My Hunting Adventure in Mozambique
Here is the story of my hunting adventure in Mozambique with Nhenda Safaris in the Tete region of Mozambique.
First off the journey from Detroit Michigan to the camp is a tough, long journey, but as you will see the trip and is well worth the effort. It all started on a Thursday from Detroit and then to Atlanta for the Big flight to Joburg via Delta airlines. Upon arrival I was met by Henry of RiflePermits.com and as usual with Henry’s service all was in order and the baggage and rifle claim / permit process was simple. I then met up with the folks from the Afton house for a night at their place and a great Steak dinner and a comfortable night in a bed.
Next step was back to the airport and a flight to Maputo where I experienced a challenging entrance with my firearm and numerous document hassles. I made it thru, however it was with a ton of dialog about how my papers where not in order, missing stamps or approval seals and so on that lead to numerous folks having their hands in my pocket – my advice is to be patent, stay cool as I’m told this was normal – but a bit un-nerving compared to RSA. After a 6 hour layover at the Maputo airport it was on to the Tete airport where the rifle process was much easier, but what a zoo of events – frankly the arrival at the Tete airport, sights, sounds, and smell and baggage claim process was a shock to my senses, but I was inching closer to the camp!!! Bernhard met me at the gate and we crawled away and headed down town for a great BBQ chicken meal and a glass or two of wine.
From there it was across the Tete Bridge and down the road toward the Cahorra Bassa Lake area where I was to hunt hippo and croc. The stories along the way help passed the time, but again the sights of the people, villages, goats, cows, children etc in the streets at 1am in the morning were just unbelievable to say the least – I was truly in a different world and nothing like anything I’ve ever seen or experienced in my 7 previous hunting trips to RSA.
We finally arrived at a ranger camp at the edge of the lake around 4am in the morning and started to load our gear in a boat for the 1 hour trip to the opposite side of the lake and to the main camp. The wind had picked up considerable and the water was just too rough to make the trip in the dark. So we broke out a few make-shift beds and crashed until day light. We awoke to hippos blowing water and air about in the very bay that we camped near and what a wonderful sight it was. I quick breakfast of cowboy coffee, sardines, fresh fruit, as well as brief encounter with a Mozambique Cobra and we were off on a boat ride to the main camp where we were meet by Bernhard’s wife, his two lovely daughters and a proper breakfast of eggs, sausage, potatoes and fresh baked bread.
The camp staff unloaded our gear and along with Bernhard we were shown to our accommodations for the next 10 days and they we certainly very nice with comfortable beds, flush toilets and hot running water. After the big breakfast a proper nap was just the ticket and that’s exactly what came next!
After some shut eye we headed to recheck the accuracy of my rifle (375-Ruger) and all was fine despite the long journey. We then headed out via boat to several likely areas where croc’s would possibly be basking in the sun and while we did see a few, they were mostly younger reptiles in the 6-9 foot range. That afternoon we went fishing and I caught my very first tiger fish and wow what a thrill that was. We landed several fish that then landed in the cool box for dinner that night. Late the afternoon we headed to look for hippo’s and found several pod’s that played cat and mouse with us for a couple of hours until the sun was deep into setting and we called it a day and headed to the camp for cocktails and grilled tiger fish and baked potatoes. Man-oh-man was that a great meal!! The next morning we started checking a number of bays that several monster croc’s had been seen sunning themselves early in the week and did manage to put a stalk on a 13 footer that I would love to tell that I made a perfect brain shot on, but truth be told I shot high and the croc splashed into the bay without even a scratch – so the score is now Croc’s one, and me zero… After replaying the shot and the miss the PH and I agreed that just maybe I was a little excited and pulled the shot – truth be told again, I thought I was about to hyperventilate and pass-out from lack of oxygen!
Later that morning with my hunting tail tucked deep between my legs we made another pass at the rifle range to rebuild my confidence and as suspected the gun shot perfect and I did not. We then made our way to a beautiful bay that had about 20 hippos in it of which there was one “respectable” bull (not that I could tell the difference), on several occasions we had opportunities for a front brain shot, however my PH said “he’s nice, but we can do better” and we were very early in the hunt. That said, we went on searching for another pod, but with similar results with “younger” bulls.
That evening while in came a radio communication came in regarding an opportunity to hunt elephant that was just to good to be true and I found myself texting my wife at 3am in the morning to check on the condition of her “piggy” bank.
I asked her break it wide open so I can take this unique opportunity. Let me say this for all the would be elephant hunters out there, begging permission to drop a bunch of money to harvest the world’s largest land animal via text messaging is not the preferred method and will likely lead to statements from your wife such as; how much money, are you friggin kidding me? Or, don’t bother coming home after that or even you woke me up for what??
Well she either showed me pity or was secretly hoping the elephant would win and she could collect on my life insurance, but I prevailed and two days later we were off to hunt an elephant. We spent most of the first morning checking with local villages for sightings and later that day found a that a small heard had passed through an area in the early morning darkness. After some negotiating with the village elder we were assigned a tracker from the village to help pick up the trail and off we went with the head PH, a junior PH, a Mozambique game scout and three of the camp trackers. 2 hours into the walk we found a large pile of dung and a quick board meeting ensued to determine how old it was and if we were closing the gap on the small band of giants.
