My Hunt with Mashambanzou Safaris in 2012
My Hunt with Mashambanzou Safaris from Aug 20 to 30, 2012
Ok. Been working on this report off and on since I returned. A few members have set the bar pretty high so I tried to make it enjoyable as well as informative. Hopefully it will answer questions as well as feed the passion that all AH readers share.
August 20 30, 2012
Persons Going: Myself (Hunter), My wife, Sandy (Observer/Hunter), my sister-in-law, Barbie (Observer and first timer to Africa!)
Outfitter: Mashambanzou Safaris
Owner: Grant Taylor
PH: George Van Der Westhuizen
Primary Species: Hippo, Nile Crocodile and Roosevelt Sable
Secondary Species: Red Duiker, Oribi, Suni and Bushpig
Ruger Model 77, .338 Win. Mag w/2x7 Leopold Scope, Hand loads with 210gr. Barnes X
Browning Gold Medallion, 7 mm Remington Mag w/3x9 Weatherby Scope, Hand loads with 160gr. Nosler Accubonds
Travel Agent: Frosch Travel (Riana Jamison)
Airline: Emirates-Houston, TX to Dubai UAE, Dubai, UAE to Johannesburg, RSA SAA-Johannesburg, RSA to Beira, Mozambique.
Layover in Johannesburg: African Sky Guest House
Taxidermist: Bullseye Taxidermy, Vaalwater, RSA
The Planning Begins:
This will be mine and Sandy's third trip to Africa. The first being in 2004 for plains game in the Eastern Cape and the second being a combination of Zimbabwe for DG/PG and the Kwa Zulu Natal for Nyala and other PG. We really enjoyed both trips but after experiencing Charisa in Zim, with all of the Big 5 present, I wanted to stay the course and experience a wild Mozambique!
I had been reading all I could about the current situation in Mozambique and was aware that it is basically, still rebounding, game wise, from the devastating civil war that ended twenty years ago. A lot of dedicated people are working very hard to bring Mozambique back to the glory days of the past. It's a long slow process but without hunters that will take a chance, it will be even harder. I chose to take this chance. Being budget minded, I pretty much had to rule out the traditional proven areas, being mainly the hunting blocks around the Niassa, due to the higher daily rates and the need for an expensive charter flight. I really wanted to do a Hippo/Croc combo So I concentrated my efforts around the Zambezi river and Lake Cohora Bassa. I noticed an advertisement in the Safari Times for Mashambanzou Safaris. This advertisement, had just what I was looking for in a Hippo/Croc combo hunt! I began emailing Grant Taylor with question after question. All questions were answered in prompt responses. All references contacted were honest and laid out the good with the not so good. (I would have been leery with reports of everything being perfect) All and all, I was satisfied that Grant & Mashambanzou Safaris would give me the safari that I was hoping for.
While browsing Grants website I noticed that he was taking some very nice Roosevelt Sable in his areas. After additional emails, I added three additional days to the seven day Hippo/Croc package to try and take a Sable. These would be the primary animals with some of the small antelope indigenous to Mozambique as animals of opportunity. The plan was for me to try for the Hippo, Croc and Sable and my wife to take the small antelope (Suni, Red Duiker and Orbi). If we came across a Kudu or Livingston Eland, while tracking Sable, Sandy would also try and take them. Let the fun begin!
As most know that have put together a trip like this, the planning is daunting, to say the least. At the same time, I find it to be as enjoyable as the hunt itself. The first step was to finalize things with Grant. The hunt was booked with a deposit and the dates were left open until I could finalize the travel. I had met Riana Jamison with Frosch Travel at our Houston Safari Club convention a few years ago and we got along well. I contacted Riana and got her on the trail with a time frame of mid- August for the trip. I also requested that she look into Emirates Airlines as I had heard good things from a few people that had flown them on business. The cost was virtually the same as SAA or United so we decided to try them out. The flight route was Houston direct to Dubai, a ten hour layover, an eight hour flight direct to Johannesburg with an overnight stay, then finally, a one and a half hour flight from Johannesburg to Beira, Mozambique. It required some pre-paper work with Emirates for my firearms, but this went smoothly. I have stayed at the Afton House on a previous trip and everything was fine. This time I wanted to try out the African Sky Guest House because I had heard so many good things about them. Once the flights were booked, I contacted Leoni at the African Sky Guest house and pre-arranged our rooms, the meet and greet and the SAPS permit. Next on my list was to re-up with Global Rescue. This was also a painless process so I purchased coverage for our two week stay. I have never had to use their service but the peace of mind they provide is worth every penny! Next was trip cancellation insurance. Booking a trip like this one eight months in advance warrants this coverage. I took out enough to cover all deposits, non-refundable airline tickets, etc. Travel Guard was the company I used and they were a pleasure to deal with. Again, I feel that this is money well spent. The 典O DO list grows smaller!
