Mystery of the hideaway elephants of the Knysna forest

The elephants of thee Knysna forests are the remnants of a famous, once numerous population. They are large specimens of their kind. It has been suggested that living in a high forest area stimulated their growth, while the elephant community of thee Addo bush, further east, were slightly stunted because they lived in an area of low shrub.

The Knysna elephants, unfortunately for themselves, carried excellent ivory and were systematically hunted. Sportsmen, too, were attracted to the forest by the size of the elephants, and, using the local inhabitants as guides, the hunted the big bulls and carried away their heads, tusks and tails as trophies.

Today, the last of these animals live in the depths of the forest and are seldom seen.

They are silent, elusive creatures, occasionally looming out of the shadows and surprising foresters, hikers and campers. Motorists see them crossing the roads and relate exciting tales of charges and narrow escapes.

With the habits of these elephants confining them to deep forests, they are difficult to photograph and little is known about their numbers, or whether they have, in their isolation, developed different characteristics from those of Savannah elephants in the rest of Africa.

In former years, elephants were found as far south as the Cape Peninsula, and up the west coast as far as the Olifants River and the verges of Namaqualand. These elephants of the far south of Africa were blood-brothers of the Knysna elephants.

There was no way elephants could have crossed the more arid Karoo areas or Namaqualand – they could only have migrated down the watercourses to the Orange River or the well-watered Garden Route, or retreated up it when pressed by hunters from the settlement at the Cape.

The elephants of Knysna are therefore the last of a most interesting branch of their kind, they belong to the same species, Loxodonta Africana, as all the bush or Savannah elephants of Africa, but their life-style has modified their habits, causing them to resemble those of one of the two sub-species of African elephant – the forest elephant, Loxodonta Africana Cyclotis, whose habitat is the equatorial forests of West and Central Africa.

In appearance, however, the Knysna elephants are identical to the bush elephants. Both have curved tusks of excellent soft ivory, easily carved, unlike the brittle ivory of the forest elephants.

Left to themselves, these Knysna elephants will linger on in their forest home for an indefinite period. The have a rich food supply and ample water. Excessive dampness is their greater enemy, inflicting them with rheumatism.

They breed quite regularly, but elephants are not fast breeders. Breeding starts when they are about 12 years old, and their prime is between 40 and 50 years. The gestation period is 22 months.

Life in the high forest also has special hazards for calves, they can be trapped in mud, catch a cold or be pinned by falling trees.

At Sophie’s Properties we take great pride and care for these majestically creatures dwelling in our forests. Would you like to move closer to nature? Brenton-on-Sea is a small coastal town surrounded by nature reserves and overlooking the Indian Ocean. Contact Sophie on 082 572 2729 to view upmarket houses and vacant stands for sale.

Belvedere and Brenton

An attractive drive along the western bank of Knysna’s lagoon, winding down the hillside, brings you to the charming little Holy Trinity Church at Belvedere, a perfect example in miniature of the Norman churches built in England during the 11th and 12th centuries. The church was erected here in the mid-19th century by Thomas Henry Duthie.

Duthie, a captain in the 72nd Highland Regiment, was stationed at the Cape and went on a hunting trip to the Knysna area, where he met his future wife Caroline, the daughter of George Rex. After living for a while in England they returned to Knysna and Duthie bought from his father-in-law the estate of Belvedere (beautiful to be hold) – a splendid tract of land here on the western banks of the lagoon. With the help of his neighbours he then set about building this little church. The work took five years, and a great many difficulties and obstacles had to be overcome. The bell that now hangs above the main door was cast in England and was lost overboard in the lagoon, being recovered only several months later.

Continuing coastward, the road climbs steadily, offering grand vistas over the lagoon, and after cresting the hills and passing a side road to the lagoon again at Brenton, drops to the resort of Brenton-on-Sea, an assortment of smart holiday houses sprinkled over the coastal hillsides. The road ends at a small hotel, where a short path will take you down to a wide stretch of golden beach reaching away to Walker Point in the distance. About a kilometre east of here is another beach, more gently sloping and preferred as a bathing beach by locals and regular visitors, but getting to and from it involves a considerable hike.

Millwood

In the late 1870’s alluvial gold was found in the forest streams west of the Knysna River. It took a while to assess the value of the find but by 1887 the rush was on. Where once there had stood only a small water-powered sawmill in the forests, suddenly there appeared a town with six hotels, three competing newspapers, over twenty shops and banks, and a population estimated at more than 700 fortune-seekers.

There was gold, both alluvial and reef gold, but not very much of it. After a few exciting years the mines began to close, the diggers moved on to the Witwatersrand and the site of the short-lived boom town returned to nature. Today it is almost impossible to believe that a town once existed here. What was once its main street is just another track through the forest.

To explore the old goldfields, take the Rheenendal road and immediately after passing through the village turn right onto a gravel road signposted Bibby’s Hoek. This brings you to the shady picnic site of Krisjan-se-nek in the heart of the indigenous forest. Driving on from here, keep left where the road divides, and at the second fork go left again. This road leads down into Jubilee Creek, an attractive picnic and braai area and one of the streams where alluvial gold was found. A footpath leads upstream along the right bank, bringing you eventually to several old mine openings and a small pool at the foot of a waterfall.

