Proclaimed in December 1985, the Knysna National Lake Area protects the Knysna lagoon (actually an estuary) and salt marshes. The lake area is home to a great variety of marine and intertidal creatures, including the highly endangered Knysna seahorse and the almost supernaturally symmetrical pansy shell that’s found on the banks of the estuary.
The banks on the water’s edge, the salt marshes and the reed beds support huge numbers of small animals: prawns, crabs, worms and shelled organisms. As a rich food source for Knysna’s renowned bird life, these animals are essential participants in the the Knysna ecosystem.
The Knysna river, which fills the Knysna estuary on its path to the Indian Ocean, begins in the Outeniqua mountains. The estuary is always open to the ocean via the spectacular Knysna heads, huge chunks of rock that tower above the surging water.
The estuary is 19km long, 3km wide and an average of five metres deep. Although it plays a crucial ecological role, it is also heavily used for commercial purposes, and lined with residential as well as commercial developments. The Knysna National Lake Area is not a National Park, but it ensures that ongoing development is environmentally friendly.