Colchester, a fishing community on the banks of the Sundays River

Lying on the banks of the Sundays River, just 20 minutes’ drive from the coast of Port Elizabeth, lies Colchester in a part of the country that remains largely unspoilt, surrounded by sand dunes that date back about 100 000 years.

According to SA tourism’s website, Colchester is a little town named after the oldest town in the United Kingdom. Apparently it rose to challenge Port Elizabeth as a port about a century ago.

Surrounded by natural habitat, largely undeveloped, Colchester has dunes that are estimated to be between 6 000 and 10 000 years old and rest upon even older, compacted dunes that could date back as many as 100 000 years.

The dunes are teeming with wildlife – bushbuck, grysbok, bush pig and smaller animals like mice, meercats and mongoose.

Along the Sunday River there is a wide variety of waders, heron, duck, colonies of Cape and masked weavers, and up to four different types of kingfisher.

The Colchester salt pans are home to the greater and lesser flamingo, African pied avocet, the blue crane and a number of other waders.

Colchester has about 200 Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) members who make their living from fishing in freshwater and sea water. They catch Tiger fish, mullets, springers, Steenbras and cob, amongst other things. They currently catch fish using subsistence permits which they get from the local Post Office.

The fisherfolk include men and women who use the Sunday River to catch their meal. The Colchester Community became members of the CLSA community in 2011.

”Here in Colchester we share the sea and river with both recreational and subsistence fishers,” said Naomi Pullen, a CLSA member from the community. “We are a very peaceful community with both black and white fishers and we fish all year round”.

According to Pullen, the town is a very beautiful place and fortunately their fishing activities are not dented by tourism activities.

“As much as there are people coming to visit the place, whether it be the Elephant park or river tours, we still go and fish as long as one has a permit.”

Pullen joined CLSA in 2011 when Masifundise embarked on a National Footprint programme.

The story of the Sundays River in the Eastern Cape is a tale of two rivers.

The first part is where the Sundays River (possibly named after an early settler couple called the Sontags) rises up in the majestic Sneeuberg range near Graaff-Reinet in the Karoo. It is fed by occasional – but dramatic – Karoo thunderstorms as it flows across a semi-desert landscape through mohair country towards the south-east.

The second part of the story is where it flows – bolstered by the waters of the Great Fish River – from the Darlington Dam towards the coastal village of Colchester, where it meets the Indian Ocean.

On this leg of its journey, the Sundays River nourishes a magical part of South Africa: Greater Addo and the dreamy Sundays River Valley. Here, the Khoisan called it ‘Nukakanna’ – ‘grassy water’.

Credits: Wikipidea, South African Tourism, South Africa. Net and Naomi Pullen (CLSA Member and Branch Chairperson in Colchester)

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