KOB AND LEERVIS – we chase them like mad in the Western Cape, but truth be told we have some serious inferiority complex over the fish that are caught in the Eastern Cape and more specifically the Transkei/Wild Coast. So, when I started seeing Nqabara Eco River Lodge pop up in my Facebook feed with pic upon pic upon pic of great kob and leeries caught in the estuaries, it was only a matter of time until we paid them a visit.
Cape Town – Graaf Reinet. Graaf Reinet – Nqabara (shooting cross country past Queenstown, skirting the coast along past East London till you turn off the N2 at Idutywa and head towards the sea. An hour or two later, after passing through Willowvale, we met up with Captain who led us the rest of the way. The local head honcho, he took us through the villages and farmland, dipping deep into valleys and cresting rises until we eventually arrived on a promontory overlooking the ocean. It didn’t matter that we had a flat tyre (that Captain would later kindly take into Willowvale to get fixed) because below us, on either side we had the twin estuaries of the Nqabara and Nqabarana rivers. Arriving at your destination and finding not one, but two rivers teeming with fish, it would be an understatement to say I was excited.
Though it has been around a few years, Nqabara Eco River Lodge is, technically, brand new having been rebuilt after a devastating fire. If you have to put a positive spin on seriously shitty luck like that, is that what it gives you is a clean slate and Tim Hammond, the driving force behind Nqabara Eco River Lodge has done a great job with the rebuild. For starters, it’s an eco-lodge. That means it’s completely off the grid, with a solar power system. Then the rainwater is harvested and all around you are gardens with homegrown veggies. Want some home baked bread? Ask around for Ivy. She’ll sort you out. Added to the eco aspect, is the fact that the lodge is unobtrusive. It fits into the area, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb and that’s because is run by the community. That’s stuff that really counts when it comes to deciding on a holiday destination. You know that your holiday is contributing in some way to the area.
The accommodation is comfortable and your options are either one of the 4-sleeper self-catering chalets or the main lodge which sleeps crowd of eight or more. Designed by anglers for anglers, the lodge is fully pimped with rod holders running down the corridors and piles of fishing magazines on the coffee tables (including this one…cough, cough). From the huge open deck you can scope out the weather and keep an eye on the tides in the estuaries. The lodge specifically is the kind of place that screams “road trip” if you have a regular crew of fishing buddies, but it is just as suited to being taken over by a bunch of couples or a large family.
As for the fishing – you have so much to choose from. Go left on the bigger Nqabara river or go right on its skinnier sister, the Nqabarana. Plenty of kob and leervis come out of both rivers as well as snapper/rock salmon (close to the rocky structure under the mangroves), kingfish, grunter, steenbras and other species. The parts of both rivers closest to the mouth are wadeable to a point, but if you want to venture further up river it’s advisable to hire either a canoe or a boat from the lodge. Nqabara also has a team of local guides who know the water like the back of their hands so if time is limited, we recommend getting a yokel on board.
From what we heard, the mouth of the river system, as well as the rocks to the left and the beach to the right of the mouth are also productive.
Travelling with a non-fishing partner or kids? Moenie worry, there’s loads to do. From a guided walk in the indigenous forest (keep an eye out for fish eagles, kingfishers and hornbills) to mountain biking, trail running or taking a day trip to Dwesa. Or, a much better option in our book, is to kick back on the deck with a G&T and take in the view.
Stay for at least a week (two is better), fish your nuts off and totally rewire your brain. Doctor’s orders. You won’t be sorry.
For specials and seasonal deals, contact Tim Hammond on (0) 31 207 4824 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: the fish featured in this blog were not caught on our trip, as shortly after arriving we hit a pressure system and for the next few days we (and the dropshot guys in another chalet struggled to catch many fish). While we had a great time, we only managed to catch a flattie and a small steenbras. We did however see enough to want to head back ASAP.