ZAMBIA: Nchila Wildlife Reserve Zambia
a friend and I are heading up to the remote North-Western corner of Zambia, between Angola and DRC to hunt at a place called Nchila Wildlife Reserve.
We excited as anything about this hunt, the outfitter and PH( Landowner ) have given us plenty info, websites are comprehensive, etc,. Just curious if anyone has hunted up there, or specifically at Nchila and has any additional info, news, tips, etc,.
Im going for Blue duiker, Puku, Oribi and possibly Lichtensteins Hartebeest.
Returned from a great hunt at Nchila Wildlife Reserve, Zambia
We just returned from an amazing hunting trip to Nchila Wildlife reserve in the far top corner of North Western Zambia, bordering the DRC and Angola. The reserve is run by the Fisher family, great people and wonderful hosts!
We; my girlfriend Julia and hunting buddy Deon and I took the hunt over from a friend, who couldn't make the trip due to work related reasons. Lucky for us, as it was one of the most memorable hunts we have ever been on. The sheer amount of game on the reserve, the unique set up and exceptionally remote location make this a unique place to visit. Flying in from Lusaka on a Cesna 182, over the Kafue river and the endless floodplains, even crossing over a small corner of the DRC make this an exciting experience in itself.
Nchila and its neighboring reserve Nkwaji are privately owned by the Fisher family, but combined with the numerous missions in the area, the schools, hospital and and other community related projects, it feels more like a Campfire project than an exlusive private safari camp. The surrounding communities are directly incorporated into the hunting industry at Nchila.
All the old foot paths linking various tribal communities are left open, so that access is not prohibited to anyone in the surrounding areas. Locals traveling form village to village across the reserve simply check in with a game guard at a gate and check out once they have left the reserve.
All staff on the reserve are from the surrounding Lunga villages and because a large percentage of the trophy fees go directly to the community, poaching has virtually been eradicated completely on the reserve. This is unfortunately is not the case in the adjoining areas, which are rather devoid of game. By implying non-aggressive anti-poaching methods, as the community "takes care" of that problem themselves, this concept based on trust and working with , as opposed to against the community, has worked very well for the Fisher's. Quite obvious, considering the loss the community would have if an animal is poached, as opposed to paid out for in full .
Right, now to the hunting . The first thing one notices on the reserve is the incredible number of Sable. They are HUGE and everywhere. Peter Fisher has the largest privately owned herd of Sable in the world ( close to 900 animals), he has bulls in excess of 50" and they are apparently the closest relatives to the Angolan Giant Sable, and this has been confirmed through DNA tests. He is meticulous about his Sable breeding and this is evident when driving through the reserve and seeing the sheer amount of huge bulls. For Sable, I think there are few places in the world that can match Nchila, and from my travels and hunting trips through SA, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, I have never seen anything like it. The +43" Sable on one of the attached pictures was "just an average" bull. Though competitively priced, considering the quality available, they were out of my budget range on this trip, so they were just a bonus to see while out hunting other game.
Another thing I noticed was the presence of Forest sitatunga. Though I have never hunted in Cameroon, Uganda or the CAR, I reserve judgement, but from the reading I have done and from my observations at Nchila, this too has to be right up there as one of the better places in the world to bag these elusive trophies. In five solid days of hunting I observed 2 big bulls and over 10 females. I was not dedicating any time to hunting Sitatunga, nor did I spend anytime in any of the numerous Machans scattered along the forest edges. I just bumped into them while hunting Blue duiker and Puku. The best part was, I saw most of my Sitatunga in the mid morning hours, simply browsing along the edges of swampy "dambos", bordering the thick forest edges.
My main focus species on this hunt where Puku (a must if in Zambia), Oribi ( of which there where plenty and these are very hard to obtain in SA) and Blue duiker, my #1 on the list.
I have hunted Blue duiker in SA wherever they occur, have had fleeting glimpses here and there and missed the odd opportunity with a bow. My Blue duiker count at Nchila; +20 sightings! which resulted in a selective shot at a large ram on the third day.
