about us and our area

We operate cruises aboard vintage wooden vessels on the Knysna River Estuary. Our fleet comprises Sophia, an American Barrell Back. Coquette, a 101-year-old Mahogany Launch built in 1919 by Salters of Oxford in the United Kingdom and Elegance, an 88-year-old Ladies & Gentleman’s Leisure yacht built in 1932 on Mowbray beach, Cape Town – South Africa.

wildlife on the Knysna River Estuary

The Knysna River Estuary is home to 42% of all South African estuarine species and the only endemic seahorse in South Africa is found here making it a truly unique body of water!

Amongst the waterbirds you might spot on your cruise are Fish Eagle, Osprey, Egyptian Goose, African Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, African Spoonbill, Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Black Winged Stilt, Avocet, Red Knobbed Coot, Reed Cormorant, Three Banded Plover, Blacksmith Lapwing, Little Egret, African Sacred Ibis, Cape Gannet, Swift Tern, White-chinned petrels, Sub-Antarctic Skua, Black-bowed Albatross, Antarctic Tern, Sooty Shearwater & Storm Petrel.

At times larger mammals such as Dolphins, Seals and Cape Clawless Otters are sighted in the mouth and bays of the Estuary.

The fish that live and breed in the lagoon include Spotted Grunter, Kabeljou, White Steenbras, Mullet, Garrick, White Musselcracker, Black Musselcracker, Cape Stumpnose, Blacktail, Zebra, Strepie, Shad/Elf, Carpenter, Santer, Blue Stingray, Black Stingray, Pyjama Shark, Diamond Ray, Smooth Hound Shark, Spotted Ragged Tooth Shark, Hammerhead Shark and Blackspotted Electric Ray.

Other Marine life found in the lagoon are of course the famous Knysna Seahorse (Hippocampus Capensis) that live in the eelgrass beds found in the estuary, Pansy Shell, Hermit Crabs, Giant Mud Crab, Oysters, Mussels, Octopus, Cuttlefish, Swimming Prawns, Mud Prawns, Sand Prawns, Razor Clam, Trough Shell Clam, Bloodworm, Scallops, Nudibranchs, many different sponges and a variety of different types of hard and soft corals found on the reefs at the Heads (Great for diving!)

Please remember that it is illegal to collect or catch any sea life in The Knysna River Estuary without a valid fishing permit, available at the Knysna Post Office for a fee. 

shipwrecks of the knysna heads

The Knysna River Estuary is home to 42% of all South African estuarine species and the only endemic seahorse in South Africa is found here making it a truly unique body of water!

Amongst the waterbirds you might spot on your cruise are Fish Eagle, Osprey, Egyptian Goose, African Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, African Spoonbill, Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Black Winged Stilt, Avocet, Red Knobbed Coot, Reed Cormorant, Three Banded Plover, Blacksmith Lapwing, Little Egret, African Sacred Ibis, Cape Gannet, Swift Tern, White-chinned petrels, Sub-Antarctic Skua, Black-bowed Albatross, Antarctic Tern, Sooty Shearwater & Storm Petrel.

At times larger mammals such as Dolphins, Seals and Cape Clawless Otters are sighted in the mouth and bays of the Estuary.

The fish that live and breed in the lagoon include Spotted Grunter, Kabeljou, White Steenbras, Mullet, Garrick, White Musselcracker, Black Musselcracker, Cape Stumpnose, Blacktail, Zebra, Strepie, Shad/Elf, Carpenter, Santer, Blue Stingray, Black Stingray, Pyjama Shark, Diamond Ray, Smooth Hound Shark, Spotted Ragged Tooth Shark, Hammerhead Shark and Blackspotted Electric Ray.

Other Marine life found in the lagoon are of course the famous Knysna Seahorse (Hippocampus Capensis) that live in the eelgrass beds found in the estuary, Pansy Shell, Hermit Crabs, Giant Mud Crab, Oysters, Mussels, Octopus, Cuttlefish, Swimming Prawns, Mud Prawns, Sand Prawns, Razor Clam, Trough Shell Clam, Bloodworm, Scallops, Nudibranchs, many different sponges and a variety of different types of hard and soft corals found on the reefs at the Heads (Great for diving!)

