A Night on a Knysna Houseboat and an Adventure up The Heads
Popeye, Jack Sparrow and Captain Kid did it, and if you dream of captaining your own boat, it’s time to book a getaway on one of the Knysna Houseboats and sail off into the sunset! We decided to test the waters ourselves and put our best steering skills to the test!
Knysna has always been a multi-faceted holiday destination for travelers seeking anything from a romantic getaway to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure retreat for daredevils wanting to zipline or kayak on the Storms River. The Featherbed Co. not only owns the Knysna Houseboats, but also offers various activities along the Garden Route that include their own nature reserve and trail, restaurants and various boats that can act as venues for weddings and functions, or simply be used for a leisurely cruise.
How to keep your boat afloat 101
We arrived in Knysna and reported for a quick instructional video on how to steer, moor and handle the boat. After completing a quick knowledge test on important points made in the video, my travel partner was issued a temporary skippers licence. Our luggage was unloaded and we were escorted to our floating home for the night. The boats are extremely well-equipped with bedding, cutlery, crockery, matches and pretty much anything you will need.
We took a quick sail around the bay just to make sure we knew what’s what, after which we said goodbye to our instructor and took to the lagoon in the direction of The Heads. Equipped with a map of the whole lagoon, it’s relatively easy to find your way around. There are various overnight mooring points. Keeping you on course are multiple numbered buoys ─ it’s important to keep close to these as there are lots of sandbanks scattered on the bottom of the lagoon, which can make for a tricky situation where the only way to get off the sandbank is to wait for the tide to come in.
The sun was shining, but the wind was quite strong and after some deliberation, we decided to head back to the bay and moor next to the jetty. We were quite glad about our decision when some of the other guests told us about their night on the rather bumpy waters the next morning.
Little did we know that our decision to moor next to the jetty would present some other great opportunities, like enjoying sundowners at the Tapas and Oysters restaurant overlooking the lagoon. We wanted to use all of the facilities on the boat, so, of course we had a braai on the houseboat’s deck while in awe of the harbour and bay’s twinkling lights. After dinner we spent some time on the roof of the boat and started getting excited for the Featherbed Eco Cruise that we would undertake the next morning.
A cruise put to good use
We had a wonderful night’s rest on the comfortable double bed and enjoyed our morning coffee on our deck, after which we headed to Featherbed Co.’s assembly point at the waterfront. Everything works like a well-oiled machine and after receiving our entry bracelets we were welcomed by Nicole, Featherbed’s representative and the person who made this wonderful experience possible. After a quick ferry ride to the foot of the Western Head, we were loaded onto 4×4-vehicles heading up to the very top.
To say that the view from up there is breathtaking is definitely the understatement of the year! Another big treat was taking part in the reintroduction of indigenous plants by way of seed balls. For just a small fee, visitors can purchase ten seed balls and, using a slingshot, shoot them up or down the mountain when getting out at the view point.
Many South Africans know Rooikrans wood as being perfect to braai with, but in the Featherbed area, this foreign Australian tree was becoming a real problem. The Knysna fires of 2017 reduced the Rooikrans on the reserve by about 95%, after which natural fynbos like the watsonias, paintbrush lilies and wild sage began to regrow. To date, the 75-hectare nature reserve is home to at least 300 plant species. It is also interesting to note that the very rare Selakant fish have been spotted in the area a few times.
We ended our tour at the restaurant on site before cruising back to the Waterfront. Choosing between pumpkin fritters, bread with biltong paté, salads, bobotie, braaied meats, fish, potato bake, koeksisters and ice creams was an impossible task and we opted to just take a little bit of everything the buffet had to offer!
With stuffed tummies we returned to reality almost in awe of the fact that heaven was basically just a boat cruise away, up high between ocean and sky.
Staying on the Knysna Houseboats and undertaking one of Featherbed’s cruises is definitely a once in a lifetime adventure that will definitely make you fall in love with the Garden Route all over again!
Thank you to Nicole Tunmer from Featherboat Co. for arranging our houseboat stay and the eco-cruise.
Main image and all other photos: Hesté Nortier and Adriëtte Le Roux