When you drive back from Jubilee Creek turn left at the first fork. After about 4 kilometres you reach the site of Millwood, passing on your right a road to the old town cemetery, and then reaching a fork. The road leading left here, merely a forest track now, was once Millwood’s main street. If you take the road leading right, and at the next fork go right again, you will eventually reach the boiler of an old steam engine in a clearing on your left; this was the site of the stamp battery for the old Bendigo mine.

A sign her points downhill to the opening of the main Bendigo tunnel, which you can reach most easily by driving back the way you came and taking the first turn to your left. The tunnel reaches 200 metres into the hillside but is too dangerous to explore.

Goukamma Nature Reserve and Buffalo Bay

The new tarred access road to Buffalo Bay undulates for several kilometres through the brilliant green valley of the Goukamma River, crosses several lines of scrub-covered sand dunes, and then runs in a south-easterly direction along the coast past two beautiful golden strands. The first is the long beach at the mouth of the Goukamma, the second is the attractive curved and gently sloping beach of Walker’s Bay. Eventually you reach the little village of Buffalo Bay, a tight cluster of holiday homes set on the narrow promontory of Walker Point.

Here visitors enjoy a surfeit of fine sandy beaches. In addition to those at Walker’s Bay and the Goukamma, a lovely beach sweeps eastwards from Walker Point along the entire coast to Brenton-on-Sea and the back of Knysna’s western head. This is a popular beach for both swimmers and surfers, and is particularly scenic also, forming a great curving ribbon of gold, backed by the green hills of Brenton.

Walker Point itself is rocky, with numerous fascinating rock pools to be explored at low tide. On its eastern side, where Buffalo Bay’s beach meets the first stretch of stony shore, there is a particularly gentle bay and a slipway for powerboat fishermen. On its western side ridges of rock run toughly parallel to the shore creating deep-water gullies and offering many vantage points to anglers fishing from the rocks. Several hundred metres to the west, from the smaller rocky promontory that forms the western limit of Walker’s Bay, there is a striking view along the coast past Gericke’s Point to the distant bulk of the Outeniqua Mountains.

Buffalo Bay village abuts directly on the eastern end of the Goukamma Nature Reserve, which incorporates the lagoon at the mouth of the Goukamma River and the entire coastal strip stretching westwards to Groenvlei. The eastern ban of the pretty lagoon has been developed as an attractively lawned picnic area with stone tables and seats, braai places, drinking water and toilets. From the northern end of this picnic area you can walk across a long suspension footbridge over the dark water of the river, then take any of a variety of footpaths leading through the western section of the reserve. The principal hiking trail through the reserve leads to a stretch of coast known as Oesterbank: an area of surf-battered rocks that is home to the indigenous oyster Crassostrea Margaritacea.

The reserve contains a wild region of scrub-covered sand dunes, the whole of Groenvlei, and many kilometres of unspoilt coastline. It is noted particularly for the variety of bird species that can be spotted here – roughly 150, including the African fish eagle and the marsh harrier.

Brenton-on-Sea houses and stands

Should you fancy an upmarket modern house on the shores of South Africa, Brenton-on-Sea offers spectacular sea views and beautiful sceneries. To buy a house or stand, contact Sophie Joubert today!

How George Rex became the uncrowned King of Knysna

The romantic, enigmatic and forceful personality of George Rex is part of the folk-lore of Southern Africa. He arrived in the Cape in 1797, at the time of the first British occupation. A man of distinguished bearing, he was well-educated and obviously well-connected.

In Cape Town he was appointed marshal of the vice-admiralty court, notary public to the governor, and advocate for the Crown. He met Johanna, the beautiful young widow of a well-to-do merchant, and settled down with her and her four children.

When the British occupation ended he remained in the Cape and in 1804, at the age of 39, he purchased the farm Melkhoutkraal, on the shores of the Knysna Lagoon.

To reach this farm, Rex made a coach journey on a grand scale. His wife and her children rode with him in a coach bearing a coat of arms and drawn by six horses. Riding alongside the coach was a retinue of friends.

To the awed locals thee journey resembled a royal procession – and the name of the man, George Res, conjured up images of royalty travelling incognito.

Stories spread that Rex was the son of George III of England and Hannah Lightfoot, daughter of a Wapping shoemaker.  Modern research does not confirm this belief, and there is no record of Rex ever having made any such claim. But his life-style and grand manner convinced the residents of the Cape, and especially of Knysna, that the man in their midst was indeed of royal descent.

Rex rebuilt the homestead of Melkhoutkraal, which had been destroyed in a Xhosa raid, and created a beautiful, rambling home for his family – now there were eight children. The farm was expanded. There was a watermill, blacksmith’s shop and spinnery producing silkworms fed on thee leaves of groves of mulberries. The lagoon occupied the full attention of Rex. He started a fishery, built boats from the timber of the forest and persuaded the British admiralty to develop Knysna as a port.

