Steenbok Park and Kingfisher Creek lie on the northern shores of Leisure Isle in the beautiful town of Knysna. It is a joint initiative by the Leisure Island Residents Association and the Knysna Municipality, these two areas are linked to form on stretch of natural parkland, the Steenbok Nature Reserve, with the magnificent Knysna Estuary on its northern boundary.
Seventy-five years ago Leisure Isle was a sand dune covered in part by dune thicket. Today this nature reserve on the northern shore is home to over 400 indigenous plant species and a comprehensive variety of bird and butterfly species.
The public can relax in the shade in the lush indigenous gardens, enjoy several nature walks or stroll on the boardwalks and view the fascinating salt marsh plants. Tree copses feature many of the coastal forest tree species (for which Knysna is famous) and a vintage hand water pump draws slightly brackish water from the natural aquifer that seem to have an endless supply of water, a mere 3 m below ground level.
More than 100 birds and 25 butterflies have been identified. Owl boxes attract the Spotted Eagle Owls that produce chicks in November each year whilst the Black Oyster Catchers lay their eggs in carefully chosen positions in the salt marsh slightly above the spring tide high water level.
The Reserve is home to Satyrium princeps that flower in October and is rated as vulnerable on the Red List of South African Plants. This species was once quite common, but the population has been much reduced by habitat loss. Remaining subpopulations tend to be small and confined to small fragments of natural vegetation. Recent surveys by volunteers of the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) programme have recorded a number of previously unknown subpopulations between Sedgefield and Port Elizabeth (which included Steenbok Nature Reserve).
The Reserve is also known for the large colonies of Brunsvigia orientalis (Tumble Weed) that provide a feast of colour in early February.
Unique to the Reserve is Seagrass that is globally ranked as the third most valuable natural resource per unit are to humans. Seagrass meadows, submerged in seawater as part of the salt marsh, teem with a wide variety of life, mostly hidden from sight, such as crustaceans, sea-snails, worms, sea-slugs and sea-cucumbers. Seagrass beds filter nutrient and chemical inputs out of the water, stabilize sediments and most importantly provide a nursery for many important fish species.
Steenbok Nature Reserve is a place to amble, to exercise, to learn, to rest on one of the many secluded benches and to feast ones eyes and to refresh the soul. A circular walk through the Reserve takes up to 90 minutes and at the end there is a delightful Coffee Shop to rest and enjoy yummy refreshments.
The Reserve is managed entirely by volunteers with the objective of preserving this beautiful natural area. The cost of basic maintenance is borne jointly by Knysna Municipality and the Leisure Isle Residents Association. All improvements and new developments are funded by the Friends of Steenbok, donations and by an annual plant sale. This plant sale is organised by Gardening at Leisure who also assist on an annual basis with a generous donation.
Text & Photographs: Roger Voysey (Manager of Steenbok Nature Reserve)
For more info on Steenbok Nature Reserve and Friends of Steenbok log on to: www.steenboknaturereserve.org.za/