SOUTH AFRICA: KMG Safari Family Hunt 2013
My appologies in advance as I am going to post this report in segments. There is quite a bit going on around here that needs my attention, so please bear with me.
Late last year I posted that I was looking for a hunt for myself and two of my daughters. My request was along the lines of we were looking for Kudu and Black Wildebeest but must also be able to see some lighthouses and penguins as that was a request for the daughters. Shortly thereafter I received PM's from many outfits, some of which clearly had not even read what our desires where. They just simply wanted to throw their name in the hat.
One of the PM's I received was from Marius at KMG Hunting Safaris. Marius had clearly read the post and had come up with some ideas for us. We exchanged a few e-mails and then arranged for a phone call. In the meantime I continued to receive PM's, many of which were quite intriguing. My wife then stated she wished she was going, so before I had even booked one hunt, we actually started talking about another! After a phone call with Marius and several more e-mails, I decided to book this particular trip with him. This would be my first trip to Africa and had many questions. Since I had not been there before, I am certain my questions clearly showed how new I was!
Over the next few months, I reloaded a ton of ammo and waited patiently for our local squirrels to emerge from hibernation. Locally we have the belding ground squirrel which looks like a small prairie dog and lives in colonies. The farmers hate them as they are pests and getting access to shoot them is not a problem. Each girl shot over 200 rounds of .223 and some 17 HMR as well. In fact they got more trigger time than I did! Finally I was satisfied they were as ready as they could get.
As soon as the girls got out of school, we tossed our bags in the car and raced for the Sacramento Airport over four hours away. We made it in time to check in then catch the red-eye for New York. A short time later we were then on the 14 1/2 hour flight to Johannesburg. From there, a short layover and then on to Port Elizabeth. We collected our baggage at Port Elizabeth then headed out, I had not even cleared the door when I heard my name called and out popped Marius! A brief greeting and then out to the parking lot where we met Lloyd the tracker/skinner and Flecks the tracking dog.
Marius then whisked us away to the Penguin Sanctuary where we got a personal tour of the facility, learned about the local penguin, and then saw the birds they were in the process of rehabilitating. My youngest daughter was thrilled... but exhausted from the flight. I think she was mostly in shock that she was there and getting to see the birds. The tour was short as the place was about to close and our next tour-guide was waiting for us. We then shot down the beach a few miles and then received an absolutely magnificent personal tour of the lighthouse. My oldest daughter was now thrilled to be touring all the way to the top! Julius did a great job and I could not have asked for a better tour. We snapped photos, concluded the tour and then blasted off towards Grahamstown.
As we drove about an hour and a half to the lodge, Marius and I chatted and got to know each other. I think one, if not both the girls, fell asleep. Along the way we saw giraffes, black wildebeest, springbok, hartebeest and more. It was pretty wild to be looking at photos on the internet for months, mounts on other hunters walls, and now to be seeing these critters live and running wild! I also spent alot of my time just taking in the sights, looking at the new vegetation, and just looking at this new world! It really was a lot to take in! At the lodge we met Hendrick, had a quick dinner and went to bed.
I woke about 4:30 the next morning and could not get back to sleep. I spent my time unpacking and exercising until the sun came up. Once a little light hit the sky, I walked down to the lodge. I had not even got to the door when I noticed animals in the dirt roadway hundreds of yards below. I then went back to my room and picked up my binoculars and raced back outside. I then started picking up Kudu, Nyala, and what I thought was a bushbuck. I then walked into the lodge, found some juice then went out onto the balcony to do some more glassing. I continued to watch the animals come and go, again trying to identify animals that I had only seen mounts and photos of. My Bachelors in Wildlife Science that I earned in the states didnt prepare me for all these critters!
Marius came down shortly thereafter and we started looking at all the critters. He confirmed or corrected my identification of some of these critters. He then saw the bushbuck and told me that several have tried to take that particular bushbuck and that he was particularly nice. Would I be the one? We then found another younger bushbuck just under his room! This day had not been set aside for hunting as we had some tours to go on... but I was starting to get antsy to get going!
Later the girls woke up and we all at our breakfast, toast, yogurt and fruit. After breakfast we headed off towards Addo National Park. We took many back roads and got to see the country side. I noted the similaries and the many differences from our home state of Oregon. At one turn around a corner, we suprised a big group of baboons and got some up and close views of them. Clearly we werent in Oregon anymore! One of our late requests was to take an elephant back ride tour. We found the concessionaire and waited our turn. Finally we loaded up on the elephants , the girls on one, Marius and I on another. Poor guy got the back end and had to sit on the elephants spine! Must admit I felt a little sorry for him. The ride was short and then we hung around to watch the elephants drink, bathe, and then feed in the bush. Later the girls fed the elephants while I snapped some photos.
We then headed off to tour Addo where we saw warthogs, hartebeest, zebra, mongoose, various birds, a jackal, and some elephants. While looking for kudu we encountered a problem, the clutch was going out on the bucky (pickup truck). It appeared to be getting worse and we cut our tour a little short. As it turns out, this may be a blessing in disguise. As we were on our way back to the lodge, and well away from the national park, Marius and Elia both yelled out almost in unison, LIONS! Marius brought the bucky to a stop and we all bailed out to look and photograph the male and female lions. I was running the video camera when the lioness made a little roar and bluff charge. Both girls squeeled a little bit and then there was another little vocalization from the lioness and then they faded back into the brush. The encounter was about 2 to 3 minutes long but the memory will last us all a lifetime! We then went back to the lodge for dinner, desert and off to bed.
I must end this for now and go take care of some family business. Marius, if you happen to catch this, could you post a photo of the lions?