In reflecting on Roger’s life, most people will be aware that he made a huge contribution to Leisure Isle in many different ways over many years. Some twenty years ago he started the Leisure Isle Festival. The initial focus was on art and gardens. Over the years it has grown and grown to the splendid event it is today: an event that supports many charities, provides local craft people an opportunity to trade, and above all builds a sense of community on our precious island. 

Roger’s drive, leadership and huge capacity for work was observed by committee members of the Leisure Isle Security Association. They asked him whether he would take over the Association. He agreed, changed the name to LIRA, and set about building a community organisation. 

These two initiatives continue to thrive and serve both residents of and visitors to our Island. But Roger was not done. His third initiative is the most important part of his legacy and, I am sure, for him the initiative closest to his heart. This was the development of the Steenbok Nature Reserve.

In 2005 the Knysna Municipality was considering selling the land that is today Steenbok Nature Reserve to property developers. Roger sprang into action and rapidly built a team to save the area as a haven for all nature lovers. His leadership skills and capacity for work were once again put to use. However, there were a few other vitally important aspects he provided to the ‘Save the Reserve’ project. 

Positivity – Rather than seeking to attack the municipality and find legal reasons to stop any development, he decided to propose that together we could improve the area to such an extent that no one would dare build on it. 

Collaboration – Secondly, he put in an amazing amount of work to create a collaborative effort by involving SANParks, Cape Nature, Knysna Municipality, LIRA, and a number of experts in the area of the environment. This diverse group of people, under Roger’s leadership, set out to do something splendid with the northern shore area of Leisure Isle. 

Vision – Roger had a strong vision of how the Reserve should be. The Reserve was to be accessible to all, and to benefit all – residents of Knysna, visitors, the disabled, school children, and many other groups who revelled in enjoying nature.

In recognizing Roger’s amazing contribution there is one other aspect I would like to mention – a personal one. This is friendship. Over the years of working with him I was privileged to become one of Roger’s friends. Now as we say our farewells I, like many, feel a great sorrow at the loss of a special friend and colleague. However, my sorrow is eclipsed by my gratitude of knowing him, working with him, and being inspired by his positivity, his skill in collaboration, his vision, and his amazing ability to get things done.


This Winter Newsletter will focus mainly on Environmental Awareness, and how we can maintain and improve it, something that was very close to Roger’s heart.  Steenbok Nature Reserve is a natural open space on the northern shores of Leisure Island, and is home to many different ecosystems. Care and protection of this area is important to the ecological health of both the Island and the Knysna Estuary.  The Reserve has a variety of woodland spaces, a very important saltmarsh, and pockets of indigenous flora. Many species of wild fauna live in the Reserve.  Steenbok receives growing numbers of visitors, who enjoy the different natural experiences on offer.  Dog walking is a daily, social event which is part of what makes Steenbok so special. Parents bring their children to play in a secure environment, and to learn about the flora and fauna. Young and old enjoy the safety of leisurely walks, meeting friends in this wonderfully open place. 


Our group of volunteers is growing, working on projects that help to maintain an environmental balance in the Reserve. In autumn the group’s main focus was to control invasive weeds in the Kingfisher Creek protected area.  Many bags were filled with sword fern. If left unchecked, sword fern could overrun the area and prevent the growth of indigenous plants.  The team has also played an important role in reporting illegal bait collection along the Towpath seawall, and in Kingfisher Creek and Land’s End. 

If you would like to join the ‘Steenbok Hack’ WhatsApp group, every month you will receive details about the next area the group will be tackling, and information about the invasive weeds that will be removed.  Click the link below to join this group:

When we take ourselves into nature our nervous system lights up – all our senses are stimulated, the worrying function of the brain tones down, and our bodies feel happy. When we add movement and learning and community to that, our human organism is ablaze with a sense of connection and ‘aliveness’.  

On our ‘hacking’ days in the Reserve, we spend two hours in nature and community. It’s a welcoming and held space where we can move our bodies in whatever capacity we have available to us and get our hands gripping, pulling and digging out invasive vegetation. The experience will light up our nervous system in various ways. We may feel the joy of contributing to something bigger than ourselves, perhaps we share smiles and a laugh in the sunshine as we work. We may learn how to identify various invasive species or what the indigenous plants look like up close, and we notice how good our body feels after working; feeling the texture of the ground and plants. This is our reward: we ignite our hearts, minds and hands by working with them.  



