A tiger safari in Namibia - News - Gondwana Collection

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A tiger safari in Namibia

Avatar of inke inke - 22. December 2017 - Discover Namibia, Sport


David Wenzel


Many anglers aren’t aware that Namibia is really cool for fishing. The diversity of fish species is quite impressive. Perhaps you have heard about surf fishing for sharks, which is a common activity along the country’s beaches and Namibia is well-known for it. But there is so much more to fishing in this awesome country on the south-western coast of Africa. In May I was there on a journey of discovery and scrutinised fishing opportunities in various places. 

Most tourists are attracted by the exotic land mammals. For many visitors some of the main reasons to opt for Namibia are the wildlife safaris and the breath-taking landscapes. I, too, was lucky enough to join a game drive more than once and admire elephant, giraffe and hippo in their natural habitat. It is totally different from seeing them in your local zoo. And even when you come to Namibia for angling you will often share your surroundings with wild animals. Several times we got rather close to the hippos, crocodiles and elephants at the river. An unforgettable sight.  

Fishing, however, was right at the top of our list of priorities. 

The tigerfish was the target I wished for above all else. I set off on my memorable journey nurturing a dream of outwitting a smart tiger.

Techniques for catching tigerfish

The absolute number 1: The good old Effzett lure
If you were to ask someone obsessed with tigerfish what type of lure he would take to a lone island surrounded by tigerfish, I am one hundred percent sure that his answer would be: a copper Effzett double blade spoon. No doubt at all. And, yes, you are not mistaken – in Namibia the Effzett brand still carries weight. It has been tried and tested in catching tigerfish for many years, it is trusted and revered. Usually with a large single hook to avoid that your game fish throws the hook and escapes. The single hook has great holding and penetration power and despite the tiger’s acrobatics rarely loses its grip inside its bony mouth full of teeth. 

Topwater lures also work well when the tigerfish are actively hunting. Furthermore we were successful with shimmering, silvery lipless crankbaits with noisy rattles inside, and on another day the tigers went for paddle tails on a 15 gram lead head in the middle column. So don’t be shy to experiment a little if once in a while the ‘copper spoon’ fails you. Our top lures, for example, were the silver Rattle Trap by Bill Lewis (an ancient classic) and the River 2 Sea Whopper Plopper, both of them with single hooks.  

Another common strategy for catching tigerfish is drift bait fishing with live bait or filet. Every Namibian angler uses a bait band. At the sea and in fresh water. A Namibian angler would probably be lost without that rubber band. I guess they must be using kilometres of the stuff every year to secure the bait on the hook.  

That said, the live bait is simply drifted out from the boat with no lead or float. Extremely easy and extremely effective. Baitrunner reels are often used for this as well. 

Whether you opt for spin fishing or casting live bait, a solid steel leader will always be used. It gets directly attached to the braided line. Leave your fluorocarbon at home. Tigerfish often accompany each other during the fight and we had some strange cases of the line snapping. The story goes that it was the work of a fellow tigerfish. Presumably they try to snatch the prey from the tiger on the hook.

The large rivers in the far north-eastern reaches of Namibia, close to the borders with Botswana, Zambia and Angola, are known for large tigerfish. ‘Large’ are fish weighing in at 5 kg and more, often more than 7 kg, but around 9 kg is the biggest you will get. Only the goliath tigerfish found in the Congo River grows bigger than that. I have a feeling that every Namibian hooked on tigerfish is dreaming of battling it out with one of those monsters just once in his life. Everybody I met on my trip told me about the goliath.     

Catfish, in Namibia also known as barbel

Catching African catfish is really easy. If you want to, you can catch them all day long. Just leave fish filets and chicken liver at the bottom of the river for a few minutes without checking. The fun of a fight is guaranteed at just about any body of water in Namibia. Perfect for the whole family or first-time anglers. This is a gratifying way of angling that can be achieved with the simplest means. Most lodges even provide the necessary equipment free of charge. It is not unusual for catfish to weigh more than 15 kg. The average weight, however, is around three to four kilogram. 

Bass

Catching largemouth bass is also hugely popular in Namibia. In some dams smallmouth bass exceeding the magical 5 kg limit are caught. That is the stuff of ‘world-class angling’. Von Bach Dam and Oanob Dam are well-known bass waters found in the vicinity of the capital city of Windhoek, for example. Angling licences don’t cost much and are easy to obtain. Often enough the tour operator takes care of that.   