Over the course of the next six months a myriad of things to do were taking place. Emails to Grant with confirmations, Copies of Passports pages exchanging hands via email, invitation letter received, Last Will and Testaments updated (you never know!), contact information distributed to kids, CITES information verified (Thanks John Jackson!), school supplies purchased, HD camcorder purchased to replace our old VHS version (great investment!), the studying of shot placements (thanks Jerome & AH), the two mile walks four times a week and the most fun of all?orking up the perfect loads and getting the rifles ready!
The situation was: I would be hunting the Hippo, Croc and Sable. Sandy would be hunting Kudu, Eland and the pigmy antelope as 殿nimals of opportunity? In other words, while we were hunting Sable, if we ran into one of them worth pursuing, Sandy would take over as the 滴unter? Sandy shoots a Browning 7mag that is an absolute 鍍ack driver with 160gr Nosler Accubonds loaded to 2900fps. This would suffice for the two big antelope, but extreme overkill on the pigmies. (We wanted to have them 斗ife-size mounted? It was decided to let her use Grant's .375 w/solids for the small critters to keep from taking additional guns. My weapon of choice was my old friend 鄭T&T (nicknamed by my sons twenty years ago for AT&T's motto of 迭each out and touch someone LOL) AT&T is a Ruger Model 77 in .338 Winchester Magnum with an 2x7 Leupold. Bullet of choice was the 210 grain Barnes-X bullet. I typically shoot the Nosler Accubond in this rifle with fantastic results but I felt the need to go to a stronger constructed bullet like the Barnes. I use them in my .416 and they have been proven to be very accurate and perform as advertised. I have extreme confidence in this rifle as it has been my 堵o to gun for 30 years. In talking with Grant, it would be more than adequate for the brain shots on the Hippo & Croc. I toyed with the idea of taking my .416 Rigby and the .338 Win. Mag, but Sandy is pretty uncomfortable shooting either one of those. Let the loading and practice begin!
After 4 months of practice, (bench, shooting sticks and Harris Bipod), I was ready. Both rifles set dead on at 100yds and shooting ｽ groups from a rest - check. Ballistic charts with drop calculated at 50yd intervals made and laminated to carry - check. Rifles cleaned and fowling shots taken check. The To Do list grows even shorter!
I must take the time now to explain a few things. Typically my wife accompanies me on almost all of my hunts as most of the time, she is also hunting. I really enjoy her being there with me and I with her, to experience all the sights, sound and smells that go along with the hunt. (unfortunately, this also limits the embellishments that I could normally add to the story when telling it for the twentieth time due to having a witness!) Sandy is also very fond of Africa and not high maintenance when it comes to accommodations. I bring this up for a couple of reasons. First, being Mozambique, which is still 途ebuilding the hunting infrastructure, I expected adequate, not fancy accommodations and I wanted to prepare her for this. Secondly, we were taking Sandy's sister, Barbie, a 吐irst timer to Africa and a non-hunter. I wanted this to be a memorable experience for her and one she enjoyed. Barbie made the decision to go with us on this trip because she had just been thru a battle with Lymphoma cancer and WON! She had gone thru 6 months of chemo and was cancer free! (Praise God) She had listened to our stories of previous trips and wanted to experience Africa for herself. (No pressure on me?OL) Point to all of this is, I am lucky to have a wife that enjoys my passion, I'm lucky to have a sister-in-law that is not afraid to take a chance and trust me and I'm lucky to have a wife that knew going in this, that she would give up some of our time together to make sure Barbie had the experience of her life.
August 17th arrived before we knew it. Checked bags were weighed before we got to the airport to avoid problems (Pelican double rifle case 40lbs, three checked bags all 46lbs to 48 lbs) All of Emirates personnel were very courteous and helpful. The UAE firearms permit was waiting at the counter and everything went smoothly. All luggage and guns were checked thru to Johannesburg so we didn't have to get them in Dubai. Emirates also provided us two hotel rooms in Dubai due to the 10 hr. layover. The girls wanted to do a little sight-seeing in Dubai during our layover, so I contacted a friend that works for my company in Dubai for recommendations. He offered to pick us up at our hotel and go to Mike's (our Eastern Hemisphere Manager) apartment for drinks and dinner. From there we could sit on Mike's balcony and see the world's largest building, the world's largest mall and the fountains that were modeled after the ones in Las Vegas. Sounded good and the girls were happy!
