Consider that barring Gabon, the Nile perch, or one of its cousins, is found in most river and lake systems in tropical Africa north of the equator (and those parts of the Congo and Nile basins south of the equator).
It’s a range of about 8 million square kilometres within 25 African countries. The Nile perch evolved as a riverine species and can grow to over 200 pounds; it’s one of the world’s freshwater giants. Classic Nile perch habitat is the rivers of what are called the Sahelo-Sudanian Savannah Zone, these are water courses that run high and murky during the rainy season and then almost stop flowing between deep, clear pools during the dry season.
The geographical and seasonal conditions make perch extremely vulnerable to overfishing by an exploding human population that are some of the poorest people in the world, a population that in order to survive has reduced most of the Sahelo-Sudanian savannahs to altered landscapes where more than 95% of the biomass of indigenous wildlife and fishes have been removed. Beyond that, the vegetation and soils have been transformed and the integrity of interconnected and interdependent eco-systems significantly compromised.
Conservationists currently label much of the savannah habitat of which Nile perch are a part of, as so severely impacted as to be termed endangered to critical. The level of habitat degradation and depletion across an unimaginable large swathe of Africa is hard to comprehend without witnessing it firsthand.
Based on our work in Africa, we are of the opinion that it’s unlikely that there are more than five, relatively intact river basins in Sahelo-Sudanian Africa. By intact we mean areas where all of the ecosystem services are fully functioning. For example all the big and little things that keep a system healthy like having a significant hippo population to ensure a constant flow of nutrients from the land to the water, and where soil organism (e.g. earthworms) bioturbation ensures maximum rainfall retention and groundwater recharge to maintain dry-season flows, etc., in short, where all of the integral, living, organic, and physical elements are present and interacting.
The point is healthy environments are isolated and dwindling before our eyes, and a journey to this location in Cameroon is the opportunity to see a piece of Africa that is an extremely rare representation of how vast areas of the continent used to be, it’s literally time travel.
In a fishing context, it’s only in healthy habitat that one is going to have good fishing, and when one can have that, casting flies with one’s feet on the ground, Africa sights and sounds flooding one’s senses in one moment and being painfully schooled in a Nile perch’s brutal hit-and-run in the next, then it’s a one of a kind fishing experience. Most importantly, your presence will be making a direct contribution to the protection and management of this extremely high-priority conservation area.