Blessed with over 3 000 kilometres of coastline, a plethora of dams, lakes, rivers and streams, South African anglers don't have to travel far to get their fix. Heck, even landlocked Gautengers can find great spots within an hour's drive to drop a line, take in their tranquil surroundings and unwind. So why not pack the family into the car this Easter, go explore the waterways near you and do some fishing? Think about it: casting a line in a pretty setting sure beats dealing with bored, housebound youngsters while on their two-week school break. And, although the year's still relatively new, that doesn't mean it hasn't been stressful – you're probably due for a little reprieve on the work front anyway. That said, here are five cool fishing destinations where you can avoid the maddening crowd, chill with the family and hopefully catch some lunch over the upcoming Easter holidays. Brookwood Estate Trout Farm (Cradle of Humankind)Location: Muldersdrift. GPS Coordinates: S25' 58.605, E27' 48.558 Gautengers spending the Easter holidays at home can head off to Brookwood Estate. This idyllic retreat, about one hour's drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria, boasts 5 well-stocked dams as well as about 700 metres of river frontage along the Blaaubank River. Three of the five dams cater exclusively to fly-fishing. Stocked mainly with rainbow trout (including some brown and golden trout in winter), these dams are said to be home to some of the largest trout in Gauteng – the biggest caught to date being a 4kg rainbow, 3.6kg golden and 3kg brown. The fourth dam, by far the largest, lets your kids refine their fishing skills and entertain themselves while you concentrate on the serious stuff – bagging lunch. Using anything from spinners to bait (no earth worms allowed), they can hunt a variety of species ranging from trout, bass, carp, bream and barble. Here, all fish except trout must be released. The fifth and final dam is for folk with no interested in trout. Containing bass and carp, this dam is fished on a strictly catch and release basis. The largest catches hauled out to date include an 18 kg carp and a 2.5 kg bass. Oh, and don't forget the Blaaubank River – it's a great spot for hooking yellows. Facilities include a well manicured picnic site situated along the river (that's safe for your kids to swim in). There's also a fully equipped tackle shop with one of the largest selection of flies in Johannesburg. And, after spending a fun day's fishing, you can kick back at the pub with a refreshing drink in hand while overlooking the dams and river. For those wanting to spend more time than just a day visit, Brookwood Estate offers two luxurious fully equipped, self-catering, two bedroomed chalets with open fireplaces as well as three camper's cabins. There is also a quaint, fisherman's cottage for those who prefer a more rustic experience. How to get thereComing from Johannesburg, travel straight along Beyers Naude and cross over the N14 Pretoria/Krugersdorp highway. Exactly 3km further on, turn left at the tar road (big satellite dish with advertising on corner). Continue straight, passing through 2 traffic circles. 2 km past the second circle you'll see Brookwood's on the right. Website: www.brookwoodtroutfarm.co.za Dimalachite River Lodge (Vredefort-Dome)Location: Parys. GPS Coordinates: S 26° 54’378, E 27° 21’823 Named after the Malachite Kingfisher that nests along the banks of the Vaal River, Dimalachite River Lodge is the go-to place for Gautengers wanting to indulge in some serious river fishing. Without a doubt, the main drawcard here is a chance to bag a monster largemouth yellow (the biggest caught to date being about 11 kg). That said, you can also expect to catch smallmouth yellows, carp and barbel too. Thanks to the many deep holes and rapids on the river, you can choose between fly or deep-water fishing. And, for the more adventurous, guided fishing trips on rafts can be arranged – giving you the chance to catch something nice in the rapids. For the more sedate at heart, there's the scenic riverbank right next to your campsite where you can drop a line. You can also hire rafts to paddle to the islands and rapids or bring your own. As the lodge's motto is “catch and release”, they request you take a nice photo, then release the fish as soon as possible. All the resort’s camp sites are on the riverbank, with lovely views over the river. In total, there are 60 to choose from, all with Eskom electricity and braai facilities. The 28 dedicated fishing campsites directly on the water are slightly more expensive. The venue is also extremely family friendly. Everyone can relax around the swimming pool or jacuzzi, go bird watching, paddle on the river or enjoy the thrill of white water rafting. Kids can bring their bicycles, play on the Jungle Jim, jump on the trampolines or do paintball target shooting. You can even join a self-paddling sunset cruise on rafts with snacks or a bonfire braai. Game drives are also available on request. How to get thereDrive through Parys towards Vredefort on the R59. 