Knysna. The very word makes you think of paradise (and, in fact, the appropriately-named suburb of Paradise remains one of the most prestigious addresses in town).
The tourist brochures just can’t do justice to this place of beauty and mystery. Dramatic, spectacular, peaceful: there aren’t enough superlatives. In a country that’s largely starved of lakes and trees, it’s built around one of South Africa’s largest estuaries, and it’s intimately entwined with the evergreen forests of the 160 000-hectare unfenced Garden Route National Park.
And that’s not all …
But wait! There’s more! Because although it remains a small town (with a permanent population of a little over 60 00) it punches way above its weight when it comes to lifestyle.
Thanks to its tourism industry (which has been its economic backbone since forestry and agriculture began to take a back seat in the mid-90s) and with more than a little help from a goodly proportion of wealthy professionals and active retirees, it’s stocked with infrastructure you’d expect to find only in a larger city. Facilities like the Life Knysna Private Hospital; top-ranked educational institutions like Oakhill (with it’s Little Oaks, Prep School, and College); two of the country’s most enviable golf course developments (Simola Golf and Country Estate and Pezula Golf Estate); and desirable, cosmopolitan, lagoon-side dining and shopping precincts (The Waterfront Knysna Quays and Thesen Harbour Town - both of which, by the way, offer excellent property investment opportunities).
So what’s the catch?
Well, said Seeff Properties Services, Knysna agent, Liviana Audibert – who’s currently advertising nearly 100 local opportunities on PrivateProperty.co.za – that depends on the kind of fish you like to fry.
“In terms of residential properties, it’s a buyer’s market at the moment, although we do believe that things are about to take off: certainly the interest is there.
“And while our colleagues in the bigger centres are reporting that they’re struggling to find stock, we still have a wide selection of everything from vacant land and studio apartments to island villas and country estates – and there are still bargains to be had, too.” (She cited the example of a stand at Pezula Golf Estate: north facing, with views of the lagoon and the Outeniqua Mountains – 1 100 m² for just R 390 000.)
Unusual vocation opportunities
Although local business opportunities are still somewhat limited – the general market is relatively small, after all, and tourism seems set to remain quite seasonal for the foreseeable future at least – she said that the town’s reputation for top quality craftsmen means that the luxury goods market (yacht-building, fine quality furniture) remains an interesting and unusual direction for entrepreneurs looking to establish themselves in manufacture for export.
“And for those who dream of having the best of both worlds, Knysna’s just 60 km from the George Airport, and 30 km from the newly re-opened Plett Airport (the latter now being served from both OR Tambo and Cape Town International by CemAir) – so it’s perfectly feasible to settle your family here while you make the weekly commute to the city.
“Having brought my own son up here, I can assure you there’s no better place for children.”