SOUTH AFRICA: BOWHUNT: A QUIVER FULL OF MEMORIES
I knew the moment I stepped onto the Kalahari sands that I would never be the same. The allure of an African adventure has dominated my being since I was a child. I watched the Howard Hill videos and imagined myself stalking a the great wildebeest in the wilds of the dark continent. You see, archery has been a way of life, and now here I was 8700 miles from home, standing in Africa. The feeling was almost to big to contain. As I looked across the sandveld, I felt a tear form, for I was living that dream. Here we were, African virgins on our first trek into the promised land.
Our adventure started at the airport, as we cleared customs our Professional hunter (PH) greeting us with a hearty handshake and smile. My close friend Mike Servais and I had landed in Windhoek Namibia after long, although uneventful flight. Our PH introduced himself as JP as he was to be our guide and escort for our 8 day hunt at Kanana Safaris which is nicely hidden deep in the Ghanzi district of Botswana. We jumped in JP's truck and headed toward camp not really knowing what to expect. What a reassuring service to have someone greet us, then provide transport to the wilderness camp. Without this service one can expect some anxiety, not knowing where to go, or how to get there. Soon we were whisking along, intently asking questions as we were debriefed on what to expect. This three hour drive seemed to blow by, and before we knew it we were bouncing along the back roads to Motswiri lodge. The lodge takes its name "Motswiri" from the seTswana word for the rare and protected Leadwood trees that dot the landscape. Kanana is vast. This is a private farm that exceeds 100,000 acres of wildlife paradise. As we pulled up we were greeted with cold juice drinks and cool damp cloths to refresh our traveled bones. A transcendent state had set in. Introductions were followed by a tour of the facilities. This is a rustic yet comfortable tent camp tucked into the wilds. Make no mistake. This was the most ample wilderness camp I have ever encountered. The lodge was the central meeting place and each morning was headquarters for "made to order" breakfast. I looked around and enjoyed the African decor as I wondered what I could have done in my life to have deserved all of this? Next we were shown our tent that was to be called home for the next 8 days. Now the word "tent" doesn't even begin to describe our quarters. These luxury tents are built up on raised floors complete with natural stone tiles. I have never seen a tent with a full service bathroom, complete with on-demand water heater for showers. The power was mainly captured by solar which reflects the environmental responsibility that emulates Kanana philosophy. The lodge is built around abundant underground aquifer that feeds calcite pans. These pans are an essential water source for the animals. You can sit in the lodge or on the deck of your tent porch and enjoy the view as wildlife comes for a drink. Evening meals are served in an open air boma complete with a blazing bonfire. This open concept lends a setting that allows you to see the night sky, which was afire with a twinkling blanket of stars. This is not your ordinary dinning. Nighty we enjoyed three course dinners that started with various soups such as butternut sweet potato followed by stuffed brinjals, Kudu schnitzels, herbed pumpkin, roasted potatoes, baby morrows and stir fried cabbage. Then there was the desserts. Talk about over-the top. How about chocolate lava pudding, carrot cake with cream cheese topping and honey cake. We shared a camp with a delightful family from Australia. They had hunted Africa for the past 25 years yet told me that they had never hunted a place that could top Kanana Safaris. That says a lot about the this unique place. After an arousing dinner it was time to turn in. The thick comforters felt good as the night air cooled. I was serenaded by a local pack of jackals and other African night sounds not familiar to my ears. The morning sunrise was pure magic as I anticipated the days events. If you go during the African winter expect very cool morning temperatures. Images oneself conjures up of Africa is hot, humid formidable weather. Not so while I was there in August. Pack some warm fleece shirts, stocking hat and gloves. A nice aspect of the cooler weather is the lack of bugs. I saw a total of one half dozen insects the entire time I was there. Malaria is a non-factor. After a hearty breakfast we climbed aboard the Toyota Land Cruiser and headed into the bush. We were headed to one of the 14 bowhunting-only blinds set up specifically for archers. Well designed, well placed blinds at waterholes allows archers to get close for shots that average 20-30 yards. The blinds feature shooting slots with