2 km out of Parys, take the Scheomansdrift turn-off to the right. Continue for 7 km where you'll see Dimalachite on your right-hand side. Website: www.dimalachite.co.za Stonecutters Lodge (Mpumalanga)Location: Between Lydenburg and Dullstroom. GPS Coordinates: S 25.2176, E 30.3151 Lying in the heart of fly-fishing country, the up-market Stonecutter’s Lodge is surrounded by a scenic mountainous backdrop and gets regularly enveloped in mist. Aesthetics aside, it boasts two well-stocked trout dams and 3 km of free-flowing river.The Dorp's River, one of the head tributaries of the Olifants, is a perennial stream offering different fly-fishing experiences around every bend – with large deep pools, free-flowing sections and rapids guaranteed to challenge even experienced anglers. The pathway around the river is mowed and, at strategic spots along the riverbank, regular brush-cutting makes direct access to the water possible. Catch and release of uninjured fish in the dams is permitted. All fish caught in the river are to be released.Understandably proud of their excellent fly-fishing reputation, Stonecutters Lodge only uses reputable hatcheries to regularly restock their dams. And, to supplement the wild trout that breed naturally in the river, they stock that when necessary too. To help keep things the way nature intended, trout at Stonecutters feed naturally. Supplementary feeding (floating pellets once a week) only occurs during the winter months when natural food is scarce and the trout that are caught (although healthy) are long and thin. The lodge's luxury accommodation comprises self-catering houses or spacious executive studios for couples. All of the accommodation is stylishly furnished and is serviced daily. Their DSTV package includes all sports channels, movies and news programmes. The Internet is also available at the main lodge. How to get thereFrom Johannesburg and Pretoria, take the N12 or the N4 to eMalahleni (Witbank). Continue on the N4 towards (Mbombela) Nelspruit through the toll plaza and exit the highway at Belfast. At the third 4-way stop in Belfast turn right at the Dullstroom signboard. Continue through Dullstroom towards Lydenburg until you see the Stonecutters Lodge signboard 35 km later on the left. Turn left onto the Capstone / Stonecutters dirt access road (The gate may be closed but is not locked ) and follow the road, keeping left for 800 m. Press the buzzer for access to the lodge. Website: www.stonecutters.co.za Jozini Dam (Northern KZN)Location: Jozini. GPS coordinates: S 27.4294, E 32.0651 Nothing beats the rush of having a monster tiger grab your hook, then bolt so fast your line tears through the water as if a deranged bull has snagged it and gone on the rampage. And, when it angrily launches itself out of the water, shaking so aggressively that your lure gets flung through the air, that's when you know you're in game fish heaven. Jozini Dam's main claim to fame is tiger fishing. Thanks to the space, availability of food and warm water the dam provides, populations have grown to the point where Jozini is now one of the most popular fishing destinations in the country – making it comparable to places like the Okavango Delta and Zambezi River. Apart from tigers, 27 other species call it home, the most common being tilapia, barbel, yellowfish and carp. Tigers are voracious, aggressive predators and fish form the largest part of their diet. As a result, using bait is the most popular method of bagging one. They'll take almost anything, including tilapia, barbel, sardines and chicken, even ox liver. Make sure to bring your heavy gear – these guys rip light tackle to shreds. If you are planning a Jozini fishing trip, a boat is essential to get to all the good spots. If you don't have your own, you can hire one with a skipper/fishing guide who will take you to all the best locations. Two places where shore fishing is possible is at the Phongolo Game Reserve camping site near Golela and the Fish Eagle camping site on the southern side of the dam. With the tiger fishing being the major drawcard for visitors to Jozini, you have plenty of accommodation options, ranging from luxury resorts to affordable, rustic campsites. Word of warning though – wherever you choose to stay, watch out for the hippos and crocs (there's a lot). How to get thereFrom Durban, take the N2 heading North. Continue on the N2 passing Richards Bay, Mtubatuba , Hluhluwe and Mkuze. 10km past the town of Mkuze, you will see a right turn indicating Jozini. Turn right at the sign board and continue for 19km over the Lebombo Mountain Pass. Website: www.jozinidam.co.za Wacky Woods Private Resort (Gamtoos River, Eastern Cape)Location: 15 km outside Jeffrey's Bay. GPS Coordinates: S 33.908634, E 25.023993 One of the most popular edible fish along our coastline is the cob. As luck would have it, it's a species the Gamtoos River has in bucket loads – with large specimens caught on a regular basis. It's also a prime fishing location, giving you the opportunity to fish a variety of species in three different environments (river, estuary and surf) without having to travel far from the comfort of your base. Large dusky cob and white steenbras are predominantly found in the lower reaches of the estuary, while spotted grunter, seabarbel, garrick and mullet are found throughout the system. A number of elasmobranch species are also frequently captured near the estuary mouth – these include the diamond ray, eagleray, blackspotted electric ray, ragged tooth shark and lesser sank shark. Cob are voracious, shoaling predators and highly specialised for feeding in the