Have you been gazing at the hillsides longingly, wondering what it might be like to walk under the dense, leafy canopy of the Knysna forests? Well, you’re in luck!

The Turbine Waterclub offers a beautiful guided walk through the forest called Circles In The Forest – one of the ultimate Knysna hikes!

The hike starts at Krisjan-se-Nek Picnic Site and ambles through the Goudveld Forest, one of Knysna’s most pristine and beautiful wooded areas. Lose yourself in a magical world of ferns, rivers and ancient yellowwoods where your footsteps are absorbed by soft earth and the air you breathe is pure and dense.

If it’s a hot day, pack your swimming costume – we will pass a swimming hole and a waterfall! Yes, the water is icy, but nothing refreshes the body like a brisk dip in crystal-clear forest pools. If it’s a cooler day, the forest is still a magical place to explore in the mist. However, we don’t take guests out if thunderclouds are looming…

This world is rich with life: Frogs, critters, deer and, if you’re lucky, we may spot (or hear) the infamously illusive Knysna turaco.

There are two loops to choose from. The longer one is 9 km and the shorter loop is 3,1 km. The difficulty ranges from easy to moderate making this hike suited to anyone over the age of 5. Although there are a few climbs, the forest is so beautiful that your attention will be on the world around you, not on your heart rate. That said, we’re in no rush, so the walk will be taken at your pace.

What to wear & pack:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • A light jacket if the weather looks misty
  • Swimming costume and towel
  • Sun protection
  • Water & snacks

A brief history of the Knysna Forests

The Knysna Forests have long-since been a place of awe-inspiring beauty and mystery for South Africans. Stretching over 569 square kilometres, these hills are home to our country’s largest indigenous, ever-green forest complex. Their history is one of exploitation, but, thanks to conservation efforts, the Knysna Forests are protected today so that future generations may enjoy these beautiful woods for many years to come.

The story of these trees is ancient, but let’s start in 1652, when the Dutch East India Company established an outpost in modern-day Cape Town. They required hard timber (old, slow-growing trees) to construct buildings, make tools and furniture with and burn as fuel. The small forest on the slopes of Table Mountain was quickly depleted, and so expedition teams were sent further afield to scope for raw materials.

Later, in 1734, Governor J. de la Fontaine visited the Garden Route (then called Outeniqualand) and there he found “the promised land” – 250 000 hectares of magnificent timber – and so began the reckless extraction of trees from the Knysna forests. Later, a port was built at the Knysna Rivermouth to enable more efficient extraction of the logs. By all accounts, with every chop of the axe, business was booming.

In 1928, a railway line replaced the need for a port. It was also around this time that the forest’s depletion became evident. In 1934, woodcutters, who lived in the forest, were banned from felling trees and the forests were closed for harvesting until 1967. This hiatus was to enable the forests to recover, but permanent, irreversible damage had already been done.

The legend of the Knysna forests was immortalised by South Afican author Dalene Matthee, who wrote the book Kringe in ’n bos (Afrikaans for circles in the forest) after which the above-hike is named.

The story is about a woodcutter, Saul Barnard, who desires, more than anything, to protect the Knysna forests from outsiders. He forms a bond with an elephant bull, Oupoot, who broke away from his herd. The two circle one another on their life journey. As Saul tries to save the forest from thoughtless men who are recklessly stripping the land of its trees, Oupoot spends his days trying to evade hunters. Eventually, by following Oupoot though the forest, Saul reaches a conclusion that changes his life forever.

Did you know?
Once, Knysna’s forests were filled with African bush elephants, who freely roamed the Tsitsikamma region of South Africa. Today, a single cow remains. Sightings of her are extremely rare. She is called Oupoot.

The Knysna Experience

You might also like to purchase the Knysna Experience Package, which is a full-day tour encompassing all of Knysna’s highlights, including the Circles In The Forest Hike.

What’s included in the Knysna Experience (full package):

  • 9 km forest hike
  • Margaret’s Viewpoint
  • Brenton-On-Sea
  • Concordia
  • Khayalethu Viewpoint looking over Knysna and the estuary
  • Knysna Heads
  • Sunset Cruise (Option to exclude.)

All activities start and finish at The Turbine Water Club.


Half Knysna Experience excluding Sunset Cruise (6 Hours): R750 pp
Full Experience including Sunset Cruise (9 Hours): R1100 pp

The Turbine Water Club is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. If you’d like to join us on a hike or participate in other exciting activities, pop into The Turbine Waterclub opposite The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa during your stay.

You can view all our experiences by clicking here.


*Cost at the time of writing.

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