Bream and tilapia

Very popular locally for spin fishing because they are strong fighters and catching them can be complicated. Preferred species are humpback, three-spot and nembwe. They are best caught with small rubber fish on a lead head.

Angling competitions in Namibia

The craziest thing I heard about was that there are some really big angling competitions with up to 60 boats taking part. Competitors are collecting points with up to eight different species of fish, from very small to very large.  Apart from tigers and catfish they are going after mosquitofish, for example. In true micro-fishing style. With hooks so small that they have to be glued to the mono leader because your fingers won’t manage any knotting. Tiny portions of PowerBait are then glued to the hook with a hot needle to lure these miniature fish. I was told that they were introduced to get rid of mosquitos, the carrier of malaria. Utterly interesting, all of this. All the fish species caught in the competition earn points according to the rules of an elaborate system, and the main prize awarded at the end of the tournament is something like a boat plus trailer. 

Carp: There is some carp fishing, but not as widespread as in South Africa and probably not as effectively done as in Morocco for example.  

Sea fishing: It’s mostly surf angling in Namibia. The locals use long casting surf castings with a multiplier reel that has the handle on the right side and no leader. Often you don’t have to cast very far. Even sharks are close to shore. Copper sharks are often caught – to be released again, of course. The spotted gully shark is also found in shallow inshore waters. As for me, however, I find the ‘smaller’ coastal fish species more interesting. For more on that refer to ‘sea fishing’ below.          

The country and its people

Among the local population you will often run into somebody who speaks German. Funnily enough, many streets and also bakeries, restaurants, hotels and farms have German names. A braai is a typical barbeque. Namibians love their meat and know the most delicious ways of preparing it. As a visitor from Europe you will get excellent value for your Euros. I was amazed at the favourable prices. A fizzy drink from the bar fridge in my hotel room only cost the equivalent of one Euro. As for safety, it needs to be said that Namibia is a safe travel destination. Keep the basic rules in mind and you will never feel uneasy. On the contrary: Namibians are helpful and welcoming. On several occasions I was spontaneously invited to a braai evening, which I gladly accepted.    

Tackle

Strong spinning or casting rod (e.g. Pike), braided line, steel leaders (not too short), sturdy snaps and hooks.

Prices

Hire a boat with guide from the Gondwana Collection for a modest 10 Euro per person per hour. That is a really fair rate. You will be charged for any borrowed lures that you might lose. Many lodges provide angling equipment, but nevertheless I recommend that you bring a spinning rod if you can. If you go angling on your own you have to be extra cautious and especially take care to keep your distance from hippos and crocodiles. Otherwise you might really end up with the ‘bite of your life’. It could well be your last one.    

The Gondwana Collection runs lodges and camps at the best tigerfish locations in the country: Hakusembe River Lodge on the Okavango River, and Zambezi Mubala Lodge in the furthest north-eastern part of the country. The Zambezi River offers tigerfish angling par excellence. There you can land tigers weighing more than 7 kg or, with a little luck, even more than 9 kg. 

Sea fishing    

If you want to test your skills on kabeljou (cod), shark or the famous steenbras you will find fabulous spots for surf angling around Swakopmund. Or book a fishing trip by boat. My buddies and I stayed at The Delight in Swakopmund, a beautifully appointed hotel, well-priced and just a short walking distance from the ocean. 

Getting there

Air Namibia and South African Airways are both rated well. They offer plenty of legroom and the service is excellent. Condor, by the way, flies directly from Frankfurt to Windhoek. From there you can jet to the north straightaway on a smaller plane and someone from your anglers’ camp will meet you at the airstrip. The costs for the domestic flight are modest and you don’t spend money for a rental car and long hours on the road. On the other hand it is quite exciting to drive and go lodge-hopping and see people and the natural world along the way. A detour through Etosha National Park, for example, is just awesomely crazy – seeing wild animals is guaranteed!

I warmly recommend this country to everyone. For the perfect combination of family and safari trip. Good price-performance ratio. Safe and clean, and fantastic weather. I was surprised how ‘chilly’ it was in May. Very pleasant climate in the Namibian winter, if you don’t cope with heat all that well. I would love to go for another visit, because tigerfishing has definitely cast its spell on me.

Kind regards and Good Fishing to all of you out there!

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