Monday, December 2, 2013

A Saturday morning hike on the Flamingo Trail

I'm probably the most overweight, unfit active guy there is.  There is no hesitation to go if I get the opportunity to get out and about and because of my love for the outdoors I make an effort to explore and do as much as possible.  I've been fortunate that I've had the opportunity to do most of the day walks around Port Elizabeth with the exception of only a few.  One of those being the Flamingo Trail in the Swartkops Nature Reserve and I didn't think twice about joining the Zwartkops Conservancy on a guided walk of the trail.

The Flamingo Trail is 6 - 8 km long and best done as a guided trail with the guys from the conservancy.  The walk starts at the Motherwell storm water canal and follows the estuary in a westerly direction.  The Swartkops estuary is an important breeding ground for numerous waders and sea birds and is also home to up to a thousand flamingos, hence the name of the trail in case you wondered.  The surrounding reserve is there to protect the estuary as well as the Valley Thicket (or Valley Bushveld) on the northern slope and escarpment of the reserve.

Those joining the walk split into two groups.  One group did the longer trail which rounded the estuary and follow the banks past Redhouse.  I had more active things to do later in the day plus Chaos Boy was tagging along for the walk so opted to do the shorter one which took us along the northern bank and then up onto the escarpment.  I was in good company though with fellow Geocachers Seekoei and erenei as well as Cathy Dempsey from Dempsey's Guesthouse deciding to also do the shorter one.

Jenny Rump from the Zwartkops Conservancy kept pointing out interesting sights and told us about the threats that impacts on the Swartkops River and estuary.  The Zwartkops Conservancy is campaigning to have the estuary declared a Ramsar international wetland which will make it the first such wetland in South Africa situated within an urban area, and the first initiated by the public as opposed to government. The national Dept of Environmental Affairs is giving the application its full support though.

Walking along the river bank gave us some beautiful views of the river and fairly close up sightings of birds with my interest on that day being specifically flamingos.  You usually get to see the flamingos while driving along the Swartkops road towards Despatch and Uitenhage but it was great to get to see them while on foot.  It did help that we had a gorgeous windless Saturday morning and I was kinda glad I had my hat and some extra water on hand as shade is a bit on the spares side along the river banks.

After a short rest at the turning point, Jenny took us up onto the escarpment and although we were huffing and puffing when we got there it was truly worth it.  The view from up there across the estuary towards the city is magnificent.  The walk onto the escarpment and back down took us through the Valley Thicket where succulents like Aloes and Tree Euphorbias as well as Boer Beans and other smaller trees can be found.  Have I mentioned the stunning view?  

Anybody wanting more information about the Zwartkops Conservancy or interested in finding out when the next guided walk is can contact Jenny Rump at Tel – 082 853 0700 or 041 466 1815 or


  1. Just beautiful!! p.s. u CANt be in that bad a shape! u never ever sit still!!

  2. Great views! It's nice to go on a guided hike and learn about what is seen.