Kozi Bay Fish Traps

One thing I can say iSimangoliso has got consistently right is the friendly staff at all of their reserves. On arrival there are a couple of guys offering assistance, firewood etc. at the main gate but not pushy at all. I commit myself to a guided hike to second lake as Alex (my guide) insists he knows the bush well. The next day we set out, a bit late, as the wind had been howling with plenty cloud cover, which would have ruined most of the photographs I would be taking. So when the sun does finally come out at 10ish we head out on a path into the bush heading north from the camp. Alex is in no time identifying trees and birds as we head through stunning fern forests that are mixed with some lala palms, which he says they make alcohol from the oil and explains how they tap it. He has a bird book with him in case there are birds we discover that he cannot identify. The ferns here are stunning climbing high up on tree stumps achieving great heights giving you a real jungle feel especially when accompanied by the birds chirping in the canopies. They are hard to see, but they are most definitely there.

Finally after walking for about an hour we reach the 3rd lake and walk along the banks encountering fish traps and someone’s maintenance branches, clothes etc. and finally encounter the owner walking in his jockey underpants towards us to collect some more branches. He greats us as we also wade trough the chilly water to get to the bank on the opposite side, to avoid a marshy area. Remember to take shoes that can handle hiking and water. The water is crystal clear with small fish darting around in front of you. I take some photographs of white breasted cormorants and the fish traps, which they are using to rest and dry their wings on when our maintenance man passes us on his way to expand his traps. I nearly stand on a small stunning frog who is quite happy for me to photograph, next to the salt waters edge. Not sure you find frogs in salt water but maybe this is why he never escaped into the water? Further on we come across what must be the fisherman’s younger brother who has stoked a fire and has some fish to cook being a Bream and Tilapia. Having no protein at the camp and was very tempted to purchase the fish from him but we had a long way to walk so rather left the thought thinking… they probably need it more than I do!

I am disappointed by how few birds we are encountering and finally come across a African Stonechat who is very skittish not allowing me too close, but curious. We head north towards 2nd lake along a narrow path with plenty prints of various animals including cattle! There are of course hippo in the region and when you walk through the forest walking down to the lakes will see their activity and paths they create when browsing at night. There are not many Hippo apparently for some reason and we do not see any on our hike, which is probably just as well as the area is very open and exposed with no trees to climb up!

We finally come across 2nd lake and walk along the banks of this vast expanse of salt water. Someone has a fishing boat anchored on the banks further east but we continue north west and finally come across a deep river, which we have to cross using a small pont. It has just enough space for the two of us, made out of palm stems and plastic bottles. Alex pulls us across to what I though was going to be dry land but turned out to be marshy mud we had to traverse, testing each foot in case you disappeared into what felt like quicksand. I on numerous occasions sank my 90kg’s down to knee depth and had difficulty pulling my leg out, especially with a heavy Canon 7D camera and 400mm lens hanging around my neck, making it difficult to hold onto anything while trying to yank your foot out without losing your shoe!

Finally we manage to reach the end of the muddy marsh and again head back into fresh clear water, which is quite a relief, enabling you to wash the mud out of your shoes! Again there are a lot of fresh water fish darting around and not many birds. When we do however leave the waters edge, now 2hrs into the hike, we do encounter birds as we get close to the forest edge once more. We head up a jeep track past an area where locals have been collect reeds for their hut roofs encountering quite a lot of birds along the way. We have not seen any antelope at all and I presume they have been snared and are now extinct in the region after the locals were given access to this region. Many people moved to this region when they built the tar road to the Farazela Mozambique border post putting pressure on local resources. Alex explains the fish poaching using gill nets and that they are all aware they can go to jail if they use them. His english is impeccable and hats off to the local schools as he was born in the region and went to school here in Manguzi.

As we head deeper into the forest we again encounter stunning jungle areas with ferns, palms and large trees, marshy but this time we do not have to get our feet wet as we hope from root to another. The road now is very sandy and soft under the feet making it difficult to walk up the hill as we head back to the camp. Along the way Alex again explains the edible fruit in the region such as the Black monkey Orange ( he calls it the Monkey Apple) and the difference between the Green Monkey orange , which has smaller leaves but the tree otherwise looks very similar with it’s tapering branches. The are a lot of vines in the region sometimes covering entire tree canopies enhancing the jungle experience.

My watch reminds me 3 hrs are up, which is what I contracted Alex for. We are still not near the camp however an aerial protruding out of the forest shows it is not that far off! This is quite a serious hike and I am reasonably fit so I recommend anyone doing it that is not, to give yourself more time and do not attempt it if you have any problems with your back or legs! Also take a hat and sunscreen, especially in summer.

Back in the camp site it is clean with the usual stunning hot showers that iSimangoliso have really managed to also perfect in each camp. A very strong wind however puts an end to any photography, birds etc and then the heavens open up forcing me to stay in my tent and I gain some valuable time to catch up with my various photographic chores and blog sites. Cannot wait for the sun to come out as the photographic opportunities are going to be stunning as the region was very dry needing this injection of fresh water! In between the downpours the birds are out but the light is so bad all I can manage is recording the happy chirping of the various birds in the forest below my camp site and down the Somango path nearby (campsite 10). I have used this on the background sound for the video of photographs I have taken in the region, which I will release in the future. The weather does not improve so I will have to return to complete my studies of this region in the near future.

Overall ARL( African Rhythm Lifestyle) rating : 26/40 ***

This is probably one of the not so appealing reserves I have been to for versus reasons mainly being the biodiversity limitations due to population pressure on resources and possibly lack of policing : Social 3 (not much you and your friends can do besides hiking and fishing); Family 4 ( safe swimming and great fun for the entire family) ; Financial 3 ( a little pricy for what the camp site and reserve has to offer) ; Spiritual 5 ( plenty of time to spend on your own playing music, meditating, healing with no distractions) ; Health 3 ( the only healthy activity you are able to do here is hiking so bring walking gear…no kiteboarding or sailing allowed) ; Intellectual 2 ( if you take an interest in nature the biodiversity of nature here is very low compared to the other reserves we have stayed in.); accommodation 3 ( campsite clean, ablutions great, has electricity -1); Eco Footprint 3 ( not easy to get to -1 fuel; electricity -1)

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