Still-hunting these elusive little guys in the thick brachystegia and miombo woodland with Mike Borman ( resident PH) and local Lunga trackers Kenneth and Rhodes was a highlight on this trip. We tried calling Blues on numerous occasions, but it seemed to be the wrong time of the year, as all we had coming in were female Angolan Bush duikers. This was another species I was at first hesitant to take, as I could not quite see the difference between the East Angolan and our local Southern Bush ( Grey) duiker in the Cape of South Africa. I'm glad Pete and Mike convinced me otherwise and I took the opportunity to shoot a very old ram while still hunting for Blue duiker on the second morning of the hunt. I believe for an East Angolan duiker his 5 6/8 " horns will score very high in Rowland Ward. On closer inspection they also look rather different to the Southern Bush Duiker, as they have a far redder colored coat, a more pronounced back blaze on the face and white rings around the eyes as well as a very white belly and leg stripes.
My Puku proved to be more challenging than I expected, given the large amount of Puku one sees out on the plains and dambos while hunting. I shot the ram with the broken horn tip with Pete's borrowed .243 in one of the dambos in the North of the reserve. We also found a dead baby Sitatunga while stalking, which had most likely been killed by a caracal ( see pics). Considering the light caliber of the borrowed .243 I did not want to risk a shot at anything over 100 meters, and given the flat terrain on the open dambos, an approach on a herd of +50 Puku, surrounded by Common Reedbuck and one very alert Tssesebe bull, proved to be a patience testing game. P.H Mike Borman applied a very interesting technique and mimicked the Pukus whistles, which at one point actually enticed the ram out of the group and moved him into a favorable shooting lane. Well done Mike!
My girlfriend Julia, who just started hunting, was able to take a big Warthog sow on our last day of hunting, while we were out looking for an Oribi . This too was an absolute highlight for me, as I was able to film the stalk as Paddy Fisher and Rhodes, the local tracker, guided her and ultimately ended with her taking a 120 yard shot, from a Bog Pod after a well executed stalk.
Another bonus at Nchila is the availability of firearms and equipment. Since traveling with Firearms can be a right pain these days, having Peter's selection available to us was a real pleasure. What a selection it was; ranging from various .22's, Anschuetz 222, M77 Ruger in .243, .270, 7 x 57 a .300 Win Mag, Steyr M. 9.3 x 62, 375's, .416 and a custom made Rigby 500! Apart from that we could use Peters HD Sony Pro. film camera to capture the entire hunt. Nchila is very well equipped and there was no shortage of the equipment one might be able to do without but, sometimes hopes for on a hunt.
My friend Deon bagged his first "Harnessed/Chobe Bushbuck" ( the debate still continues), a phenomenal Oribi ram, as well as a good Puku and Blue duiker. An American hunter from Ohio, also in camp at the time, killed a very old Buffalo bull with exceptionally thick bosses. Nchila and the neighboring Nkwaji reserve have Buffalo and Hippo on their Big/Dangerous game list.
We took 9 trophies in 5 days of hunting. Being selective and opting for as much walk and stalk as possible, I can say you can make the hunting at Nchila as hard as you would like it to be. It's perfect terrain for walk and stalk and the mix of woodland and forest, with interspersed patches of plains and dambos, are great of plotting stalks. For the older or physically challenged hunter, there are also ample opportunities to collect a desired trophy, again, due to the highly trained staff, good set up and ultimately large game population on the reserve. I noticed Nchila applies a rather strict hunting conduct of no shooting from any vehicle ( big thumbs up!) and no alcohol consumption during the day, unless one plans to stop hunting for that specific day.
Lastly, I have never experienced food like this on a hunt, ever! Virtually everything other than the wine or the Tabasco sauce comes from Nchila. The bacon comes from their own free range pigs, eggs from their chickens, milk and yoghourt from their cows, bread from the grain fields adjoining the reserve and the meat is a mix of local venison and livestock. Lynn Fisher and her staff are top notch cooks and after a long day of stalking through the black burnt grass or thick forests, a meal in the traditional mess, with views of Sable and Puku in the plains was something we all looked forward too.
We regret not having had more time to enjoy the comforts of the lodge, to see the source of the Zambezi ( on the farm!) or to get a closer look at their many community based projects, but we have already started planning our return, once the Sitatunga piggy bank is full :)