the 'licensed schoolroom' (as there was no church).
1849 - The first foundation stone for the Old St. George's Church was laid. In customary fashion coins and important documents were buried beneath it. However, the following morning news arrived that someone had stolen the money, necessitating the replacement of the stolen goods along with the relaying of the stone. Legend records that the son of George Rex, John Rex, sat on the second foundation stone, keeping an all-night vigil, until it had set. The church was first used in June 1851, but only consecrated, when free of debt, on 3rd October 1855.
1855 - The Holy Trinity Church, Belvidere was consecrated by Bishop Gray on October 5th 1855, the foundation stone having been laid on 15th October 1851 and building completed mid 1852. The church was built by Thomas Duthie and is a beautiful example in miniature of the Norman style from around the 11th and 12th centuries, and is now a National Monument. The bell was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London (who also cast Big Ben), but during transportation to Belvidere was dropped overboard and lay in the Knysna Estuary for several months before being retrieved and hung in place above the main door.
1858 - Knysna became a separate Magisterial Division. It was bounded in the west by the Swart River, the east by the boundaries of the Division of Humansdorp, north by the Outeniqua Mountains and south by the Indian Ocean. Previously it had been a field cornetcy of Plettenberg Bay within the Magisterial Division of George.
1859 - On the 19th February resident Magistrate James Fichat laid the foundation stone for the Old Gaol, the first building to be erected by the Colonial Government in Knysna. It was built initially to house the convicts working on the roads in Knysna and, later on, Thomas Bain's Prince Alfred's Pass through the Outeniqua mountains. By 1883 the goal had been enlarged to accommodate 60 prisoners. It was declared a National Monument on 24th May 1991. Today it forms part of the Knysna Museum complex on Queen Street, and houses displays of the town’s angling and maritime history as well as the Knysna Art Gallery, tea room and gift shop.
1860 - On 31st May a man known only as Jacob became the only person to be hanged in Knysna. His crime is not recorded. The public execution took place in front of a crop of foliage known as "O'ReillY's Bush" at the top of Queen Street.
1865 - The first census to be conducted by the colonial administration registered 2,471 people in the Knysna region, of which 54% were of European descent. By 1875 there were 3,218 people of which 57% were Europeans.
1867 - Thomas Bain started work on a road from Knysna to George, a distance of 73km, traversing 10 rivers and 7 gorges. Now known as the 7 Passes Road, it took fifteen years to complete and was officially opened to wagons in 1883.
1867 - Whilst on a tour of the Cape it was arranged for the Duke of Edinburgh - Prince Alfred (2nd son of Queen Victoria) to visit Knysna to shoot elephant. On 9th September, having transferred outside The Heads from the sloop HMS Racoon to the smaller HMS Petrel, he was welcomed ashore at the wharf where the Knysna Yacht Club (built in 1911) now stands. He stayed at St. Georges Tavern which he gave permission to be renamed to The Royal Hotel.
1868 - John Benn became Pilot at The Heads, followed by other Benn family members (John II, Conning and Reuben) until the closure of the Harbour in 1954. No lives were lost as a result of Pilot error during the time the Benns worked the river mouth.
1869 - The Great Fire of 1869 has gone down in the annals of local history as possibly the most devastating and terrifying event of the times. It swept through the fynbos and forest between the sea and the mountains with an extraordinary ferocity, burning almost the entire area from what is now Humansdorp (near Port Elizabeth) all the way through to Mossel Bay. The loss of habitat and life was absolute. This Great Fire was also the first fire in the history of South Africa that was officially declared as a disaster.
1870 - On 6th April the Thesen family, who were emigrating from Norway to New Zealand, arrived in Knysna on the ship Albatros. With their sailing, commercial and practical skills, the large family soon set to work in the vast indigenous forests, extracting and exporting timber on the Albatros to the Cape for construction and boat building. They established their own steam sawmill at Bracken Hill, where they also manufactured small boats.
1876 - James Hooper was collecting stones to aid his ostriches digestion when he found what was later determined to be a nugget of almost pure gold at a creek on the Karatara River near Ruigtevlei.
