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Nottingham estates fishing retreat.

There is an eloquent poem written about Zimbabwe's southernmost town of Beitbridge. Its hot, arid landscape dotted with semi-desert thorn scrub, countless goats and almost as many Datsun 120Y's inspires little other than lethargy. The poem goes ...

"S*#T, It's hot!"

Short and to the point, it does indeed capture what most of us know of the area. Even the Limpopo River dividing Zimbabwe and South Africa, seems to wither for most of the year. As I drove along the Bulawayo/Beitbridge road, I realised that other than my many border crossings over the years, and my lofty view of the river from the bridge, I knew little of it, or the surrounding area. Following an invite to visit the Nottingham Estates Fishing Resort, I will admit to being a little dubious about the fishing I might find. Located on the banks of the Limpopo less than 40km drive from the border, Nottingham Estates however encompasses some spectacular landscapes, wildlife, two separate camps and indeed fishing. As we completed the nearly 30km of very good gravel road from the main Bulawayo/Beitbridge highway (13km from the border), we crested a small hill and the panorama of Nottingham's dam opened up before us. Quite breathtaking.

Built 10 years ago, the seven chalets nestle along a small kopje overlooking the dam, each with its own view out over the water. The entire camp will sleep up to 25 people, and each lodge has bathroom en-suite, tea making facilities for those early mornings, air conditioning (see poem above), and full 220v mains power throughout the day while a back-up generator provides power on the odd occasions of power cuts. Available to group bookings on a self cater basis, or fully catered if that is your preference, the retreat has a complement of nine staff including chefs (also capable of preparing special dietary menus), general hands and boat guide and one need only take food and drink.

The main kitchen, dining room/lounge and bar area (NOTE, visitors must bring all their own drinks, as the resort does not stock or supply any) is located on top of the kopje central to all chalets. Brimming with facilities, it boasts upright display bar fridges, ample freezer space, ice makers, DStv, unlimited satellite wi-fi internet, and a fully equipped kitchen. The entire camp is supplied by filtered (through a reverse osmosis filtration plant) drinking water too. A lawned area with adjacent pool deck completes the facility, and in itself provides enough distraction for those not wanting to spend full days out on the water.

The dam is simply spectacular! Built in 1993 to supplement water supplied to the citrus estates from the Limpopo, it pushes back some 7km and is jam packed with structure. Flooded trees, rock islands, bullrushes, water weeds, chicamba weed and a typically jagged and rocky shore line which will keep the avid angler busy for days. Indeed, in our four days there, we only managed to fully explore a small part of the dam, often simply using the bass motor right from the jetty, and working into the many bays close-by. Taking a leisurely sundowner cruise on the last evening of our stay to the upper reaches, I felt a bit cheated we had not explored further. Interestingly, after many years of being low (due to the limited rainfall of the area), it benefited from the massive floods of 2012 which saw the Limpopo flood to almost reach the famed bridge at the border. This boosted the dam such, that after the flood, they were picking fish out of the tops of trees! The bass are in incredible condition--fat and round--and I suspect the dam is undergoing a renewal growth spurt, similar to that when such water bodies are first created. It is all very exciting, and I am sure is going to be a hot venue for the foreseeable future.

Even though it was the dead of winter (June), it was shorts and T-shirt weather for most of the time. The fishing was a bit slow, but way better than I expected, with even a ten pound bass caught during our visit. Bass fishing is the main attraction, and the dam record stands at 7,2kg caught about five years back by a local Beitbridge angler. The dam has a good population of nillies too, which though they take static baits, seem to prefer small spinners and even plugs. This would be great fun when they are properly on the bite. The other bream species are present too, and one could expect to catch Three Spot, mozzies and redbreast. Interestingly, they have also caught African Mottled eels (on baits used for barbel), a species known to migrate from the sea up rivers. Being linked to the Limpopo, the dam obviously still attracts the specie and would make an interesting catch on any trip.

The resort has a good gravel launch ramp, and a secure, covered floating jetty to moor guests boats. They also operate two aluminium pontoon boats with small outboards for hire at very reasonable rates ($50/day or $25/half day incl. fuel) and a fully equipped, decked bass fishing boat with 115hp, either with, or without driver. These boats are also available for sundowner cruises at a very reasonable $30 per boat per hour. For those not wanting to fish, guests are welcome to self-drive the estate or for $20 per vehicle, will be chauffeured in a game-drive equipped Land Cruiser. There is much to see on the estate from ancient rock paintings and dwellings, spectacular rock formations--an ancient volcano eruption site--and even dinosaur fossils close-by. Walking and cycling routes are also available for those energetic guests, and Nottingham host an annual "Tour-de-Tuli" event attracting some 500 cyclists. If your interest extends to the operations of the citrus estate, a tour of their factories and facilities can be arranged. The game is not prolific but one will see all the usual plains game and even elephant.

And the elephants ... they are something special. For six months of the year--May to October--orange fruit pulp from the citrus juicing factory, is dumped at a very special location where the elephants come to feed--see my editorial in this issue. Guests are treated to a game drive to the venue, sundowners while overlooking the magnificent bush and amphitheater, and an alfresco dinner atop the kopje while the elephants come and go. If nothing else, this is a draw card and a spectacle not to be missed.

But wait. There is more. Just 10km away from the main fishing resort and dam, Nottingham have another camp, set beneath sprawling shade trees right on the banks of the Limpopo. Nearly washed away during the 2012 floods--and was almost completely submerged, Kuduland Lodge has been re-built and re-furbished to offer guests something different. Built some 30 years ago as a simple hunting camp, it is more rustic than the fishing resort, while its tranquil riverine setting has something special, and while group bookings can be made on a self-eater basis, fully catered, the lodge can accommodate up to 18 people in six quaint lodges overlooking the river. Aside from the lodges, Kuduland has designated campsites with quality ablutions, and one can even camp along the river away from the madding crowd.

Although the Limpopo does not flow strongly throughout the year, keen anglers will catch fish in the many pools which dot the riverbed, and all guests have free access to the main dam for day visits. Boats can be left at the dam, and the drive is easy on the good roads of the estate. Kuduland is set up to really suit family groups, and as it has access to all the activities offered at the main resort, one gets the best of both worlds. My next visit will be to stay there.

A couple of years back, the fishing resort was taken over, and is now managed by Nella and Anne-Marie, while Kuduland is managed by Nella's sister Elaina. All have been in the tourism industry most of their lives, and the lodges reflect their attention to detail in every respect. Noticeable for me, was the distinct woman's touch evident in the little things that make both facilities so comfortable. Our group was quite big, as was that staying at Kuduland, and never once did they seem to break a sweat looking after us all. It was indeed a great long-weekend retreat.

Kuduland offers a separate picnic area complete with pool (when the hippos are not frolicking in it) for day visitors wishing to get away for the day. Both facilities will accept individual, short-term bookings on an all inclusive basis for those travelling to and from South Africa and wanting a convenient stop over that beats any roadside hotel. For those in either the south of Zimbabwe or the northern areas of South Africa, Nottingham Fishing Resort is a easy four hour drive, and has been frequented as much by South Africans as Zimbabweans. For those wanting to fly in, Nottingham has their own 1000 registered air strip (coordinates s22 06.796--e29 37.664).

For bookings, directions or more information, visit their website at www.nottingliamadventures.co.za or e-mail them at bookings@nottinghamestate.co.za.
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Title Annotation:Special Feature
Author:Williams, Ant
Publication:African Fisherman
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 1, 2014
Words:1544
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