Thesen Island Habour Town
Thesen Island - Knysna's 2nd Waterfront
The name Thesen has its origins in far-away Norway.
In July 1869, Arndt Leonard Thesen, a prominent timber merchant from Stavanger in Norway left his hometown with is wife and nine children, planning to start a new life in New Zealand. After their ship, the Albatros, ran into difficulties near Cape Town, Arndt Thesen decided to stay on in South Africa. The Thesens settled in the picturesque town of Knysna, surrounded by indigenous forests, where they started a timber trading company. In 1904 his son Charles Wilhelm Thesen bought Paarden Island, located in the Knysna River estuary. In 1922 he established a timber processing plant on the island, which soon became known as Thesen Island. In the early 1980s Barlows, one of South Africa’s industrial conglomerates, purchased the island and its timber treatment plant from Thesen and Company. Barlows soon realized that the timber processing activities could not be continued on this island located in the midst of such a scenic and eco-sensitive lagoon. At the same time there was growing community concern about the environmental and industrial pollution caused by the factory's activities. As a result the plant’s doors were finally closed. In the ensuing years the abandoned derelict buildings, machinery and waste dumps increasingly turned into an eyesore and a health hazard.
In 1991 Dr. Chris Mulder, a South African environmental engineer who received his doctorate in environmental design in Houston, USA, proposed a complete redevelopment of the island into a unique residential marina.
As the Knysna River estuary is one of the most sensitive ecosystems in the country and a major tourism attraction, the development of Thesen Islands called for extremely careful and sensitive planning covering ecological, architectural, engineering, aesthetic, social and cultural criteria. After eight years of research and planning by Dr. Mulder and his team, approval was finally granted in December 1998 - but with over one hundred strict and complex conditions. In all, ten years passed from initial concept to final approval, involving twenty-five alterations to the master plan!
Today, Thesen Islands is a multi-award winning marina development located in the scenic Knysna estuary on the renowned "Garden Route" of South Africa. The marina is spread over 90ha and consists of 19 man-made islands linked by 21 arched bridges and surrounded by 25ha of tidal waterways. The marina consists of 489 individual homes and 56 apartment units, known as the Dry Mill apartments, situated on its own island within the marina. All the homes are built in a colonial maritime architectural style, conforming to Knysna’s vernacular architecture and its historical maritime and timber connections.
Thesen Islands is linked by a causeway and bridge to the mainland, and is within walking distance of the scenic waterfront, yacht harbour and town centre of Knysna, one of South Africa’s most picturesque and popular coastal towns.
Knysna Charters has been operating at Thesen Island Harbour Town since 2007 as one of the original boating operators together with Ocean Odyssey who operated from the SANParks jetty