often murky, silt-laiden waters of estuaries. Bait options include small fish, crustaceans (prawns and crabs) and molluscs (squid and cuttlefish). When using lures, half of the skill of catching cob is knowing where to look. These guys are ambush predators – they want their prey to come to them. That said, the easiest way to hook one is to find a spot where you have shallow water flanked by deeper gulleys.The Wacky Woods Private Resort, nestled on a 58-hectare sliver of paradise next to the river, places you right in the centre of all the action. It also provides affordable, well-appointed accommodation comprising a few thatched chalets and 16 caravan/camp sites (all with lights, power points, braai facilities, grids, taps and bins). Apart from the fishing, it also offers canoeing, aquatic birding and advanced hiking trails. There's a safe playground for young families with children, of which all ages are welcome. There's also a slipway where you can launch your boat, and deep sea fishing charters can be arranged. How to get thereTravelling on the N2 from Port Elizabeth, take the second turn-off (Thornhill/Hankey) after Van Stadens bridge. At the off ramp take a left, then turn right at the stop. Continuing on the R102, drive for about 15km until you see the Gamtoos valley. Turn a right at the bottom (about 150m before the single lane metal bridge), drive for about 1km and Wacky Woods will be on you right. – (c) 2017 NavWorld Website: www.wacky-woods.page.tl
South Africa is full of many little known nooks and crannies of pristine natural beauty known only to the enlightened few. The Mount Sheba Lodge is one such gem of natural forest wilderness that has managed to survive the predatory axe of man despite being part of an area which has seen many attempts at exploration for gold. Wow! You may say as you embark on your steep descent into the riverine forest, maybe I will discover my crock of gold that was left behind inadvertently by the prospectors, long ago! If it is gold you are expecting to find alas! Then I am afraid you are likely to be disappointed but as a nature lover there are far greater treasures to be discovered adjoining the Lodge. If you are a tree lover then Mount Sheba will keep you in awe as each bend in a walking trail offers up hidden treasures of fine examples of trees such as the majestic Outeniqua Yellowwood and Knob thorn. The valley floor is lined with a web of crystal clear brooks that cascade down the mountainside and form tributaries of the larger boulder strewn streams which inevitably leap magnificent waterfalls thus providing plenty of food for your hungry camera. If you are a birder then Mount Sheba offers you a spectrum of more than 170 bird species including the beautiful Knysna Loerie and several of the sunbird species. After a day soaking up what nature has to offer you, you can bask in the magnificent facilities that the lodge has to offer; from an innovative game of croquet played with iron mallets to all the amenities that you would expect from an international hotel group such a Forever Resorts. The ambiance of the hotel compliments the serenity of the unspoilt nature that surrounds it while the hotel offers an excellent a la carte menu every day of the week. Trail descriptionThere are 11 different hiking trails at Mount Sheba which can be walked individually or they can easily be combined to form longer trails. For instance the Samango trail combines well with the Marcos Mantle Trail to form The Percy Fitzpatrick Trail and the Gola Gola Trail similarly combines well with the Old diggings trail to form the Kearney trail. It should be noted that the trails, although relatively short, can be regarded as difficult in places especially under wet conditions. Care needs to be taken at all times as the paths and rocks can be extremely slippery! AccommodationThere are three options of accommodation types. Firstly there is the hotel which has a three-star rating but by rights should be considered four star and includes dinner bed and breakfast. The rooms are superbly appointed and serviced while the food offered is excellent! The second option is self-catered fully equipped cottages.The third option is a camping site where you can pitch your tent. The site is un-serviced except that there is the use of nearby ablution facilities. LocationMount Sheba is located about 10km from the main road R533 from Lydenburg to Pilgrim’s Rest (Turnoff S24 53.244 E30 40.758). It should be noted that the road to Mount Sheba from the turnoff can be slippery when wet and care should be taken when driving this road at all times. Timber trucks from SAPPI use this road to harvest the adjoining plantations. – (c) 2017 NavWorld
