If you’re into walking (at a strolling pace, of course!), you want to meet locals, and you love the spectacular beauty of nature – can I suggest a visit to Steenbok Nature Reserve on Leisure Isle, Knysna?
Many of us older residents continue to make the mistake of calling this idyllic 17 hectares by its previous name – ‘Links Park’ – because that’s how it was known for many years. And the story behind that name? It was originally built as a 9-hole links course when developer George Cearn laid out the suburb of Leisure Island in the early 1930s.
And the name ‘Steenbok Nature reserve?’ – well Leisure Isle (Isle? Island? – no one seems to know for sure) was known as Steenbok Island back in the day.
Still, name changes notwithstanding Steenbok (as it’s known for short!) is a wonderful place indeed.
I try to walk my dog there at least twice a day. If you go early in the morning, it’s often deserted; in the late afternoon, it’s sometimes a chaos of kids and canines. Either way, it’s delicious to walk barefoot on the grass and admire the Knysna Estuary in all its moods. (Although the Estuary is part of SANParks’ Garden Route National Park, Steenbok Nature Reserve is managed by the community of Leisure Island.)
Parts of the Reserve are flooded at high tide, other areas are given over to natural grassland, others still to an indigenous garden that’s always a work in progress.
The topography is basically flat, and there’s a paved path that wanders along the inland boundary – perfect for wheelchairs. Benches have been placed at strategic points – great if you want to stare at the water, or if you want to find a shaded spot to sit and read (or doze!)
Fishing is permitted (as long as you have a permit – available from the Post Office in Main Street, and from local fishing stores); the birding is surprisingly good (see video below – filmed from my car, parked at the eastern end of the Reserve); and if you want to chat to a local – well, almost everyone who comes here to walk is relaxed and friendly.
You’ll definitely want to spend an hour or two at Steenbok when next you’re in Knysna.