Long, uneventful flight, long process thru customs and passport control, shuttle to the hotel. After a quick shower Ken finally found our hotel and we were off to Mike's apartment. After a very enjoyable evening of drinks and appetizers, back to the hotel we went. Our flight to Johannesburg was leaving at 4:40am so we just stayed awake and headed to the airport.
One more long flight (8 hours) and we were finally back in Africa! (Ironically, our flight from Dubai to Johannesburg took us directly over Beira, Mozambique!) After passport control we gathered our luggage with no problems (all bags were there) and met Ray with the African Sky Guest House. From there we went straight to the SAPS office with pre-issued permit in hand. Lo and behold, we were the only one there and my gun case was waiting! Five minutes later we were headed to the van. I want to take time to also note that we did not have one porter come and try to help us with our luggage! Those that have been to O.R. Tambo before know that this is a GOOD thing. This was the easiest trip thru this airport that I have had in numerous other times. It was a short ride to the African Sky Guest House and Ray was a pleasure to talk to on the way. The lodge was fantastic. Safe, clean, beautiful and quite. The staff was friendly, courteous and enthusiastic. Once we settled in and cleaned up, we had Ray take us to a large casino between the African Sky and the airport. The girls had a blast and even left with more money than they started with! Ray was waiting for us at the appointed time and back to the lodge we went. By now I ready to get to hunting!
We had an 11:30am flight to Beira on SAA Skylink so we were at the airport by 9:30am. Again Ray assisted us all the way thru to the checkpoint. I want to note that I had read some of the threads about new rules carrying ammo, so I had each caliber of reloads in MTM lockable plastic cases. I then put these into a lockable pistol case, just in case SAA made me check my ammo separate. Nothing was said at the counter so the pistol case w/the ammo stayed in my large checked bag. I'm not saying that this is the way it will happen to you, only my experience this time. We're off to Beira!
After a short 1 ｽ hour flight we made our way down thru all of the smoke covering southeastern Africa (from all of the grass burning) and landed in Beira. The first order of business was to get our visa prior to customs. As we were waiting our turn, Elaina with Mashambanzou walked up and introduced herself. She then went into the visa office and sped things up for us. Once we left there and went thru customs Alaina had already gathered our luggage (It all arrived!) and was at the police office to pick-up my rifles. Here we go?.some things never change! Mozambique requires you to get your firearms permit three months ahead of you safari thru the capital of Mozambique, Maputo. All paperwork was sent by Mashambanzou in the allotted time and the permit was issued. The problem was that on one of my rifles the permit paper work referenced a serial number that was off by one letter. It referenced a ? and it actually was a 纏? The police were threating to confiscate my guns! This was my fourth trip to Africa, so even though I didn't understand the language, I understood the intent. I let Elaina do all of the talking and I acted as nonchalant as possible. 釘een there, done this before. They were reading my body language and stalling, hoping I would get frustrated and reach into my pocket and make a 田ontribution to get my guns. After 1 ｽ hours they finally gave up and allow me to take my case and continue. Later Grant told me that it happens almost all of the time. If anyone ever caves in and pay them once, it will set the tone for all hunters in the future. I had done the correct thing by laughing, cutting up and otherwise acting as if nothing was wrong.
Grant's office is within walking distance of the airport. When we got here we met Tony, which would be our driver to Sena Camp. Tony was a New Zealander that had come to Africa to, as he put it, 斗ive the dream? He was to manage the camp staff wherever we were and to take care of Sandy & Barbie If they did not go out hunting with me. We were also hauling supplies for Grant's 溺ain Camp or 溺uanza Camp and were to meet up with the camp manager on the way. I must say now, that one of the attractive things about Grant's operation is that his camps do not require a charter flight. This is substantial savings considering that most outfitters in Moz. require this $3,000 expense. We left Beira about 3:00pm and after traversing several hundred kilometers of dirt roads, we arrived at Sena Camp at 9:30pm. To be fair, we were offered a chance to overnight at Muanza Camp then travel on in to Sena in the morning but I chose to go on in to Sena Camp. What a drive! After meeting George, my PH, the rest of the camp staff, getting gear stored away and a quick dinner it was time to try and get some sleep. The plan for the next day was that George and I would leave at daybreak after Hippo and Tony would take Sandy & Barbie out to do a little bit of tiger fishing! Accommodations were good, the bed comfortable but sleep came slowly because of anticipation of the day unfolding. Another glorious day of hunting in Africa!