Steenbok gets frequent generous donations from Friends.  We recently received a new wooden swing, lovingly made by Arthur Field, for the children’s play area on the Common.

A new donated bench has been placed alongside the Towpath, and all the old damaged benches have now been removed.  Anyone interested in donating a bench to Steenbok should contact Ingrid Meter – two older benches in the first Tree Copse need replacing and are available to be shared with new donors.  We have also received a number of March Lily (Amaryllis belladonna) bulbs from Rod and Eve Myburgh. In Autumn these will become colourful additions to the Indigenous Gardens.


Doc Caldwell has hosted another successful fundraiser at Cearn Hall for Steenbok and Hospice.  The audience enjoyed an entertaining  afternoon of Leisure Isle themed skits followed by a jovial sing-along.  The Honeybee music school and The Lagooners Choir were an added bonus to Doc’s Winter Show.   

The Steenbok team were on hand to meet and greet the guests and to ensure the smooth running of this event.  

Prof Richard Barnes recently gave a presentation at the Country Club, hosted by Steenbok Reserve, on research he is undertaking for Rhodes University and Nelson Mandela University.

The talk highlighted the vital role our seagrass beds play in supporting the health of our planet.

We are privileged to have the support of someone as knowledgeable and renowned as the Professor. Richard is a familiar figure, visiting Knysna annually, and can often be seen taking samples along our shoreline. And although his research is complex, he entertained the audience with facts and anecdotes which opened our eyes to the fragile biodiversity of these intertidal ecosystems.

Use the link below to view a research paper on a comparison of the seagrass macrofauna in three South African estuaries. 


Steenbok Nature Reserve is a Public Benefit Organisation in terms of Section 18A of the Income Tax Act of 1962,  and all contributions to Steenbok are tax-deductible. Tax Certificates have been issued to all Friends of Steenbok Nature Reserve who donated in the 2023/24 Tax Year and who have given us their ID numbers – a new SARS requirement.  

If you haven’t yet received your certificate, please email  with your name and ID number, as well as your residential address and contact number, and your Tax Certificate will be sent to you.

The major portion of Steenbok’s annual budget is derived from donations from Friends, and these donations are solely utilised for the maintenance and upkeep of the Reserve. If you have donated to Steenbok in the current financial year, you will also soon be receiving a personalised Membership Disk.

Thank you to all our Friends of Steenbok for their continued support and donations.


Good progress is being made on our Preserve Kingfisher Creek project, which is the main project in our 2024 Management Plan. A presentation was recently made to the SANParks Forum, showing how the project supports the Steenbok’s objectives: to protect the natural beauty of the Reserve, to recognise protocols applicable to conservation areas, and to protect the indigenous plant life of the saltmarshes.

The natural environment of the beautiful Creek has been spoiled by pedestrian and cycling pathways across the delicate saltmarsh. Bird life has been disturbed by free-running dogs. Illegal bait collection takes place. In order to address this, temporary signs were erected to encourage visitors to stay on the high-level pathway, and to avoid taking short-cuts across the saltmarsh.

These are now being replaced with more permanent signs, as well as low post-and-rail ‘hurdles’ to discourage the use of certain paths. Red and green footpath markers will soon be placed to indicate preferred pathways and paths that should not be used.

Our intention is to allow the scarred areas to recover, and to allow birds to feed undisturbed, with an improved high-level pathway still giving access to the Land’s End beach and indigenous forest.  


The rainfall for June was a splendid 127mm.  This is more than double the 10 year average.

Year-to-date rainfall is 373mm, which is above the 10 year average, but as can be seen from the graph, it is well below last year’s.



Our Autumn maintenance program prioritised the removal of all the invasive weeds growing along the edges of the Towpath and the Common which were spreading into the Salt Marsh. We were assisted in this by Ivy Garden Services and the Municipality team. The intention of this project is to encourage growth of the saltmarsh flora. We are beginning to see the fruits of our hard work as there are already large new patches of salt marsh vegetation growing in the areas where invasive weeds used to dominate. 

The municipality assisted with the mowing of all the natural pathways, after all the weeds had been removed. The Ivy team has also been widening small pathways through the rehabilitated area opposite the tennis courts.  These provide short walks, which offer spectacular views and up-close looks at the interesting flora and fauna found in this precious area. 