1880 - Whilst exploring the caves around Knysna's Eastern Head, Thomas Bain found a bone shoulder blade with 4 pictures painted on it. The artifact was lent to the British Museum, but reportedly stolen during the return voyage. In 1886 the British Museum purchased the bone from a Thomas Hedley. Thomas Bain believed the bone to be from a lion and the British Museum catalouged it as from an antelope, but it has now been identified as a seal scapula. Measuring 17x20x4cm, the Knysna Scapula is believed to be the only known painting on bone to have been found in South Africa.
1881 - A number of successful Italian silk farmers and their families (a total of 30 immigrants) were shipped to Knysna by the Cape Government to initiate a silk spinning industry. They settled at Gouna, but were unable to produce silk due to the lack of real mulberry trees in the forest (which they had been promised) for the silk worms to feed on. The San Ambrosa Church in Gouna was built by Reverand Rooney ten years after their arrival as a reminder for the homesick Italians of their lives back home. The church now houses a small museum of the history of the silk farmers and their families.
1881 - The first George and Knysna Herald newspaper was published, for gazette notices, news and advertisements. The newspaper was owned and edited by the Sayers family until 1964 (originally by the parents of Charles Sayers who created the George Museum in 1967).
1882 - On 1st January a dog tax was brought into force, with 400 dog badges ordered from Cape Town. The streetkeeper had orders to destroy with poison any dogs running around without their badges.
1882 - By Proclamation No. 217 of 1882 Knysna became a municipality under the provisions of the Municipal Act, No. 45 of 1882. The settlements of Newhaven and Melville, plus the wedge of land between them (the remainder of Eastford) were amalgamated to form the municipality of The Knysna. The first council meeting took place on 14th March 1883, and Thomas Horn was elected as chairman (mayor).
1886 - The Knysna Shipping & Landing Co. (later known as The Knysna Wharf Co.) was formed to erect a jetty on the northern shores of the estuary. Previously ships were unloaded by two small tenders or simply beached on the sand at high tide. Now it was possible to directly (un)load vessels from 80 to 2000 tons.
1886 - After minor finds by early prospectors, more evidence of gold was discovered by Charles Osborne. Soon fortune hunters from all over the world arrived at what became known as Millwood (name taken from the Thesen's Mill in the area). A village of 135 stands, with six hotels and four boarding houses, a hospital and a church, was established. On 6th January 1887 the Millwood area was officially proclaimed "An Alluvial Digging and Mine" - the first gold field in South Africa. By 1895, due to the lack of gold recovered, the last hotel had shut down and Millwood had become virtually a ghost town. Millwood was officially deproclaimed in 1924.
1887 - A Rowing Club was established, but in March 1899 a terrible gale and strong floods severely damaged the boathouse and 2 gigs with the result that the club had to be sold.
1892 - George Parkes, having arrived from England, learnt that both a saw mill and forest were for sale and purchased both. He registered his company, the Knysna Forest Company on 19th February 1892. He became the first local manufacturer of turned wooden articles such as tool handles, table and chair legs, as well as wagon parts and planks; and also pioneered the timber export business by sending boxwood to England and France. 1n 1902 when the company went into liquidation, the second son and namesake, George, bought out all the shareholders and continued operations. The company still operates in Knysna today as Geo Parkes & Sons.
1893 - On 28th November, Mayor C.W. Thesen opened the current library building (at the time this was just the West wing). The East wing was added in 1936, and the building has since been further extended - to the North in 1987, and a second floor added in 2014.
1893 - The official opening of the first bridge over the Knysna River took place on 4th April. The wooden bridge was a toll bridge until 1916 when, due to rotting timbers, it was deemed unsafe for passage.
1898 - The manager of the Standard Bank, Mr Jack Harden, became the first person to own a car in Knysna. After selecting it from a catalogue he had it shipped to Knysna from America. It arrived in a box whereupon it was assembled using an instruction manual. It was rumoured that Mr Harden had yet to learn how to drive a vehicle.
1899 - Knysna, like others places in the Cape Colony, was racially and socially stratified with the British at the high end, followed by the Boers, and the other indigenous groups at the lowest level. At the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer war the Knysna Division Council declared loyalty to the British Empire.
