The Pongola Nature Reserve - in Zulu called uPhongolo Nature Reserve - lies at the northern and eastern banks of the Pongolapoort Dam. Still at the end of the 19th century, large herds of antelope, zebra, giraffe, rhino, buffalo and elephant were roaming the African savannah. And there were lions and other big cats in great numbers. In 1894 President Paul Kruger proclaimed the area a nature reserve. The Anglo-Boer War thoroughly upset the conservation plans. Instead, farmers took the land over. They killed most of the game in the erroneous belief to thereby eradicate the Tsetse fly, the carrier of the sleeping-sickness.
In 1970 a dam was built to dam up the Pongola river. The dam was to serve the irrigation of the region's sugarcane plantations. Approximately 17,000 hectares were flooded. A part of the original reserve was declared a nature conservation area in 1979.
Today, a great number of game is living in the park, which is predominantly acacia bushland, gently sloping towards the lake. Particularly noticeable is the big giraffe population. But one also comes across white rhino, wildebees, kudu, impala, nyala, burchell and mountain zebras, buffalo and elephant. In the quite shallow lake live many hippos and crocodiles.
The greatest attraction of this remote nature reserve are the Tigerfish in the lake, which entice each year many a passionate angler from all over South Africa to Pongola. The Tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) - also called "Striped Water Dog" - is a freshwater fish, which is indigenous in many rivers and lakes of central Africa and in the north of South Africa.The fish has strong jaws with very sharp teeth. It is an excellent fighter and takes a skillful angler to be caught. It is angled for preferably in September and October, almost exclusively from a boat because of the hippos and crocodiles lurking at the banks.
Further visitor information and accommodation in Pongola: INFO
Top left: Angler with Tigerfish Below: Giraffes in the Phongolo Nature Reserve Top right: Pongola Nature Reserve.