Use the link below to view the alien invasive plants that are identified and removed from the Reserve:   


Repairs to the main entrance parking area are now complete, with the jagged road edge kerbed and tarred, and the gravel levelled. The popular Seedpod memorial bench was given its pre-winter overhaul, and the toolshed repainted.  

Our maintenance teams have also been busy repairing the post-and-rail fences along Links Drive, and at the entrance to the Towpath. They have also removed some rails to create a few more easily-accessible secondary entrances for the public to use.



Jessica Hayes, a Regional Ecologist from SANParks, gave an interesting presentation to the recent SANParks Forum on a proposed Water Quality Management Programme for the Knysna Estuary. The program is led by the CSIR and Nelson Mandela University, with European funding, and is working towards a management plan that will lead to a healthy and functional estuary which benefits both current and future generations. The objectives are to improve water quality and reduce solid waste pollution.

Key pollution sources have been identified as municipal wastewater discharges, inflow from rivers, and urban stormwater. The plan proposes upgrading sewage reticulation and the waste treatment plant, improving storm water and solid waste management, better regulation, monitoring and enforcement, with national funding.

The presentation also showed concerning results of a 2023 Water Quality Status report for the estuary. Outflows from the Salt, Bongani and Bigai Rivers, the wastewater treatment works, and from stormwater culverts, have led to high levels of pollution on the north side of the estuary, from the railway bridge to the Ashmead channel. The water quality in the main channel is however good, as a result of tidal flushing.

Our attendance at the SANParks Forum always gives us insight into the good work that is being done by a wide range of organisations to protect our estuary. We are proud to represent Steenbok on this Forum, and to share the contributions we make, and we look forward to the successful implementation of the Water Quality Management Program. 

The link below gives you access to the full presentation: 



Although the school holidays are nearing an end, there is still fun to be had in the Reserve!

Check out Suzi’s latest kiddies’ post, learn something new, and pop into the Reserve to spend time relaxing in the beauty of nature.





Leonotis leonurus: Wild dagga, lion’s ear 

The leaves of this plant are long and narrow, rough above, and velvety below, with serrated edges. The flowers contain sweet nectar that attracts many nectivorous birds, such as sunbirds. The curved beaks of these birds which are used for feeding from the flowers have been a contributing factor to the flowers’ brilliant orange-red colour and tubular shape, due to co-evolution. The nectar and pollen are also attractive to ants, honey bees and other insects who also visit the flower.

The small, stick-shaped seeds, once matured, are shaken loose from the dried seed heads by wind action, and scattered on the ground around the parent plant. The seed or nutlets have an oblique surface at the top that is covered by special oil glands. These attract ants, which carry off the seeds, and in so doing disperse them. Traditional remedies prepared from the leaves heal colds, flu and headaches. A remedy made from the leaf and root is also used in treating snake bites, as well as to keep snakes away.


The pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)

 This is a species of water kingfisher widely distributed across Africa and Asia. Originally described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758, it has five recognised subspecies. Its black and white plumage and crest, as well as its habit of hovering over clear lakes and rivers before diving for fish, make it distinctive. Males have a double band across the breast, while females have a single gorget that is often broken in the middle. They are usually found in pairs or small family groups. When perched, they often bob their head and flick up their tail.

You can spot these birds fishing at the water’s edge along the towpath.  Their call, a sharp ‘chirruk-chirruk’ announces their arrival, and soon they are hovering above the water ready to plunge, bill first, into the water to catch their prey.  Small fish can be swallowed in flight.  Pied kingfishers breed cooperatively, with non-mated birds helping raise the offspring of a mated pair. Cooperative breeding begins before eggs hatch, and other males help the breeding pair after hatching.

Pied kingfishers are gregarious, tame, and conspicuous. They perch on the sides of streams on waterside vegetation to conserve energy. They also perch on man-made objects such as fences, canoes, and huts. They create communal roosts at certain times of year, and are the largest birds able to hover for a sustained period of time.


Make your own Environmentally Friendly Herbicide

During the Summer months the Steenbok team created and tested a poison free herbicide.  Visitors to the Reserve noticed the change and requested the recipe for use in their own gardens.  

To help save the planet, we are now sharing this recipe with all our Steenbok friends. 

Click the link to download the recipe:

Environmentally Friendly Herbicide

Grass along paved pathway a day after spraying.