1901 - News of the attacks by Boer commandos on Willowmore and Avontuur in January 1901 resulted in the declaration of Martial Law in Knysna and the immediate formation of a Town Guard about 70 strong, which set pickets at the entrances to the town and at the gaol every night. A curfew was also imposed, whereby residents had to be indoors by 22:00 and lights out an hour later. On 1 March 1901, the command of the Town Guard was taken over by Major William Anstruther Thomson of the Royal Horse Guards. The war never reached Knysna, but he left behind a permanent memorial in the shape of a stone fort on Verdompskop overlooking the town - locally referred to as 'Thomson's Folly'. The Town Guard was officially disbanded on 4th October 1902.
1903 - The Paquita, a German three masted iron barque weighing 484 tons, entered the lagoon and offloaded its cargo. Before setting sail again for Barbados, a strong wind came up which caused the anchor ropes to foul and the ship ran aground. Having been refloated, on 18th October the Paquita once again had her anchor ropes fouled and this time she ran aground on Beacon Rocks near the Eastern Head. She lay there for 18 months until she finally disappeared beneath the waves. The fact that most of her crew had been paid off before the first fouling of the anchors was questioned. When, after the second running aground, it was discovered that her anchor ropes were intact the suspicion of foul play arose and the insurance claim was dismissed. The wreck is now an easily accessible and popular diving site.
1904 - Charles Wilhelm Thesen bought Paarden Island (part of Melkhoutkraal). In 1922 the Thesen's sawmill and boat building factory were moved to the island and it became known as Thesen Island.
1907 - The South Western Railway Co. Ltd. started operations from Knysna to Templeman's Station at Deep Walls (Diepwalle). The 20 mile 2ft narrow gauge railway had taken 3 years to build with stops at Bracken Hill (Thesen's) and Parkes Station (Veltmanspad). The forest railway, affectionately named the "Coffee-Pot", ran until 30th April 1949.
1910 - On 11th November the First General Meeting of the Knysna Yacht Club took place. Ascherton Geddes De Smidt (the assistant magistrate) was elected as the Commodore. The current Asches Cabin is named after him. The first official meet of Club members in their boats took place on Wednesday 22nd February 1911. The Club hosted it's first Regatta from 4th to 10th January 1928.
1915 - A new concrete bridge (Westford Bridge) was built over the River Knysna, at a cost of £8,150. It opened in October, but on 4th May 1916 after torrential rain and record breaking floods the bridge was washed away. Only the concrete abutments still stand today.
1918 - Due to the Spanish Influenza pandemic on November 19th the Mayor (and Chairman of the Public Health Committee) William R. Kennett ordered that all visitors to Knysna be placed under Quarantine for a period of seven days.
1922 - The Knysna war memorial was unveiled on December 17th 1922. Instigated in 1921 by Harald Thesen, a veteran of the First World War, a subscription list was opened and money was collected towards a war memorial to honour those who had lost their lives in the service of their country. The unveiling was done by the Reverend Captain Alfred Duthie, chaplain to the forces in Flanders and France during The Great War. Plaques bearing the names of the deceased from the Second World War and the Bush War were added later.
1923 - After seven years without a bridge over the river, the Westford iron Red Bridge was completed. The toll had been abolished, and the bridge was used for 50 years before closing to traffic in 1973.
1924 - Knysna's first street lighting was installed - 27 electric lights and 27 paraffin lanterns.
1926 - The first water of Knysna's water system flowed (although the decision to install the system had been made in 1898).
1928 - The railway branch line between George and Knysna was completed. Although available for goods and passenger trains since 1st May, it was officially opened on 17th October by the Minister of Railways and Harbours, the Hon. C.W. Malan. To start with the line used a temporary bridge over the Kaaimans River and had to be shut down for 2 weeks until work was finally completed, re-opening on 30th November. The construction of the line had taken 4 years with work starting simutaneously at both ends.
1928 - On 28th March Sir Alan Cobham K.B.E. landed his flying boat (the first to be seen in South Africa) on the Knysna lagoon during his 20,000 mile flight around Africa. Such was the importance of this event that a half-day holiday was declared. The Singapore landed just after 2:30 p.m.
1929 - George Cearn bought Steenbok Island from John Duthie with a vision of turning the uninhabited island into a place where people could live and build their homes, raise their families and retire in idyllic surroundings. He re-named it Leisure Isle, and set about turning his dream into reality. It was declared a township in November 1935 and 300 plots were offered for sale.