It was quite an interesting sight as everybody poked it with sticks and leaves, pushed it around, checked it for heat and even a finger or two went in deep at the highest point of the mound. After, much deliberation the junior PH asked what do you think. I simply said it looks like elephant poo to me, although I’m certainly not an expert. After a few giggles the general opinion was we were 3 to 4 hours behind and we needed to make a decision on turning back as night was approaching and starting again in the morning OR perhaps “sleep on the track” and get a fast jump on it at first light. Sleeping on the track sounded like one heck of a “Boy Scout” idea and with the promise to keep a small fire going to keep the lions away seemed like to much to pass up. So, sleep on the track we did. Dinner that night was made up of purchased fish, canned beans and can peaches for a night cap. Frankly, it was a great meal and a wonder night sleep in the wilds of Mozambique Africa! The next morning as soon as it was light enough to track we had a new plan; half the group would stay on the track and the other half would cut a trail to the river where they thought the elephants would go for water later in the morning.
We had two GPS units that made it possible to pick a location on the river bank by mid afternoon to met up if all failed. I stayed with the head PH and the village tracker and the Junior PH with the camp trackers headed to the river. I mere 4 hours and 5 miles later the junior PH and one of the trackers “ran us down” to alert us the elephant had been found and off we went at a brisk pace. I am truly amazed of the local people’s ability to go from point “A” to point “B” on instinct and their ability to track animals as we all know is legendary!!!
Two hours later, a gallon of water and a couple of miles we got our first hint that we where close as we could hear branches being pulled apart as the elephant fed along the river. I was amazed at first time as to how close we actually were as a watched trees shake and bend, but didn’t actually see the elephants. At that point it got pretty serious and it was time to check the guns, move painfully slow and at times we stayed motionless as the giants moved about their business. The wind was perfect for the final stalk, however we need to get passed two cows and slip up to the middle aged bull that was our target.
Allow me to back step a bit and say that as soon as the elephant hunt came into play I broke out my perfectly shot game diagrams and studied them thoroughly. That along with numerous discussion on shot placement one front and side brain shots, as well as heart lung shots with the head PH really help.
We slipped to within about 40 yards to the broad side brute and stopped to gain my composure. The PH whispered that we would move ahead another 10 yards and if the side brain was open I would take the shot. If the head shot was blocked then I would take the heart / lung shot. We duck walked ahead and made it another 12-15 yards and he whispered; “put one in his heart”. I raised my Ruger and placed the low power scope where the heart would be and fired. At the report of the first shot (I later learned that one of the cows passed us at 15 yards) I had no idea of it as I was in the zone.
The Elephant turned to his right and started away after a loud trumpet and I quickly put a second shot into the left hip and that broke bone and brought the retreat to a stop. The third shot went through the heart from the opposite side and the beast tumbled to the ground. The fourth shot was on the trot and place high on the spine and the final insurance shot was straight through the top of the scull. I circled around to the front of the fallen giant and said to my PH “I’m an elephant hunter”! At that point the emotions and sorrow where so great and I broke down in tears and wept for the animal that I had just taken its life – this strange feeling of accomplishment, triumph and sadness still carry’s on today – nearly a year later...
After a hundred pictures or so, I severed the tall of the elephant (as custom) and presented it to the village tracker along with the custom made Mike Morris knife and thanked him for his effort. At that point the village tracker headed out for some help with the butchering and I stayed with my elephant and we had several memorable conversations of the day’s events, although he was a better listener then I…Within 3 hours a numerous people started showing up, and when I say numerous I lost count several times but it had to be well over a hundred men, women and children with axes, knives and smoldering sticks to join in on the festive process. We even helped for awhile, but at dark we started our long walk back to the nearest road and then more miles to the hunting vehicle. We arrive back to a spike camp at 10pm that night a grilled fresh elephant steaks, drank wine and told storied well into the morning.
Later that morning and with a bit of a wine headache we fried some eggs and potatoes with the left over steaks and celebrated this time with hot coffee – god love strong coffee!! That afternoon we headed out to a local bay and found a monster bull hippo that presented and 50 yards quartering to me shot and I placed the Ruger 375 solid right under the eye and is exited its opposite ear. The massive bulls hind legs buckled and he just sank into the lagoon. 30 minutes later he floated up and the work began with towing the brute to shore. Equally, a huge number of villagers quickly went to work and the animal was butchered and shared accordingly. We had BBQ’d hippo steaks that night for dinner – and yes some more wine to celebrate with. The next few days were spent fishing for Tiger and Bream fish at our leisure while lightly doing some croc hunting.
On the final afternoon we came upon and beautiful 11 footer in a shallow bouldered bay and we slipped up to within 30 yards and I made a good shot, however the croc rolled of a boulder into the shallow water and we needed to wade out an retrieve the big lizard with a host of other croc’s lurking nearby. Needless to say we stood on guard, guns in hand for a few tense minutes. Again, a ton of pictures, this time with the setting sun and my Mozambique adventure was just about over. I cannot thank Bernhard enough for the experience, adventure, companionship and effort he and his family provided during my stay at Nhenda Safaris. I will never forget it and will always cherish my Mozambique excellent adventure!!!
Best Regards and Safe Adventuring,