Tuesday, 19 July 2011

iSimangaliso Wetland Park - Sodwana Bay's accommodation options

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife's accommodation options at Sodwana Bay include 10 five-bed Swiss-style log cabins; 10 eight-bed cabins; Gwalagwala, a luxurious camping site [33 stands] and other camping sites some with power points, others not.

Half our party preferred a camp site at Gwalagwala, the other half stayed in one of the five-bed cabins. Neither option is particularly cheap. In fact you could almost say that both options are exceedingly expensive. Nevertheless, any trip to the Elephant Coast more than makes up for any niggles along the way.

We were allocated No. 13 which would not be my first choice by any means. The cabin enjoys no view worth mentioning. It's cold and badly positioned drawing very little warmth from the late afternoon sun. Its really quite morose, if you like. The patio trestle table was rusted past its useful life. The chairs need replacing. Inside the furniture is dated and the lighting dingy. The freezer door wouldn't seal and the kitchen taps dripped constantly. Although the linen was clean, strangely for the three nights we were in this particular cabin neither the linen nor the towels were changed once. The cabin is supposedly serviced, which wasn't always the case. Some two or three days later we asked to be moved to a more favourable cabin and to the reception staffs' credit we were immediately accommodated. Housekeeping's Nicolas was very accommodating. Cabin No. 9 was a vast improvement. The views over the ocean and lagoon are spectacular. Late afternoon bird parties love the large tree in front of the cabin. We're all keen birders!

Unfortunately the weather proved difficult so we spent less time on the patio than we would have liked, particularly in the evening. The  plastic table was in much better condition, obviously; the chairs too. Our braai (barbecue) facilities were pitifully tied together with wire. No grid was in evidence, anywhere. We fixed that rather quickly.. Even though both the Samango & the Vervet monkeys are a nuisance, raiding bins and kitchens too, there is little reason why plastic bags and other garbage should be scattered throughout the coastal forest in and around the cabin. We fixed that too.. Inside the cabin the furniture was much more suitable except for the bar-stools which had the bracing bars on the legs missing. Our children, who sat on the stools are young fortunately but we fixed those too.. Besides the braai facilities the two major gripes were the front door which wouldn't stay latched unless locked and the absence of hot water on more than one occasion. The cabin's hot water is gas heated and as ever the gas always runs out at 8pm just before the evening shower... Housekeeping attended to the gas the next morning but not the door. The five-sleeper has two bedrooms, the main suite with a king-size bed which unfortunately impedes the opening of the cupboard. The private door onto the patio is a good idea. The other bedroom, designed principally for children, obviously, has a single bed and a bunk-bed. The rooms are clean and functional. Amazingly none of the linen or the towels were changed for a week until we insisted otherwise. The kitchen is adequate and is comprehensively equipped. The microwave proved a mystery to us all and needs replacing! Nevertheless, the cabin is cosy and adequate.

The rest of the party preferred their own comforts and camped at Gwalagwala, the so-called luxury camping site. Even though the sites are more than adequate there are no obviously discernable differences between the Gwalagwala sites and the 'normal' sites except for price..?

Anybody who has ever been to Sodwana will usually note if not complain about the horde of people offering camp-cleaning services for the duration of your trip. Even so, the few people who were employed seemed pleasantly competent. I mention this because the KZN camping staff, officially employed, were woefully incompetent. The ablution blocks were generally grubby. The showers had no hot water for days. Our allocated site had no braai-facilities. The camp sites themselves were never raked nor cleaned. Perhaps KZN expects their guests to provide their own labour...

Monday, 18 July 2011

Sodwana Bay is NOT a shore fisherman's dream.

Fishermen take note! Sodwana Bay is OVER-RATED. It is, however, important to differentiate between shore-angling and offshore angling. 

My family and I, all keen fishermen, spent the last two weeks at Sodwana in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. From the outset the weather proved difficult. The water temp. of 20 degrees didn't help too much; neither did the easterly wind. Offshore fishing was satisfactory. Admittedly fishing in the winter has its challenges. Nevertheless we did land a 125kg Blacktip reef shark and some decent couta [King Mackerel]; all on live-bait. Bonita were plentiful and we missed a sailfish or two on the rapalas. Other boats landed a few Yellowfin Tuna and some decent Wahoo. Incidentally couta are, in my opinion, the finest eating fish in the world. Marlin are generally absent at this time of the year. Quite rightly then, Sodwana is considered a world-class offshore angling destination. Shore or surf-angling off its beaches is another story entirely!

In years gone by it wasn't a rarity to catch large kingfish in the bay from off the beach. Sight-casting to feeding  GTs with a popper or drop-shot, on light-tackle is fishing second to none! Fishing at night is usually the only way to fish the Zululand waters. Sliding for large inedibles ie: skates and sharks is still possible in the bay at night given the correct conditions and before the boats launch at dawn. One or two smaller kingfish are still taken. At any other time [ie: when the first sunrays hit the water until sunset] the fishing is dreadful. No amount of scratching with either bait or plastic in and around the bay or further south off the ledges yields even a single bite. Small kingfish and wave-runners are entirely absent. Bonefish are non-existent. We did land over the course of two weeks one or two undersized shad on small spoons north of the bay. 

Fishing improves 20kms further up the coast and down south near Cape Vidal. Anybody who tells you that fishing from the shore in and around Sodwana is anything more than rubbish probably hasn't been there for a while.