1929 - After a public meeting on 17th October the Knysna Publicity Association was formed. In 1996 it was renamed to the Knysna Tourism Bureau and in 2015 renamed again to Knysna and Partners, before reverting back to Knysna Tourism in 2017. In 1979 they moved into the Old Post Office on Main Road, and could not be missed due to the huge Knysna Forest Elephant skeleton displayed in the front window. The skeleton has since been removed and is now displayed at the Forest Legends Museum in Diepwalle.
1931 - Bondi was a pedigree bulldog given by the people of Lourenco Marques to the crew of HMS Verbena in 1928 and he became the ship’s mascot. On January 30, 1931 the Verbena visited Knysna, tying up at Thesen's jetty. The crew planned a variety concert for the people of Knysna, so that afternoon a group of sailors marched up to the town hall to decorate it for the evening’s entertainment. Bondi decided to follow them, but sadly the long walk in the heat was too much for him and he collapsed and died. He was buried on the edge of the jetty and every Oyster Festival, when the Navy ships come in, a ceremony is held during which the sea cadets tidy up the garden around Bondi’s stone and polish his name plate.
1932 - George Bernard Shaw stayed at The Royal Hotel for 5 weeks after a motoring accident injured his wife Charlotte whilst driving from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. It was during this time he wrote a book of short stories "The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God (and Some Lesser Tales)".
1932 - Herbet Stephen Henderson built the first "castle" at the western end of the beach at Noetzie.
1940 - Wood waste from the timber mill on Thesen Island was used to start a power station which generated electricity from turbines. This was part of the Eskom grid and supplied electricity to Knynsa and Plettenberg Bay until its closure on June 26th 2001. The Turbine Hotel & Spa, which opened on 12th August 2010, now stands on the site, and has been built around some of the fully restored equipment from the time, including the boilers and generators.
1941 - George Cairn donated a plot of land on Leiseure Isle to be to be raffled to help fund a Spitfire for the war effort. £5,000 was required, and raised from raffles and donations. The Spitfire was named "The Knysna".
1948 - A joint venture between the Fisheries Development Corporation and Thesen & Co. gave birth to the Knysna Oyster Company, the first commercial oyster company in South Africa. The oyster farms in the Knysna Estuary were closed in 2010 after permits were not renewed.
1955 - The current White Bridge over the Knysna River was completed as part of the expansion of the National N2 road from George to Port Elizabeth.
1959 - The Knysna municipality assumed a coat of arms in 1959, and registered the coat of arms with the Cape Provincial Administration on 24th June 1960. The arms, divided into quarters, show a white horse's head, a fern leaf, a yellowwood tree and an elephant's head. The crest is the brig Knysna in full sail and the motto, concilio et prudentia, means with co-operation and prudence.
1959 - The Knysna Music Society was formed by Izak Burger. A subscription was 30 shillings for a single member, 50 shillings for a couple, and 10 shillings for a scholar. Ladies wore long dresses and these evenings were very much part of the cultural life of the town.
1962 - The Rotary Club of Knysna was chartered before 124 Rotarians at the Beacon Island Hotel, Plettenberg Bay, on 9. June, 1962. The Provisional Knysna Rotary Club having been formed in December 1961.
1964 - The passenger rail service between Knysna and George was withdrawn (mainly as a result of the increase in motor traffic along the new N2). Passengers were still able to travel by train as a coach was added to the goods train for many years afterwards. Later, due to the increased demand from tourism, South African Railways also provided special steam train excursions (which became known as the Outeniqua Tjoo-Choe).
1969 - Controversially, on 11th September it was resolved that Ladies could become full members of Knysna Yacht Club. The original constitution bye-law had read as follows: "Members are entitled to introduce lady relatives and friends to the Club House on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, Public Holidays and Race Days." This was amended on 3rd July 1911 to: "Members are entitled to introduce lady relatives and friends to the Club House at their discretion at anytime." In 1935 a new rule was introduced: "Associate Membership shall be confined to Ladies. They shall be elected as prescribed in Rule 11 and shall enjoy full privileges except that they shall not vote nor hold office."
