Kowie Canoe and Hiking Trail

Located along South Africa’s ‘Sunshine Coast’, between Port Elizabeth and East London, the picturesque town of Port Alfred is a haven of tranquility for nature-lovers wanting to escape the rat-race. With its temperate climate, sheltered harbor and the Kowie River emptying itself into the ocean, this is also the perfect destination for a variety of water-oriented activities – including the popular Kowie Canoe/Hiking Trail, starting at Port Alfred and ending at Horseshoe Bend in Water’s Meeting Nature Reserve.


The Kowie Canoe/Hiking Trail takes two days to complete, giving plenty of time to spend enjoying the scenery and wildlife along the way. The canoe trail covers a distance of about 21 kilometers with a hut, toilet facilities and a braai (barbeque) area (for a maximum of sixteen people) located at Horseshoe Bend. At this point, you can take a 3, 6 or 9 kilometer hike along the Horseshoe Bend hiking trails as a conclusion to your trip. The hiking trail passes through indigenous forest with stunning clivias and strelitzias providing splashes of color. It circles the dam that is the source of Port Alfred’s water, before descending to the Water’s Meeting Place, where fresh and salt water meet during high tide – 28 kilometers from the seashore! It is at this point that early pioneers could safely cross the Kowie River with their ox wagons.

With one side of the river being a nature reserve, the trip up the Kowie River is well worthwhile. Enormous aloes with their bright orange flowers are prominent among the foliage growing down to the river’s edge in some places, and clinging to cliffs and hills in others. The birdlife is a bird watcher’s delight, with majestic fish eagles, herons, cormorants and kingfishers making a display of their various fish-catching talents along the river, either swooping down for their dinner, or wading along the shore. Brightly colored Knysna turacos can also be spotted in the trees, along with a number of other bird species. Keep an eye out for kudu, bushbuck and bushpig along the river bank as they come down to quench their thirst. Certainly, many visitors to Port Alfred have found the Kowie Canoe/Hiking Trail an invigorating addition to their holiday experience.