Main Photo: Life of the party and bike trickster of note, Carel Van Heerden kept everyone entertained with his antics while they caught their breath and downed some beer The annual South African Single Speed Championships, held at Bronkhorstspruit Dam last weekend, has to be the most festive event on our local cycling calendar. Serious competition was non-existent. Rules didn't apply, and arbitrary penalties were dished out aplenty. The aim of the game was simple – ride the hilly, rock-strewn 30 km course on your single speed bike... and have a blast drinking plenty of beer with your mates while doing it. If ever there was an event created for cyclists to get together and let their hair down, then the South African Single Speed Championships (SASSC) 2016 had to be it. Staged around the Single Speed World Championships, an annual international event hosted by a different country each year – it celebrates the pure simplicity of single speed riding. That doesn't mean it's an exclusive event only for hardcore purists though. Riders with geared bikes can play along too, their gearshifts just get taped-up by organisers before the start. Bottom line, whatever you ride, the event provides a great excuse for one hell of a jol. Finishing the South African Single Speed Championships 2016 first didn't guarantee a win, and everyone knew it - even if some entrants rode hard, just because they could. As Australia hosted this year's world champs, the theme they set for clubs around the world to emulate was “Boganphilia” – “bogan” meaning an uncouth or unsophisticated person, and “philia” donating an abnormal love for a specific thing. But what they really meant was Aussie trailer trash. At least, that's the way SASSC interpreted it! Nearly everyone dressed up, some impressively so. Most bikes displayed custom-made number boards (some extremely humorous) and the general attitude right from the get go was “Let's party!” Many events have fancy dress elements to them, so seeing riders wearing funny outfits milling around before the start didn't surprise me one bit. What did, was seeing beers being handed out to each entrant as they registered for the race. That's when I realised what SASSC was all about and put my notebook away, resigning myself to a fun day full of sunshine, plenty of beer and hearty comradery. The 10 AM start was rather unconventional too. By then many entrants were maybe two beers down and rearing to go, but the organisers kept putting the brakes on – mainly because they were too busy arbitrarily confiscating bikes, swapping them around and generally giving competitors a hard time. Needless to say, the accompanying banter was hilarious. The whole situation made me think of herding cats. Eventually, the organisers cracked the whip – really, they did. Sounding like a gun shot up close, it immediately focused everyone's attention. After the third ear-splitting crack, there was a moment of stunned indecision, then race got underway. Calling the SASSC 2016 a race is a bit of a misnomer. Sure, it covered a course about 30 km through the hilly, rocky terrain on the north side of Bronkhorstspruit Dam – so it wasn't an easy ride, especially when having to rely on only one gear. But finishing the event first didn't guarantee a win. Instead, the organisers huddled up and decided amongst themselves who did. They also dished out outrageous penalties to riders on a whim. I watched one bemused dude (wearing little more than underpants) have his saddle and seat post confiscated for no reason at all, then got sent on his merry way to complete the rest of the route balancing on his pedals. The whole point of the event is to not take the riding seriously, have a good laugh and enjoy yourself. The second watering hole was where the all action was. Most riders got stuck here for at least an hour, some for much longer. With temperatures hovering at around 35 degrees thanks to the current heatwave, it wasn't a day for sissies. Fortunately, the two drink spots along the route were amply stocked with beer (and non-alcoholic equivalents) to keep everyone hydrated. Or should that be lubricated? By the time competitors arrived at the second, erm, watering point they were in desperate need of a pint. And, as the crowd grew, the party just got bigger and that more festive – with many staying for way over an hour, some much longer, knocking back the refreshing golden nectar and shooting the breeze with tipsy comrades. Eventually, as the hot sun slowly edged ever closer to the western horizon, even the most dedicated party animals conceded it was time to get back on their bikes and move on to the finish line 5 km away – they didn't want to miss the prize-giving party! For the record, Aussie hillbilly wannabe Dewald Venter, who rode the route on his BMX, won the evening's beer drinking competition. And this year's SASSC 2016 ladies' and men's winners are Teresa Ralph and Martin van der Klooster. – (c) 2016 NavWorld Taking a breather... and a pint. Heatwave conditions made hydration the most important aspect of the SASSC 2016 event. Sober start. Most riders were only one or two beers down by the time they headed off on their 30 km ride. Although a fun event, the SASSC 2016 was still a race - covering about 30 km over rocky, hilly terrain in heatwave conditions. Clearly, beer can be used to cool down core temperatures in more ways than one. Hot and thirsty competitors enjoy a festive break from their saddles. This old classic received a lot of attention. More impressively, it finished the race too. More than one competitor required some assistance up the first hill after leaving the second watering hole. Many of those who didn't want help got it anyway. Fun was the order of the day and many bikes had personalised numbers. Winners of this year's South African Single Speed Championships, Teresa Ralph and Martin van der Klooster. To find out more visit sassc2016.co.za Visit our Facebook page (click here)
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