1969 - 2 years after the formation of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in South Africa, NSRI Station 12 was established in Knysna.
1971 - Albatros II (built by Thesen & Co as part of their centenary celebrations) took part in the first Cape to Rio transatlantic race. Although 8th to cross the line Albatros II won the main trophy, the South Atlantic Trophy, on handicap. The trophies can be seen in the Maritime Room in the Old Gaol Museum complex.
1972 - The Friends of the Museum society was formed, and on the 1st August the Millwood House Museum officially opened. In 2002 the society changed it's name to the Knysna Historical Society. Millwood House (originally from the Millwood Goldfields) now forms part of the Knysna Museum complex on Queen Street.
1974 - The Barlows Group of Companies bought Thesen's Island and the Thesen's logging operations. In 1981 these were decommissioned due to the adverse environmental impact they caused, with the loss of 600 jobs. They subsequently sold their site for re-development.
1983 - Lex Mitchell opened a brewery in Thesen House. The brewery moved to the Industrial Area in 1985, and to its current site in New Street in 2014. The beers are completely natural, made with 100% barley, water, hops and yeast and contain no artificial preservatives or chemicals. Mitchell's is now the second largest brewery in South Africa.
1984 - The Knysna Marathon Club was formed. The inaugural meeting was held on 4th January by among others, Malcolm Spence, a former South African and world 400m record holder (and 1960 Olympic bronze medallist). One of the main objectives of forming the Club was to be able to stage the Forest Marathon (which is now one of the flagship events of the Knysna Oyster Festival). The first race was staged on 14th July 1984.
1984 - The first edition of the Knysna-Plett Herald was published on Friday 24th February.
1984 - On Saturday 14th July the Prime Minister P.W. Botha opened the first Knysna Winter Festival (since renamed to the Knysna Oyster Festival). It was the brainchild of Dick Ginsberg, a local businessman, who, along with Rose Smith from the then Knysna Publicity Office, organised the festival to attract people to Knysna during the quiet winter period. The festival featured many events including a marathon, soccer, golf, squash, bowls, the largest ever angling competition to take place on the Knysna lagoon, braai competitions, as well as music, arts and crafts and the crowning of the Oyster Queen at a special festival ball. The military also played an important part with 3 Navy ships entering through the Heads, an Army v Navy rugby match, a joint military street parade and performances by the Navy band.
1984 - Dalene Matthee (author of 13 books) published Kringe in 'n bos (Circles in a Forest), the first of her four "forest" novels based on the Knysna Forests. The others being Fiela se kind (Fiela's Child), Moerbeibos (The Mulberry Forest) and Droombos (Dreamforest). Dalene died on 20th February 2005 and her ashes were scattered at Krisjen-se-Nek. A memorial to her was erected at Krisjen-se-Nek on 23rd February 2008, and the 800 year old big tree was also renamed to the Dalene Matthee Big Tree.
1990 - On 27th November Woodmill Lane Shopping Centre was officially opened by his worship the mayor Clr. C.H. Edwards The shopping complex was built on the derelict site site of the old Geo Parkes & Sons sawmill. The large sawmill building of 1919, has been aesthetically incorporated into the shopping complex and is registered as a heritage site. The chimney has been maintained and kept standing in the old Boiler Room.
1991 - On 11th October Pledge Nature Reserve was declared a Local Nature Reserve. It covers approximately 10 hectares on land that was previously known as Bok-se-kloof and that was used as a brickfield and then a general dumping ground. The idea of transforming the land back to it's original natural beauty was proposed by Kito Erasmus, a local forest officer and town councillor, in 1988.
1991 - In November, Ernest Pringle discovered a colony of Orachrysops niobe (the Brenton Blue butterfly) at Brenton-on-Sea. The species had been thought to be extinct after the colony at Nature's Valley disappeared, and this is now the only known place where the species exists. In 1994 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List list of Threatened Species™ listed the status of the Brenton Blue as Vunerable and in 1996 updated that to Endangered. The Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve came into being in early 1998, and was proclaimed as a Special Nature Reserve (the only one in South Africa) on 4th July 2003.