Please remember that it is illegal to collect or catch any sea life in The Knysna River Estuary without a valid fishing permit, available at the Knysna Post Office for a fee. 

emu

wrecked april 1819

A transport brig owned by the Cape Town Dockyard she was the first European ship to attempt to enter the now Infamous Knysna Heads. She struck a rock (now called Emu Rock) in the middle of the heads and was holed. Her crew ran her aground on a sandbank north east of the heads to prevent her sinking where she still lies today, under the sand marked by a wooden pole. Two months later, the HMS Podargus safely entered the Estuary and retrieved the Emu’s cargo.  

adolphus

wrecked 1819

She floundered because the first pilot of Knysna, John Gough, was not at his post and his inexperienced assistant raised the signal to enter the lagoon instead of the signal to stand off at sea and wait for conditions to improve.

luna

wrecked 27 june 1830

The Wooden British Brig ran aground on the sandbar and was wrecked while entering the Heads.

sovereign

wrecked 1842

The Ship Sovereign was wrecked while trying to leave the Heads.

musquash

wrecked 22 march 1855

The 27-ton wooden ketch Musquash, a trading ship belonging to Thomas ‘skipper’ Horn, owner of what is now the Royal Hotel, wrecked at Coney Glen. Horn employed John Benn who was living in Mossel Bay to direct salvage operations, but he arrived too late as the Musquash broke up in heavy seas. John Benn decided to settle in Knysna and build a 60-ton schooner, The Rover, for Horn.

helen

wrecked august 1858

The brig Helen was wrecked in the Heads.

magnolia

wrecked 24 july 1859

The 232-ton wooden brig Magnolia was wrecked on the Western Head when she struck a rock off Black Rock Point. The Master of the vessel blamed the Knysna Pilot, Jackson, for the incident but a board of enquiry exonerated the Pilot and found that the Skipper had been negligent himself causing the shipwreck.

munster lass

wrecked 19 april 1863

The 52-ton South African Schooner, on a passage from Knysna to Cape Town with a cargo of railway sleepers was wrecked in a strong SW wind on the west side of the Knysna Heads north of Duiker Rock.

fredheim

wrecked 23 june 1897

The 440-ton 3 masted barque carrying 2500 barrels of creosote was wrecked north of Obelisk point at the Heads while trying unsuccessfully to cross the sandbar. Her Captain had become impatient after the pilot delayed entry for more than a week while waiting for sea conditions to improve. The Rocket Crew fired rockets out to her while the Knysna Pilot John Benn (Son of John Benn) rowed out with his crew to help save the sailors onboard. One life was lost and the creosote polluted the coastline for the next 18 months.  

paquita

wrecked 18 october 1903

Considered a ship suicide and the most famous wreck of the heads, the German 484-ton, 3 masted iron barque ran aground on Beacon Rocks at the Eastern Head in her second attempt at ship suicide. In the first unsuccessful attempt in Featherbed Bay on the 6th October her anchors “fouled” in strong wind and she beached on steenbok Island (now Leisure Island). The crew disposed of her sand ballast and re-floated her. In the second successful attempt on the 18 October her anchors “fouled” again, and she stranded at Beacon Rocks in her current position.  Her bows remained visible above the waterline for 18 months after the ‘accident’. In the days after the wrecking the ships parts were auctioned, salvaged and collected as flotsam. Knysna Pilot John Benn repaired the pilot’s jetty at Fountain Point with parts of the wreckage. Foul play was suspected as most of the crew had been paid off even though the ship was supposed to sail for Barbados and the Anchor and Cable were found to be intact after the wrecking. The insurers thus dismissed the insurance claim, and the ship suicide scheme amounted to nothing. Her remains lie off Fountain Point in front of The East Heads Café where she is visible when the water is clear. She is now immensely popular as a diving spot for recreational divers, both snorkelers and scuba.