The Knysna Oyster Festival 2015 from 3 to 12 July
Oyster festivals are held worldwide for a variety of reasons, most dating back historically due to the premium time of the year for these delicious shelled delicacies. These festivals vary greatly by location as each offers their own particular spin on the occasion by bringing music, and competitions that are typical to the place the festival is held only, so each destination offers its own special and completely unique experience. Oysters also differ in type worldwide as well, with each bringing a culinary delight all its own that vary by taste, size and texture as well, and some of the very best can be found in the Western Cape of South Africa in Knysna.
Only a 38 minute drive via the N2, it’s a scenic, gorgeous trip along the coastline from Wilderness, from your posh suite at Cinnamon House to Knysna, both exceptional destinations for tourism along the Garden Route for the sheer diversity of the things available to be seen all in one location. There are a variety of events that occur in Knysna and surrounds annually, that draw visitors internationally like the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras near the end of April and beginning of May, the Oyster Festival in early June-July, the Rastafarian Earth Festival at the end of July which celebrates the cultural, religious and lifestyles of the Rastafarian peoples, and the Gastronomica lifestyle festival in September, known for its promotion toward healthy eating and organic principles which pairs perfectly with the many farmer’s markets to be found in the area.
Though the area is home to many events annually, the Pick n Pay Oyster Festival is easily the town’s biggest event. It lasts for ten days, and was first held in 1983. Just as it’s name, the main feature of the event are the locally gathered oysters, and it’s approximated that around 200,000 are consumed during the ten days of the festival. It wouldn’t be any sort of festival at all if it were simply about eating oysters though, unless it were an eating contest, and the festival does not disappoint. It offers sporting activities like rugby, golf, bowls, squash, marathons and cycling. The cycling tours – the Knysna Forest Marathon and Half Marathon and the Rotary Cycle Tour are one of the biggest draws to the event outside the oysters themselves.
The festival marks the beginning of the winter season in the area, and was begun as a way to draw a crowd during the quieter season. It was originally marketed as the “Best 10 Days of Winter”. The cycling tours are the biggest of their kind throughout the entire country, which is a massive draw to cycling enthusiasts, offering a view that just cannot be found anywhere else. To say it is breathtaking doesn’t give it enough credit, and that’s just to cycle along the route, taking nothing else about the festival or area into consideration. There are nearly 100 events that happen during the week which have recently seen some new additions.
There’s a Geo Oyster Geo caching Competition – for anyone not familiar with geo-caching, the idea is to give coordinates to a place that is unspecified, that you have not seen nor been to, and you use your GPS hand-held device or other means to make your way to the specified coordinates. At the coordinates can be nearly anything. Some use geo-caching as a way to mark who has been there with log books, others will plant time capsules, and some trade things, taking something but leaving something else behind while still others use it as a way to organize treasure hunts. Also featured is the Pick n Pay Fun Event which is the very first time an event has been planned for disabled competitors wanting to participate in sports at the festival, the Navigation Drift Dive Challenge where scuba divers attempt to navigate under water from The Heads to Thesen’s Jetty without surfacing (which is actually quite difficult),and other sports events like the Scottish Leader Whiskey Bowls Tournament and Protea Hotel Knysna Quays Waitron race.
Beyond the sporting events, of which just a few of the top ones have been listed, are also plenty of fine dining and arts events like the Night of 1000 pictures which is a 2 night exhibition of photography, paintings and illustrations done by local artists specifically to raise funds for the Knysna Hospice. Among all those mid-week events are plenty more things to do and see like the Wade Bales Wine Festival, and if you have ever had the good fortune to sample any South African wines you’ll know the degree to which this one cannot be missed out on. South African wines rank among the world’s best. There’s also the Pick n Pay Oyster and Wine Mardi Gras and Lyster Company’s Shucking Competition to see how many oysters can be shucked by one person within a limited time and is loads of fun.
For the sybaritic folks, who like the pleasures and comforts of beautiful expensive things – epicureans who savor the finest foods and drinks to be found the world over, or those seeking extravagance in amazing places, this festival does not disappoint. There are seafood extravaganzas that offer all the local sea-life fit to put upon the palette and exceedingly fine whiskey like Glenfiddich to enjoy and pair with exotic foods to deliver food sensations instead of simply filling the belly. From offerings of foods you may never have heard of before much less tasted, to the exquisite backdrop of this incredible area, even the most indulgent traveler will find themselves feeling nothing but blissful among this festival of delights.
Without a doubt however, the festival’s main attraction remains the oysters which you can have served raw, cooked, or garnished in nearly any fashion you can imagine in over 30 local Tabasco hotspots around the festival. It’s important that you book your accommodations in advance for this event simply due to the immense draw not just from people from all over Africa but internationally as well. If this is your first time hearing about it, it won’t be the last. Be sure you call ahead to Cinnamon House to book your suite so you can take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy some of the best off season entertainment to be had in South Africa.
The 2015 Knysna Oyster Festival schedule can be found here, but note that the things listed may be subject to change, and are definitely only highlights of many more offerings, musical and comedic performances that never fail to draw over 70,000 people on average every year. Fun for an entire family with children of any age, up to the octogenarians, there really is something for everyone.