Celebrating Oysters!

With the highly-anticipated return of the Knysna Oyster Festival in 2023 (30 June – 9 July), many of you may have already planned your vacation to The Garden Route to participate in this historical event.

If you’re a first-timer to the festival, or still sitting on the fence about whether or not to attend, do yourself a favour and check out their website. Here you’ll find the regularly updated line-up about what’s happening where, who’s performing when, and why oysters are at the heart of it all!

Now that we’ve raised the question, why are oysters at the heart of it all?

Here’s a little bit about the history of the oyster in Knysna to better understand how a small mollusc has become such an integral part of our town’s identity.

A Brief History of Oyster-Farming in Knysna

First things first. You should know that there are two kinds of oysters to be found in Knysna: The wild Knysna oyster and the cultivated Japanese Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas). The wild variety occurs naturally in our seas and can be found all along the coast between the Transkei and Cape Agulhas. The cultivated variety hails from a little further afield, and originally comes from the Sea of Japan. You can tell these oysters apart by their shell – the cultivated oyster has a slightly smoother, more even shell than its wilder cousin.

In 1948, South Africa’s first oyster farm was established in Knysna and by the 70s, the industry had really hit its stride. This period became known as the “oyster boom,” and it diversified an economy that had previously relied solely and heavily on forestry and fishing.

In time, Knysna was reborn as the oyster capital of South Africa and 1983 marked the year of the first oyster festival – a way to draw tourists to the coastal town during the quiet winter months. One could say the rest is history on that front. The Knysna Oyster Festival is still with us today and attracting more visitors than ever!

Oyster Farming Today

Over this period, to keep up with growing demand, Japanese Pacific oysters were imported to South Africa for cultivation, too.

Today, harvesting wild oysters in Knysna is no longer done at scale. In fact, it is chiefly done by professional oyster pickers during a 2-week annual window and permits are notoriously difficult to come by.

Most of the oysters enjoyed in South Africa today are imported as “spat” – oyster seeds – from nurseries in Namibia and Chile and reach maturity in Algoa Bay, off the coast of Gqeberha, and Saldanha Bay, in the Western Cape.

Stay with us:

The Turbine Hotel & Spa is perfectly situated to suit all your needs during the Knysna Oyster Festival. Allow us to be your home away from home as you enjoy the bounty of our seas.

Feel free to get in touch with our friendly reservations team directly at book@turbinehotel.co.za. They would be happy to help you secure accommodation to suit your travelling party’s needs.

Alternatively, make use of our seamless online booking platform by clicking here.

We can’t wait to welcome you to Knysna and have you enjoy this fantastic event with us!

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