Last time I went to Knysna there was a grotty, polluting wood mill on Thesen Island. Shows you I don’t travel to the picturesque Garden Route often enough! That’s all history – bulldozed or dismantled or transformed. Thesen Island is now a massive, seriously upmarket property development – villas, penthouses, lofts etcetera each with their own jetty, side by side with estate agencies (of course) couturiers, cafés, eateries…

And that’s where my recent visit to Knysna began – in the most recent fine dining establishment to open there: Lush. It’s an upmarket, glitzy restaurant with flamboyant décor that lives up to its name – ruby hues, velvet textures, silver candelabras, baroque accessories, including mirrors, mosaics, crystal chandeliers, leather studded walls, suede and vinyl finishes and fibre-optic lights, create a dramatic and seductive background for the exciting menu.

Wines have been selected by wine fundi Katie Barrat, manager of Lush. She describes the list as very varied and interesting. It embraces a wide variety of the best South African wines, including a number of Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Wines. Dessert wines, port and eight different French champagnes complete the list. Lush is open for dinner every night and for lunch on the weekends.

One glance at the famous Heads reminds you how Knysna has grown. You can see millionaire mansions on several levels, and I was a guest there of Pezula Spa for an afternoon of serious pampering. I did the deck and heated pool in between the sauna and steam, and then was fetched by a very soothing therapist named Tarryn for my facial. I won’t ever forget the subdued post-treatment room where I was deposited on a waterbed that incorporated a jetstream massage up and down my spine and torso – it had me tripping away and envisaging underwater gnomes spurting onto me with their hoses…

Knysna has for some years had its Waterfront, where there is a hotel, restaurants, shops and the John Benn double-decker cruiser for (booze) cruises onto the lagoon, and this has now been supplemented by Africa’s only paddle cruiser – a really elegant way to do the lagoon in style. Ah, the lagoon – as Knysna Tourism put it so poetically: The expansive Knysna lagoon is the epicentre of an inspiring landscape where rivers and centuries-old indigenous forests merge with undulating terrain of unique Cape fynbos on dramatic cliffs overlooking rocky outcrops and secluded beaches. Food on the paddle cruiser was also excellent.

All of this has just become more accessible to you through the Knysna on Sale campaign. During the months of May and June accommodation, shopping and many activities will be discounted as part of this campaign. See for details. And, of course, that’s also when Knysna’s famous Pink Loerie Mardi Gras takes place every year – 25 to 28 May this year. The event has become one of the highlights of the South African lesbigay calendar.

Knysna on Sale now gives you an affordable way of going down to this treasure of a town for a week or two and do the fairy festival at the same time as all the other things that Knysna offers. So many of those: in addition to the golf, surfing, hiking and food, you can sleep with elephants, visit your relatives at the monkey reserve, foofy slide through the tops of the forest, go tandem sky-diving, whale watching, dive with dolphins … an incredible range of action adventures.

Locals assure me that the weather is balmy all year, and autumn has warm days and evenings with enough cool to them to warrant a romantic log fire

Tennis fans among you will know that Roger has property on The Heads, and clubbers among you will know that Martin Hogan and his partner Kobus now live in Knysna. They put Cape Town’s Bronx on the map and run it successfully for a decade, and then were associated with oh! in Melville. Now they’re going to be doing the parties which form part of the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras in May:


A night with hot sexy undertones, GO-GO boys (from Cape Town) gyrating, sweating up the dance floor, leaving you with that wet, hungry feeling for more. Hot bodied music that will keep you well entertained all night long – with special lighting effects. Discover the muscle you thought was unattainable.

Saturday 27 May – THE PINK JUNGLE RAVE

A night of the best rave music, with gay anthems all night long, that will get you lost in our pink jungle. GO-GO boys, cages, balloon drop, and confetti, a night of total hands-in the-air pink outrageousness. DRAG QUEENS handing out surprise giveaways. Your Hottest, favourite Cape Town Djs playing back to back. A night to unleash that wild pink animal inside you, shouting “Hey! Wie`s jou MOFFIE!”

Also, don’t miss…


Join Citrus Lounge for two days of the ‘Pinkest” Loeries you could ever paint at Crimson Nightclub in Knysna on 26 and 27 May. Featuring DJ Fluid, Lady Lea and Doctor Stone. Bookings exclusively on

Other websites for more details: and

Click here for a full programme of events for the 2006 Pink Loerie Festival (PDF download).

Gavin Hayward

Originally published in Exit newspaper

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