On 11 February 1817, the first vessel to enter the lagoon, the naval brig Emu, came to grief on a sunken rock and had to be run ashore to save it from sinking. For Rex and the people of Knysna watching from the shore, this was a sad spectacle, but it was not the end of the venture. The navy sent up a second vessel to salvage the first and this, the Podargus, had no difficulty in entering and leaving the lagoon in May 1817.

From then on Knysna was established as a port for medium-sized vessels.

Rex built his own 127-ton vessel, the Knysna, on the shores of the lagoon, and used the ship for trading along the coast.

Rex never returned to Britain. He died on 3 April 1839 after a full and rewarding life.

One of the best-known of his descendants is the celebrated clown Stompie.

The Old Road through the Passes

Before the modern highway was built along the coast, anyone wishing to travel between George and Knysna had to take the old inland road that led through almost impenetrable forests and had to negotiate no fewer than seven difficult river-valley passes. This old road can still be and it offers modern explorers a way to see the back country – a rural world of farms and forests, where life is lived at a far slower pace.

To get onto this old road you drive out of George on the N2 for Knysna and almost immediately turn left for Saasveld. After a few kilometres you pass the Saasveld Forestry School on your left, and then you drive through the first two passes, crossing the Kaaimans and Silver rivers. The turn-of-the-century stone bridges over the rivers are national monuments (as are the passes themselves). After crossing the Silver River you continue straight onto gravel for Knysna, then cross the Touws River on an iron-Girder bridge and come to a T-junction with a tarred road, where you turn left for Knysna.

After about 3 km a gravel track on the left leads to the Big Tree picnic site (with the convenience of braai places, picnic tables and toilets) and from here a short path crosses a wooden footbridge over a forest stream to bring you to the Woodville Big Tree – a massive Outeniqua yellowwood estimated to be roughly 800 years old. A short forest walk starts at the Big Tree and will take you through an attractive area of indigenous woodland.

Back on the main road, you continue your journey on tar for a few kilometres and immediately this ends you cross the Diep River, and thereafter the Hoogekraal, passing through a valley richly blanketed in forest. After crossing the Karatara River and then the Homtini you reach the bottom of yet another deep valley covered in a great expanse of indigenous forest. Shortly afterwards the road surface reverts to tar. (A turn-off here to Bibby’s Hoek leads to the Millwood goldfields of last century and makes a fascinating excursion, both in the historical sense and in that you are taken deep into the heart of typical Knysna forest). Soon after passing through the little country village of Rheenendal you catch your first glimpses of the Knysna Lagoon and the Knysna Heads and then reach a T-junction with the N2, where you turn left to wind down from the hills into the valley of the Knysna River. The more adventurous can reach Knysna via the steep Phantom Pass.

15 June – Elder abuse

Elder abuse is any act which causes harm or distress to an older person. Such an act can include physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse as well as intentional or unintentional neglect.

Until recently, this serious social problem was hidden from the public. Today elder abuse is an important public health and societal problem.

The 15th of June represents the one day in the year when the whole world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted to some of our older generations.

Let us stand together and protect those who gave us life, helped us and loved us for who we are.

June 2018

World Blood Donor Month

June is dedicated to blood donors. Without them and their dedication to blood donation, lives would be lost.

World Blood Donor Day is commemorated on 14 June 2018 in a global celebration of the millions of people throughout the world who give their blood on a voluntary basis to save the lives of those in need.

Donating a unit of blood can save up to three patients in dire need of blood. By becoming a regular blood donor, this ensures that the safety of blood is maintained and makes it possible for the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) to collect sufficient safe blood to meet the demand.

Find out more about donating blood on the the SANBS website.

World environment day 2018

South Africa provides the right to every person for a non-harmful environment.

This year Miss Earth South Africa, Tsogo Sun and other parties are recommitting their focus and work on the importance of the campaign #WasteStopsWithME.

Plastic are a problem which are attracking the most concerns today. In light of the staggering statistics, people are relooking at plastic use. Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once — and then thrown away.

The Miss Earth South Africa Leadership programme are focusing on the individual responsibility and role that is played by citizens, their plastic consumption, and creating awareness of the long term effects that these have on the environment, our oceans, water bodies and marine life.

Miss Earth South Africa and Tsogo Sun are taking a strong stance against #BeatPlasticPollution.

For more information, you can read the fill article here.

Youth month 2018

Every year on the 16th of June South Africa commemorates the 1976 youth who stood up against the apartheid government and laid down their lives fighting for freedom and the right to equal education.

Sophie – having children of her own – values the youth of South Africa and beliefs that in order to help our children, more should be done to provide for the youth of our country.

As we know, President Ramaphosa has initiated a campaign to help the youth with jobs and careers.

Let’s all engage in youth day on 16 June 2018 and let us empower our youth. They are our future leaders.

#YouthMonth18 #BeTheLegacy