Serendipity is a wonderful thing. I looked it up in the dictionary on my Apple Mac, just to check, and this is what I found it means: chance, happy chance, accident, happy accident, fluke, luck, good fortune, fortuity, fortuitousness, providence, coincidence, happy coincidence. All these words seem pretty close to what we experienced while visiting Jozini Dam.
We work a lot in the Zululand area of KwaZulu Natal, doing Stock Photography, running Photo Workshops or doing Commissioned Photography and as a result, have driven past and marvelled at the lake on many occasions. It has always looked magnificent from the long and winding pass that snakes up the side of the Pongola River Gorge in the Lebombo Mountains and takes you from the N2 to the little town of Jozini high up in the ancient mountains, but somehow we had never actually visited the dam itself. This all changed when we were invited to spend easter weekend with family and friends on board Shayamanzi II Houseboat.
Pongolapoort Dam / Lake Jozini and the Lebombo Mountains. Jozini. KwaZulu Natal. South Africa
Jozini Dam (previously called the Pongolapoort Dam) is on the Pongola River, built in a narrow part of the in the gorge very close to the town of Jozini. It was completed in 1974
Jozini Dam Map
and covers an area of 17 000 hectares when full, most of the lake flooding the flat areas to the west of the mountains. The dam wall is 70m high and was originally build to supply water to local farmers on the Makatini flats for the cultivation of crops such as sugar cane, maize and cotton. The lake is surrounded by game and nature reserves that have good populations of animals and birds, while the lake itself forms the most southern range of the African Tiger Fish. Catches of this spectacular species have grown to the point where Jozini is now one of the more popular fishing destinations in South Africa, with catches comparable to places like the Okavango Delta and the Zambezi River.
We took a long, slow, easy drive to Jozini from Howick in KwaZulu Natal where we live. The Easter traffic en route was heavy in places (the Pietermaritzburg/ Durban section of the N3 being particularly crazy with tourists and travellers blocking up our favourite breakfast spot) resulting in the urgent need for an ice cold G&T at the luxurious Tiger Lodge in Jozini where we were to meet not only the rest of the family group but also the
Shayamanzi people. Sanity restored we were transported to the berthing spot for the 30 metre Shayamanzi II.
Paul du Toit with one of his catches while Mike Wadge shoots a pic. Pongolapoort Dam / Lake Jozini. Jozini. KwaZulu Natal. South Africa
This is where the serendipity began. The next few days were filled with a great deal of fun and excitement. The crew catered wonderfully and the cabins were compact but comfortable, the upstairs ones being particularly attractive with large sliding doors providing wonderful views of the passing scenery. The food on board was tasty and plentiful – no one went hungry!
One of the objects of the trip was to test the tiger fishing reputation of Lake Jozini. Now, while I really enjoy fishing, I am not very good at it. In fact, if truth be told, I’m really
On the left, our guide and Captain, Bramson, who’s knowledge and help made the fishing successful. Pongolapoort Dam / Lake Jozini. Jozini. KwaZulu Natal. South Africa
awful at it. So, it was with a great deal of surprise (surprise that bordered on disbelief) that I caught the first fish of the trip – a lovely little 1,2kg fighter that had me, er, hooked on fishing! The African Tiger Fish is considered by many to be the ultimate fresh water game fish and with good reason. Even small ones provide a good fight on light tackle so heaven knows what a 5Kg one will do. My record for the weekend was 3kg and the fight resulted in a lame left arm from holding the rod after a long fight.
Bramson Chihota, the Shayamanzi Captain and fishing guide on the tender boats provided help and instruction for us newbies – leave the line loose and wait for the fish to take the bait, let it run for a count of three or four, flip the bail, strike, keep the rod tip down and reel, reel and reel. Sound advice – it worked.
Alas, the weekend flew by as tends to happen when you are having fun. We fished, relaxed in the on-board jacuzzi, ate way too much, did some game viewing, and generally
We had good elephant, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck and kudu sightings from the boat. Pongolapoort Dam / Lake Jozini. Jozini. KwaZulu Natal. South Africa
had a good time. It’s a must do!
What to take:
- Fishing gear if you have it and prefer your own. (The gear provided by Shayamanzi is actually more than adequate..)
- Reading matter – a good book, bird book, a magazine or two, or, if you have one, all of these and some movies on your iPad.
- A hat or cap (man it gets hot out there!)
Book on the Shayamanzi here or email me for more info about our photography safaris and workshops.