camouflage material to hide our movement from these high strung sharp eyed critters. We were so excited the first day we spooked numerous animals. Our PH was patient as he let us get this enthusiasm out of our systems. JP patiently explained the downfall of our folly and shrewdly contained us so we could get into a hunt mode. You'd think this was our first time hunting or something. Our PH excelled in photography capturing pictures and video we will be able to reflect on for years to come. He was a very apt guide as he continuously checked the wind and if he saw a change, we were on the move to reposition. From the blinds we averaged seeing about 100+ animals each day, with up to eight different species. Although Kanana allows gun hunting as well, this is an intoxicating bowhunters paradise. Over the next eight days I was able to bag 8 animals which included Gemsbok, Eland, Kudu, Impala, Wildebeest and warthogs. All of the animals I took were special although the Eland was the highlight of my hunt. Midday we were sitting a waterhole blind when I noticed the sound of heavy hoof-steps approaching. A peek out the shooting window showed a herd of about 10 mature Eland bulls making their way in to have a drink. The best bull was immediately recognized as JP whispered "shoot that one if you get a chance." Now it's pretty intense when you have 10 huge bulls only 30 yards away splashing and milling about. Sweaty palms, deep breathing, rapid heartbeat dominated the moments before the shot presented itself. Waiting for a clear shot, time moved in slow motion. It was easy to track my bull as he was the oldest, sporting gray neck, shoulders and dewlap. Suddenly he cleared the others and before you know it, instinct must have taken over as i had placed and arrow though the top of his heart. This was a special animal for me. I shook like I haven't in years as the adrenaline rush surged though me. There were other bulls in this group that had larger horns, but none that enticed me so as this old boy. I will be able to relive the moment as often as I would like because JP captured the entire sequence on video. Hunting was surreal, but one must take time enjoy and immerse in the entire experience. Closing my eyes I could hear the steady rhythmic windmill turn as the dust devils danced and spun their way across the ground. We were able to see many different animals and birds including the heaviest bird that can fly - the Kori Bustard. Giraffe were abundant, an aardvark searched for ants, an ostrich peered at us with there long flexible necks. If you took time to look you will notice the yellow weaver bird nest are randomly hanging on the west sides of the trees, cluing oneself of direction should you get turned around. Then there are the local bushman trackers Martin and Xhase. Let's just say that they could give blood hounds a clinic on how-to-track. They slip though the thorn choked bush that wants to tear at your very being like it's a walk in a city park. I watch as they unravel clues to the animals passing as they briskly walked along. I thought I was a good tracker after 35 years of experience. To say I was inept is an understatement. This was special as I was able to pick up many tips by watching these spoor detectives worked their magic. This tracking became one of the highlights of our jaunt.
Kanana is not your ordinary hunting property. They are committed toward sustainable utilization, conservation and management of the wildlife on the ground they call home. There is an embedded ethic in Kanana's people and process. Our PH truly cared about the future of this well managed camp. Land manager - Roly took time to educate us about how they are cultivating and carrying out a plan that removes certain tree's to entice growth of animal friendly trees such as acacia mellifera and camel thorn which produces seed pods that the animals crave. Even the more palatable natural grasses are coaxed and studied. Recently a full property aircraft census was conducted to formulate a plan for managing the abundant wildlife species. They are real stewards of the land and game, ensuring a thriving long-term huntable population.
The yearning to return has indelibly been burned into my soul.
You only cry twice in the Kalahari - once when you arrive and once when you leave. I shall return, no question.
For more information you can contact me via e-mail: email@example.com
A special thanks to Tom Addleman (Hunting for Adventure) If you are looking to book a trip, look no further.
Another service that could not have been more efficient was provided by Lori Ginn (Montana Guide to Events, Dining, Hotels, and Area Information) Thanks Lori
To contact Kanana Safaris direct go to (Info.com - Search the Web) Tell them Mike sent you.
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