We got here at last. After leaving the Kingfisher in Durban, we got on to the northbound highway, determined to get to our ultimate destination with no further delays.
A Good Road North
The N2 national road from Durban to Hluhluwe is a pleasure to drive on. Although it carries a fair amount of traffic, the surface is in better condition than many of the other main arterial routes in South Africa, is double-carriage for a good part of the way, and the toll sections are reasonably priced.
On another occasion I may have been tempted to stop off at Tugela Mouth or Mazeppa Bay, but we suddenly realised nearly a week had gone by. For a change we arrived at the campground, run by Conservation Services (the old Natal Parks Board) while it was still light, and the office was open so we could book in. Late arrivals can still check in, paying a deposit to the rangers at the gate, but then must call in to the office first thing the next day to sign the register.
Being off-peak, we were able to find a site first, then come back and fill out the book – computerised these days of course. Then back to the site, set up the big tent, hook up power and pack our stock of bait into one of the freezers available for hire by campers.
Late Aftern0on and Very Hot
Sodwana is HOT in February and humid. Officially the temperature was only 29C, but it felt more like 39 and it was already early evening! The sites with access to power are in limited supply – 95% of the park is un-powered, and un-grassed! Sodwana Bay camping ground must be one of the largest in South Africa – with several diving resorts and a chalet resort inside the grounds. Facilities are basic, but are fairly well maintained and clean (although I heard overseas visitors and Gautengers complaining about the standards… Why stay in a camping ground if you want 5 star hotel type accommodation? This is the BUSH! It’s supposed to be the BUSH!
After getting the tent set-up, Jen and I took an exploratory walk – heading towards Mseni Lodge and the beach. A bush path with wooden steps in the steeper places leads down to the beach from Mseni, through low hanging trees. This path would prove challenging at first, carrying long fishing rods, but soon we would get used to manoeuvering the rods through the twists and turns…
Several Possible Fishing Holes
One of the first things we saw before even getting to the bottom of the path were several possible spots looking like the sort of place fish may congregate – deeper holes in the ocean floor.
We took a stroll down the beach, and found several likely looking places to drop a baited line. All the basics are there – flat rocky reef structure, holes, and water of varying depth. We tried to identify landmarks, so these spots could be found again even if the light wasn’t quite right to make these easy to find.
Heading back up, we chatted with the park rangers at the Mseni gatehouse, inquiring about night fishing. Evidently the gate we had used gets locked at about 7pm, but another gate that leads from the beach, closer to the gate-house is kept open. After the chat we took the opportunity of a few cold beers at the lodge restaurant, meeting a group of fishermen who were staying at the lodge. These chaps said they had been there for ten days, and were leaving on Friday.
We discovered there was a tackle and bait shop a few km outside the park, and the owner could tell us moe about the fishing, and the spots that had been working recently. After the cool refreshments, it was back to the camp-site to prepare for the morning, and a good nights rest.
Ray the Fisherman