1991 - Dr. Thomas Mulder, an environmental engineer, proposed a complete redevelopment of Thesen Island into a unique residential marina. Due to the complexities relating to rezoning and the ecological sensitivity of the estuary as well as architectural, engineering, aesthetic, social and cultural criteria, the planning process was a long drawn out affair. Approval for the project was finally granted in December 1998, but with over 100 strict and complex conditions. Work started in June 2000.
1992 - Oakhill School was founded on February 29th 1992. The new school’s 54 students, ranging in age from six to sixteen, spent the first term of 1992 in a unit of the newly opened Woodmill Lane Mall. In April the school moved to its permanent location on the hillside above Knysna, sheltered by oaks and with a view of the lagoon.
1993 - Judah Square was established after Knysna Municipality granted a portion of land in the Khayalethu township to the Rastafarian community. It is the administrative Rastafarian capital of the Southern Cape and home to the largest Rastafarian community in South Africa. This community hosts the annual Rastafarian Earth Festival, rated by Coopers Travel Guide as one of the 100 greatest events in the world.
1994 - Lisette and Ian Withers founded the Knysna Elephant Park on October 26th, the first facility in South Africa to house and care for orphaned African elephants. The first two elephant calves, Harry and Sally (named after the film), were rescued from a cull in the Kruger National Park. On 16th October 2003 Thandi became the first elephant to be born at the Knysna Elephant Park.
1997 - The Knysna Seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) was featured on limited edition coins produced by The South African Mint Company. Only 3,000 sterling silver R2 coins and 5,000 sterling silver 2½c (Tickey) coins were produced.
1999 - Noetzie was officially declared a conservancy in order to preserve it's natural bounty.
2000 - Keith Stewart bought the 640 ha "remainder of Noetzie farm" and began the process towards establishment and development of the Pezula Private Estate (voted Best Luxury Development in the World 2007). He then bought Sparrebosch Golf Course, renaming it Pezula Championship Course, and finally built the luxury Hotel & Spa. Pezula (an African word meaning "high up in the gods") now spans 1000ha including Pezula Private Castle at Noetzie.
2000 - Knysna seahorses (Hippocampus capensis) became the first seahorse species to be classified by the IUCN as Endangered (they had been listed since 1988 as Vulnerable). They are only found in three locations: the Knysna, Swartvlei, and Keurbooms estuaries. Knysna Seahorses are protected by the South African Fisheries Act No. 58 and others, and it is illegal to collect or keep them without a special permit. Also on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ and listed as Endangered is the Knysna Banana Frog (2004), with the Knysna Warbler (2000) and the Knysna Velvet Worm (2003) being listed as Vunerable.
2001 - In May 2001 the first Pink Loerie Mardi Gras was launched. It was initially started by local businessmen to entice tourists to the town during the quiet month of May. Run by Juan Lerm until 2009, it has become one of the most written about must-see annual celebrations within the LGBTQ+ community.
2004 - Established by Professor Vic Cockcroft, a well-known and respected marine biologist, Ocean Odyssey became the only close encounter whale watching permit holder for the greater Knysna area, which extends from the western side of the Robberg Peninsula to Gericke’s Point in Sedgefield. The permit, which is issued by the Department of Environmental Affairs, gives permission to approach marine mammals to within 50m, and if whales approach permission to stay and observe. Ocean Odyssey was granted Blue Flag status on October 7th 2014.
2006 - The railway line was closed after floods caused a landslide at Dolphins Point on Kaaimans Pass in August, with further damage sustained during heavy rains in February 2007. The Outeniqua Choo Tjoe, South Africa's last continually-operated passenger steam train, made its last journey from Knysna to George. It was temporarily relocated, after the flood damage, to run between George and Mossel Bay, and finally ceased service on 17th September 2010. Transnet have since indicated that the cost of re-opeining the line and returning the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe to be c. R250 million.
2007 - The Thesen Island project was completed; an innovative marina type residential estate and commercial area. The marina is spread over 90ha and consists of 19 man-made islands linked by 21 arched bridges and surrounded by 25ha of tidal waterways. The marina consists of 512 individual homes and 56 apartment units, with 366 private jetties/berths and 202 communal moorings. Thesen Harbour Town has 38 jetties used for commercial purposes. All the homes were built in a colonial maritime architectural style, conforming to Knysna’s vernacular architecture and its historical maritime and timber connections. Thesen Islands was officially awarded Blue Flag Marina status on 8th October 2013.
