by Ginger Mauney
Mepps and rapalas, bream and barbels – to the uninitiated these words are alien, but to keen fishermen they hold poetry and promise. Tackle and bait, taking on the patient challenge of luring in a big catch or a different species, mark and release, ready for the next battle… The major rivers of Namibia’s Caprivi Region – the Zambezi, Chobe, Kwando, Linyanti and Okavango – weave their magic on fishermen, offering 84 species of fish and an astounding arena for an angling adventure.
From wide rivers to shallow sandbanks, raging rapids to calm backwaters, a variety of rods, reels and lures can be used… but there is generally just one fish that tops the fisherman’s ‘to catch’ list – the feisty tiger fish.
With its jagged teeth and combative spirit, the tiger fish is known as one of the world’s premier freshwater fighting species. Tiger fish of up to 10 kilograms have been caught in Caprivi’s rivers. Depending on the season, these fish may be found in deepwater pools, incoming rivulets or the reed edges along the Kasai channel. Their location will influence the fishermen’s choice of tackle and bait, and expert advice on what to pack can be obtained from the lodges and guides in the area.
Seven different species of bream are found in the area’s rivers. Most fishermen are attracted to the prospect of catching one of the large-mouth predatory species, such as the thin-faced bream, hump-backed bream or nembwe. While many of the bream species are good to eat, most fishing in the region is done on a catch-and-release basis.
Pike and squeaker are popular catches on the Okavango River, while the large, cantankerous barbel or catfish, often exceeding twenty kilograms, is found in all Caprivi’s rivers, all year round.
Whether fly-fishing from the banks of the river or slowly trawling on waters in a small fishing boat, the Caprivi’s wild beauty provides a spectacular backdrop for any angling adventure. Most lodges and campsites in the area offer fishing options to their guests.
Kalizo Lodge, forty kilometres downstream from Katima Mulilo on the banks of the upper Zambezi River, offers a wide variety of accommodation and activities, including fishing.
Affordable accommodation, on a dinner, bed-and-breakfast, self-catering or camping basis, is available. Seven recently revamped two-bed, en-suite thatched huts are set on the water’s edge, providing relaxed lodging and beautiful, uninterrupted views of the Zambezi. There are also four self-catering units with two or three bedrooms and basic kitchen facilities, plus camping spots under shady trees with water, power points, ablution blocks and braai facilities. Other amenities include a restaurant, bar and swimming pool.
The waters around Kalizo Lodge are home to 93 species of fish, including tiger, nembwe, pink happy, green-headed and three-spotted tilapia. Experienced guides and fully equipped boats provide a special experience on the water for anglers, birders or those simply seeking to relax. In fact, birders keen to tick off as many as they can of the area’s 430 bird species, including Shelly’s Sunbird, African Skimmers, and Brown Firefinches, are increasingly staying at Kalizo. The lodge also offers mokoro trips on the water, quad-biking on land and excursions into nearby Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls.
Close by Island View Lodge offers accommodation for up to 26 guests in simple chalets that surround a large garden and swimming pool. The chalets have fully equipped kitchens for self-caterers, as well as a full-board option. Camping spots under shady trees with kitchen facilities, his and her ablution blocks and plug points are available. A bar with a pool table is at the centre of the property near the riverbank.
Many guests at Island View Lodge stay for up to a week, trying to catch as many different species and large fish as possible. Records for fish caught at the lodge include a tiger fish of 8.6 kilograms, and a 24-kilogram barbel. The best fishing season is from May through to December. Island View offers trips into Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls, Livingstone and transfers for the area’s airports.
On the Kwando River is the shady Mazambala Is–land Lodge. Built around an ancient baobab tree, Mazambala has 12 en-suite, reed and thatched chalets, two of which connect to form a family room. The main thatched restaurant, bar and lounging area is built on stilts, affording sweeping views of the floodplain below.
Nature walks, game drives, a 15-metre-long swimming pool, and two twelve-seater boats for cruising and fishing on the river are available.
Mazambala also offers seven secure camping spots with ablution facilities with hot water. Guests have access to the restaurant and bar at the main lodge two kilometres further up the river.
The Five Rivers Safari is a bold new concept, in which lodges in the Upper Zambezi Basin, a special region within Southern Africa and including south-eastern Angola, north-western Zimbabwe, western Zambia, Namibia’s Caprivi and northern Botswana are linked. Five companies have co-operated to offer a unique collection of camps and lodges providing a combination of experiences previously out of reach of safari enthusiasts.
Susuwe Island Lodge is one of the participating establishments. Set in the privacy and peace offered by large trees and flowing water, Susuwe Island Lodge has six unique chalets, each individually designed with mosaics, animal motifs and careful attention to detail. Guests have the choice of lounging on three separate decks, swimming in individual plunge pools, going on game drives and nature walks; birding, fishing from a boat; or simply relaxing and doing nothing at all. The other participating lodges share the high standards of privacy, comfort, delicious food and knowledgeable staff found at Susuwe Island Lodge.
Other camps and lodges included in the Five Rivers Safari are:
Songwe Village – eight traditional African-style guest huts near the Victoria Falls, Zambia;
Impalila Island Lodge – eight luxury chalets in the Chobe Area;
Lianshulu Lodge – 11 luxury rooms in Namibia’s Caprivi;
Kwando Lagoon Camp – six luxury tents in the Kwando/ Linyanti area;
Kwando Lebala Camp –eight luxury tents in the Kwando/ Linyanti area;
Kwara Camp – eight luxury tents in the Okavango Delta;
Xakanaxa Camp – 12 luxury tents in the Moremi Game Reserve; and
Deception Valley Lodge –five suites on the northern edge of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
The Five Rivers Safari includes most of the best-known safari areas within the Kavango–Upper Zambezi Transfrontier Super-Park. Some of the areas in which the camps operate are huge. The two best examples are the Kwando Concession – a massive 252 000 hectares, not taking into account the adjoining area of Lianshulu Lodge and Susuwe Island Lodge – and the Kwara Concession of 175 000 hectares in the northern Okavango Delta.
The camps and lodges combined offer the following spectacular array of activities: a guided tour of Victoria Falls, cultural village tours at several locations, a cruise on the Zambezi River, visiting a historical (stone-age man) museum, game cruises on Chobe River, bird watching at all locations, Afro botanical walks, fishing, day and night drives in several different ecosystems, bush walks, boat-based game watching on various river systems, mokoro trips and Bushman walks.
This article appeared in the July/Aug ‘06 edition of Travel News Namibia.