The beautiful Garden Route town of Knysna is flanked by the iconic heads that guard the entrance
of the ocean to the peaceful estuary waters. The Eastern Head is well-known and visited by many tourists who come to soak up the views and enjoy a drink or a meal at the popular waterside East Head Cafe. However, the Western Head remains relatively untouched, home to the expansive Featherbed Nature Reserve and other wonderful discoveries. It is also on this peninsula that one will find the quaint resort of Brenton on Sea.
Brenton on Sea sits on top of a hill, overlooking the ocean, and stretches down to the long sandy
beach. The beach here stretches all the way to Buffalo Bay and has been heralded with Blue Flag status which means it meets a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria. The beach is loved by sunbathers who also look out for passing whales and dolphins. During low tide, ancient fossilised dunes can also be explored. Locals love to walk between Brenton and Buffalo Bay, or Buffelsbaai, and enjoy a refreshing drink and something to eat while taking in the spectacular views from the restaurants found on either end before heading back (or meeting a lift). Buffalo Bay is a surfer’s paradise and has a slipway for the launching of powerboats and fishing vessels.
The Brenton on Sea area was named after Sir Jahleel Brenton. Sir Jahleel Brenton was a British officer in the Royal Navy. Brenton served the Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and was rewarded with a baronetcy and a knighthood for his bravery. In 1814 he became naval commissioner at the Cape of Good Hope. During his time in the position, he oversaw the expansion of the dockyard at Simon's Town and became a prominent advocate for the rights of black dockyard workers and the native Khoikhoi population. He was the man responsible for declaring Knysna a harbour in 1818 making Knysna the 3rd oldest harbour in South Africa. It is also the 2nd largest wetland in southern Africa! A little known fact.
It is only here that you will find the tiny Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve. Proclaimed in 2003, this special nature reserve was declared to protect an endangered, indigenous, and tiny species of butterfly found only in this one place on the planet. The reserve is also home to many other butterflies, birds, mammals, and a variety of fynbos and thicket plants. The large population of a small plant in the pea family with pretty pink flowers is the major food source for the Brenton Blue butterfly. Although the reserve is not open to the general public, guided tours are occasionally run by butterfly specialists during the months of November to February when the butterfly is prevalent and the next-door Brenton Community Hall shows videos showing the butterfly's life history. Due to the protection of this endangered butterfly, large parts of the Brenton area have been left undeveloped in order to ensure the last breeding colonies of this butterfly have access to the natural environment.
There is in fact, a massive commitment from local landowners to keep the fynbos pristine and conserve the area surrounding Brenton on Sea and the Western Head. Covering much of Knysna's Western Head, the Featherbed Nature Reserve is a privately owned reserve that can only be visited via a ferry ride, paddle cruiser, sailing catamaran, or as a private guest of Alkira Lodge. Here you can enjoy a 4x4 drive up the head as well as a 2km hike along the Bushbuck trail or a leisurely meal under the milkwood trees. The reserve is a sanctuary for the local flora as well as bushbuck, the rare blue duiker, and breeding pairs of oystercatcher birds.
Featherbed got its name from the sailors who found refuge in the tranquil bay after many months on
rough seas and referred to their nights spent here as akin to “sleeping on a feather bed". The land that makes up the nature reserve belonged to Prof. J L B Smith. Prof. J L B Smith was the man responsible for identifying the coelacanth in 1938. It was the proceeds from Prof. Smith's books on the subject that funded the founding of the reserve and a coelacanth exhibit can be found at Featherbed’s Forest Restaurant. Interestingly, the reserve also rose to fame as Smith's son is the renowned South African television science and mathematics teacher William Smith.
Looking to discover the Brenton on Sea area and Western Head? Alkira Lodge is situated above the popular tourist towns of Knysna and Brenton on Sea, on the Western brow of the famous Knysna Heads. Alkira Lodge is surrounded by sky, mountains, the freshest air, and endless views. Guests enjoy privacy, pampering, nature, and nurturing for the soul and can take advantage of their private wilderness guide to explore the areas mentioned herein, secluded beaches, surprise picnic spots and so much more. Or choose simply to relax poolside, soaking in all that makes the area so famous from your lounger and unfolding to enjoy delicious in house dining overlooking the setting sun and remarkable views.