Don’t forget your fishing rods and binoculars if you intend to stay at any of these great birding and fishing hot spots.
Mount Anderson Water Reserve Mashashing
High on a mountain, where five streams burst into life and tumble into weirs and dams, is the ideal place for a spot of fishing. There are rainbow trout, yellowfish and tilapia in these pristine waters, with conditions to suit everyone from beginners to experienced fishermen. Your main rival will be Fish Eagles rather than other guests,
as Mount Anderson is South Africa’s first private water-catchment reserve, and visitors are limited to protect it.
General manager Trent Sinclair is a keen fisherman and can supply a flyfishing kit, as well as mountain bikes for adults and kids. The reserve’s spectacular views cover some of the most technically challenging trails in South Africa that even attract international biking clubs. If you’re better on foot, hike to a waterfall and look out for Gurney’s Sugarbirds, Malachite Sunbirds, Cape Vultures and Spurfowl. Guests can book the Golden Cottage with its five bedroom suites for their exclusive use, with all meals and local drinks included. – Lesley Stones
Dwarsberg Trouthaven Rawsonville
Friends had been raving about this camping spot for ages, but it was only when we arrived that I could fully appreciate what they had been so excited about. We had the run of our campsite (one of 11) with our own ablution block. Big bonus was the lush grass on which we could pitch our tents. With the peaceful Holsloot River running alongside our campsite it was sheer bliss. We’d barely erected our tents and, water-starved from the Cape Town drought, we headed for the coolness of the water. (Bring whatever floats, to enjoy gently bobbing down the stream). The river flows through the picturesque Stettynskloof Valley, with a backdrop of spectacular mountains to hike.
For those who enjoy flyfishing, it also happens to be one of the most highly regarded dry-fly spots in the country. I can vouch for this, as every morning, while we sat enjoying coffee, we watched the trout leaping out of the river around us. The dam at the head of the valley ensures a constant supply of cool water for trout fishing, even in summer. A Spotted Eagle-Owl perched happily over our tents, while a magnificent banded mongoose casually visited our tent to see what was on the menu.
I found a great spot for my hammock, with the breeze gently swaying me and the sound of happy children nearby. It was a great antidote to city stress. – Ann Gadd
023 349 1919, [email protected]
Angler & Antelope Guest House Somerset East
If you’ve ever fancied your chances of snagging a monster trout in what seems the most unlikely of spots (the Karoo Heartland), then Alan Hobson of the Angler & Antelope Guest House in Somerset East is your man. His adventure company, Wild Fly Fishing in the Karoo, has exclusive access to flyfish for 25 kilometres along the Little Fish River in the Eastern Cape.
This unique outdoor experience will also allow you to try your hand at catching the indigenous yellowfish. At the end of your day on the water with Alan, you head back to the guest house where Annabelle Hobson welcomes you to four-star accommodation and feeds you a delicious supper in a former church. After supper, the custom is to join Alan at the bar and sample his stock of fine single malt whiskies. Ask him about the legendary Nessie, the superb trophy on the counter. – Chris Marais
Black Eagle Lodges Caledon
This inviting, working farm is a tranquil retreat in the Overberg mountains, large enough to offer hiking, mountain biking, birdwatching and trout fishing, which are enough to keep the energetic busy. The passive can sit back with a best-seller. With almost a kilometre separating the two lodges, you are assured privacy. Both have three double bedrooms and offer self-catering accommodation.
The villa is four-star rated, with three en suite double bedrooms, while the lodge has three stars, one double bedroom en suite, and two double bedrooms that share a bathroom. Fireplaces ensure cosy winters, pools of cool spring water take the edge off hot summer days and well-equipped kitchens make catering a breeze. The drought has put restrictions on fishing but, once that breaks, enthusiastic fishermen will have the chance to throw a line.
In the meantime, listen to the call of the Sugarbird, the Black Eagle and other birds that call this piece of paradise home. Being eco-friendly, there is no electricity but solar-generated power charges cell phones, cameras, and laptops. – Olivia Schaffer
www.blackeaglelodges.co.za, 028 212 2113
De Vasselot Rest Camp
Garden Route National Park
If a wooden chalet tucked away in a lush forest next to a glistening stream sounds like your ideal getaway, then De Vasselot Rest Camp in Nature’s Valley is like heaven on earth. I much prefer the slow pace compared to the bustling Storms River Mouth Rest Camp. The birdlife in the area is prolific and I even spotted a shy bushbuck grazing near the chalet, completely unaware of my presence. For fishermen, the beach is only a short drive away.
Apart from hiking, there is also canoeing on the Groot River, which runs through the camp all the way to the estuary. Our chalet was open plan, fully-equipped and had a double bed and two single beds. There is nothing quite like lighting a fire on the deck while listening to the birds or enjoying breakfast next to tranquil waters. – René de Klerk
044 531 6700, www.sanparks.org
Zambezi Mubala Lodge Katima Mulilo
In Namibia’s north-eastern corner, south of Katima Mulilo,this stylish lodge is set on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. Mubala is a birding hotspot, visited each spring between the months of August and December, by thousands of Carmine Bee-eaters. The colony of bee-eaters, one of the largest in Africa, is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. Visitors can take a stroll to the colony to be dazzled by the sound, colour and activity of the birds as they swoop, catch insects, drop to the ground and then soar into the sky again, in a vibrant and vivid display.
