The Eastern Cape is an odd landscape of high desert, alpine highlands and the soft hill country that falls away from the southern Drakensberg. Without the obvious open plains and thundering hooves appeal of the popular imagination, this region is no less intrinsically African than the Serengeti, or other iconic landscapes that speak so eloquently of Africa. It is Xhosa country in the main, although large areas of it were uninhabited before European settlement, and there is therefore a mature, settled and stable mood about the region that is quite unusual in the African context.
Highland Lodge is situated just outside the small Stormberg town of Dordtrecht. It’s principal raison d’etre is fly fishing, with a reputation for throwing up some of the the biggest trout caught in South African waters. The Stormberg region dos not register much international tourist activity, but is a mecca to local tourists exploring the outstanding potential for fly fishing and other country sport activities – horse riding and bird shooting among them.
Highland Lodge is well situated to handle this and a certain amount of commuter trade resulting from it being equidistant between Durban and Cape Town. It is an excellent example of the sort of farm bases lodges that proliferate throughout South Africa. My visit was in pursuit of trout, and in that regard Highland Lodge scores very highly. In terms of situation, style and decor, it is simple but comfortable self catering, with no pretensions to the overtly luxurious, and at time ostentatious decor and service that often characterize similar establishments. This is definitely to my personal taste, and of course the personalized feeling generated by the attentions of lodge owner Vicky Bell add to the general sense of welcome.
Highland lodge is located on a working farm, and the backdrop of just about everything are the cattle and sheep that are the mainstay of the area. I give Highland Lodge an Eco Travel four star, not so much because of the location and facilities, but because of the atmosphere and general ambiance that is wonderfully understated, and perfectly configured to exploit the extraordinary fly fishing that is a signature of the farm.