2009 - The African Elephant Research Unit (AERU) was established at the Knysna Elephant Park in October 2009 becoming the first elephant research unit dedicated to optimizing the welfare of captive elephants in South Africa.
In 2014 an on-site laboratory was added to the research unit, to allow for more effective veterinary and physiological monitoring of elephants.
2010 - Denmark and France, two of the competing teams in the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa, made their basecamps in Knysna at the Simola Golf & Country Estate and Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa respectively.
2010 - 6 people were charged with drug smuggling when on December 10th police found 1,716kg (1.7 tons) of pure cocaine aboard the Toledo fishing boat moored at the Knysna Waterfront. The cocaine had a street value of approximately R2 billion.
2011 - The 2011 census recorded the population of the town of Knynsa as 51,078 and that of the Knysna municipality as 68,659. This represented an increased municipality population of 33.40% from 2001 (51,469) and 59.95% since 1996 (43,195).
2011 - On February 8th, Mayoress Eleanore Bouw-Spies officially opened Knysna FM 97.0 radio station.
2012 - On October 12th, the beaches at Brenton on Sea and Buffalo Bay both received Blue Flag status.
2013 - On Wednesday 13th November, beekeeper Eddie Hart (67) of Belvidere Heights won the award for the World's Best Tasting Honey at the 2013 Black Jar Honey Contest, hosted by the Center for Honeybee Research in Asheville, North Carolina, USA.
2014 - Visionary artist and passionate environmentalist, Charl Frank's attempt to create the world's largest underwater sculpture was successfully completed on Monday 13th October, when professional divers, a team of SANParks rangers and willing volunteers lifted the 312kg, 1,21m by 1,63m sculpture of a Knysna seahorse out of the Turbine Hotel's swimming pool.
2014 - On December 7th, Knysna (the Knysna Estuary and Goukamma Lagoon) was proclaimed an International Hope Spot (and the world's first estuarine Hope Spot) by Mission Blue's founder Dr. Sylvia Earle. Hope Spots are special places that are critical to the health of the ocean - Earth's blue heart.
2015 - Whilst playing on a Knysna beach, 11 year old Ben Ingel found what he believed was a dinosaur tooth embedded in a small rock. On the 4th February 2017, experts confirmed that the tooth did indeed belong to a massive meat-eating dinosaur and was around 120-140 million years old.
2015 - Blaine Dodds from Knysna Yacht Club became world champion in the Hobie 14 class at the Hobie World Championships in Gargnano, Italy. He just failed to win a second world championship in the Hobie Tiger class when partnered by his son Peter-Blaine, as they finished runners-up to another Knysna Yacht Club father and son crew of William and Douglas Edwards.
Knysna Yacht Club members William and Lucinda Edwards were also crowned world champions at the Prosail World Cat Championships sailed at the German island of Sylt.
2015 - Knysna hosted the 7th Mr. Gay World (after Cape Town pulled out as co-hosts), with the Grand Finale taking place on 2nd May. Knysna was also chosen to host the 10th Mr. Gay World in 2018.
2017 - May 28th - Mila’s Meals: The Beginning & The Basics by Knysna local Catherine Barnhoorn was awarded the prestigious Best in the World Gourmand World Cookbook Award in the First Book category at the glamorous ceremony held in China.
In 2018 Knysna chef Alix Verrips’ book ‘Brunch Across 11 Countries: Recipes of a Private Chef’ also won a Best in the World Gourmand World Cookbook Award in the Breakfast Book category.
2017 - On Wednesday June 7th, fires devastated the Knysna area; burning for a further 2 weeks and extending over a 300km area from Great Brak to Port Elizabeth. The fires started in the Elandskraal area and spread rapidly (up to 1km in 10 minutes) due to the prolonged drought conditions and 100kph berg winds. This resulted in the evacuation of over 10,000 Knysna residents and the biggest disaster mobilisation in South Africa's history (over 1,200 firefighters, 350 vehicles, 8 helicopters and 2 fixed wing bombers). The fires claimed the lives of 8 people (plus an unborn baby), completely destroyed over 1,000 properties, and damaged another 400.