The lodge is also home to more than 400 other bird species. The cries of African Fish Eagles, the melodic calls of Swamp Boubous and the bubbling sounds of Coppery-tailed Coucals are part of Zambezi Mubala’s soothing symphony that weaves through your day. The lodge gently reflects its surroundings, carrying the colours of the Zambezi and the bush into its interior, where king-size beds await fortunate travellers, in spacious bungalows with decks overlooking the river. Catch-and-release fishing trips’ with the challenge of luring species like tigerfish are popular with fishermen, and leisurely boat trips are a highlight of a stay for nature lovers. Or you may just want to put your feet up and soak up the Zambezi peace. – Ron Swilling
Mount Arthur on Balmoral Farm Swartberg
A 19.5 pounder. That’s the biggest trout ever caught in Africa, and it was caught right here in East Griqualand, KwaZulu-Natal, in a fabled dam called The Pott’s. The Pott’s is one of four exceptional dams on Balmoral Farm, the most famous of which is Mount Arthur.
This is not easy fishing, where you arrive and stroll down to the lawned water’s edge. This is wild, remote, 4×4 country where the winters are harsh and you have to work for the rewards. But what rewards they can be. Accommodation is a rustic fisherman’s cottage on the edge of a dam, complete with six beds, hot showers and a functional kitchen, but it’s the serenity and the views that really stand out, and the fishing.
If you do decide to pursue these trophy trout, bring a float tube/kick boat and associated paraphernalia, and stock up on one tippet and lots of Janssen’s Dragons, Papa Roaches and Woolly Buggers. And if you have time, chat to farmer William Rohrich – one of the most enthusiastic flyfisherman you’re likely to meet. – Stephen Smith
039 747 4620, [email protected]
Banchory Cottage Swartberg
Along with Mount Arthur and St Bernards, this is one of the best-known waters in East Griqualand, which is arguably the finest area for stillwater trout in South Africa. The cottage is on the edge of the main dam, which is where the more consistent fishing is to be had, but there is also another dam higher up the mountains where some real lunkers lurk.
The cottage itself is very comfortable and well appointed for a fishing cottage, with electricity, three bedrooms and a lovely deck over the water. And importantly, access isn’t a problem – as long as your vehicle has reasonable ground clearance you will find the drive very comfortable, the only iffy section being the last kilometre or two on the farm. Prepare yourself for sizable fish, which means one tippets and (generally) large nymph and minnow patterns. – Stephen Smith
Nibela Lake Lodge Hluhluwe
Apparently, birding is not my forte, nor is fishing. So I discovered on a trip to the tip of the Nibela Peninsula in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The Nibela Lake Lodge, which overlooks the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, has 11 wooden chalets hidden in the forest bordering the St Lucia estuary.
With more than 520 bird species recorded in the park, iSimangaliso is a twitchers paradise. On an early morning walk, and within 45 minutes we could tick off rare Pink-throated Twinspots, Green Malkoha, Neergard’s Sunbirds and several others. My knowledge of birds is limited to telling an ostrich and emu apart, but with our guide Lucky Ngubane, these sightings were truly something special. Then it was onto fishing.
The water level in Lake St Lucia was very low during our visit and I was advised against fishing. Fortunately, there are plenty other opportunities for fishing in the area. Warm currents and deep ocean trenches make the waters off the iSimangaliso coast ideal for game fishing. Sodwana Bay and St Lucia are particularly popular as fishing destinations.
Our double chalet was perfect for our two-night stay and the meals served at the Lakeview Restaurant and in the boma exceeded our expectation. The floor-to-ceiling windows and large wooden deck create an authentic bush atmosphere, while a bar, pool and a variety of games completed the experience. – Riaan Hattingh
0861 010 347, www.nibelalakelodge.co.za
Nqabara Eco River Lodge Transkei
What’s better than an eco lodge perched on a hill over a pristine Transkei estuary? How about an eco-lodge perched on a hill over two pristine Transkei estuaries? Three hours from East London via Dutywa and close to Dwesa, Nqabara Eco River Lodge sits on a point where the Nqabara and Nqabarana rivers join. The lodge was recently rebuilt after the original lodge burnt down, and you can stay in either the 4-sleeper self-catering chalets or the main lodge (primped for anglers with rod holders and fishing magazines) for crowds of eight or more.
Hire a local guide and fish yourself into a stupor on the estuaries or along the deserted beaches for kob, snapper, kingfish, leervis and other species. Take walks in the indigenous forest and spot Hornbills, Fish Eagles and Kingfishers or simply kick back on the deck with a sundowner, a good book and an unbeatable view of the ever-changing Nqabara estuary mouth. With bread baked on the premises, veggies grown in the garden, rainwater harvested and an off-the-grid power system, Nqabara is an amazing place to take a break from the city rat race, reboot your rhythms and switch off. – Tudor Caradoc-Davies
031 207 4824, www.nqabara-eco-river-lodge.co.za