The slight nock on the door at 4:30am was anticipated and welcomed! Hot water, tea and instant coffee delivered to the bedside! It doesn't get any better than that! The day started slowly so I could get all of my gear sorted and ready. By 6:30am we were ready to hit the river that was a short walk from camp. Mashambanzou had two different boats. One was a fiberglass center console of about 18ft with a 60hp Yamaha. The other was a 16 aluminum boat with a 40hp Yamaha. We loaded the smaller boat to allow the girls to have the larger one for their fishing trip. George, Domingo and I pushed off and headed up river. First order of the day was to check a sandbar on the southwest corner of an island in the river, about a mile from camp. It was the home to a man-eating croc that was terrorizing a village directly across from the island. George and a few hunters had been after this croc for a while but so far, he had eluded them. As we approached the island on the north side the engine began to cough and sputter. After a few times of it dying and restarting it, we swung wide around the island to check the sandbar. We were too early. It hadn't warmed up enough for the croc to come out onto the bar. The engine continued to get worse, so we headed back to camp to get the other boat and allow the staff to work on this one. This pretty much ruined the fishing plan for the girls, but they were ok with it and wanted to spend the day relaxing anyway.
The first day was spent easing up on pods of hippo and trying to determine if they had a large enough bull in the group. Finding pods was not a problem as there was a LOT of hippo! I have to explain that in this stretch of the Zambezi, the width of the river varied from a mile wide to several miles wide, Islands were scattered everywhere and varied in size from a few acres to tens of acres. Sandbars and shallow areas were frequent and hidden, and the current was very strong. Ideally, we wanted to find a pod close to a shallow sandbar so we could exit the boat and stalk them from the sandbar. This alone was pretty exciting as most of these shallow sandbars were 6 to 18 deep and crocs were everywhere! Over the course of the first day I learned a lot about hippo. First and foremost, prior to coming, all of my friends said 滴ippo hunting is easy! Find them, pick out the bull and shoot straight! Nothing to it? Well, the hippo I saw had never heard of that plan. Once we got within a hundred yards of any pod, they never gave us another look of more than a second or two. That was if they came back up anywhere near us. Sometimes they would submerge and resurface 400 yds. away. This first day we probably played out this scenario on ten to twelve pods with no luck. Later that afternoon we decided to head farther upriver than George had ever gone before. It paid off as we came upon a pod of hippo with one bull and eight cows and the bull was a monster. As we eased up on them as he yawned and his tusked were huge. His body also dwarfed those of the cows. We played 田at & mouse with them until late in the day. It was apparent they were wise to our antics so we headed back downriver vowing to return the next day for round two.
After a good night's sleep I awoke to the welcome 渡ock, nock on the door at 4:30. After a few cups of coffee I was ready to head back up river to see if we could locate 鍍he big boy once more. The previous day Jack, one of the camps staff, had worked on the aluminum skiff's engine and assured us it was running good so we loaded up in this boat for the days hunt. It took a while to get the engine warmed up but once we did, away we went, full throttle! The morning air was cold as we headed upriver. We made our usual drive-by at 杜an-eater island to check the sandbar. He was there, but as soon as he heard the boat, off the sandbar he went. Croc's are not stupid. We decided we壇 check again on the way back so we continued on. On the way to try and find the bull from the previous evening, we noticed a large pod of hippo and one head looked extremely large and we felt they warranted a quick look. We idled up to within 60 yards of them then slipped the anchor out as they all submerged. Everyone was silent as we scanned the water to see where they would surface again. All of a sudden the boat tilted and swung around 90 degrees! We all grabbed the sides and held on, then the boat settled and all got quite. After making sure we didn't have to clean our pants, we realized that one of the hippos had caught the anchor rope as it swam to get away from us! Luckily it didn't get tangled in it or we would have probably been capsized. Nervous laughter took over as we decided to leave this group alone and continue upriver.
As we hit approx. the 20K mark, we were passing by an island when four locals came running to the edge of the island, waving and shouting. As we eased up to them, they started telling Timett (our tracker for the day) of a huge hippo bull that had been terrorizing them and their maize crop at night. They said that the bull along with a cow and calf, were in the river right off the opposite end of the island and were asking that the 努hite man please get rid of this problem for them! Taking what they said 努ith a grain of salt? we decided to check out the bull ourselves. We stayed in the boat and swung wide around the island. If the bull was a big one, we would come up with a plan once we saw exactly where they were. If not, we would continue upriver after the bull from the previous evening.
The bull, cow and calf were resting in about 3-4 feet of water about 100 yards off the upriver end of the island. The top 1/3 of the bull and cow was out of the water and exposed. It didn't take long to determine that this was a bull to take. He had a large body, large 斗umps and multiple scars that were visible. We circled back wide to the downriver end of the island and got off the boat and onto the island. The locals had burned and cleared the upriver end of the island and it now had 7 tall maize growing. We were able to crawl thru the maize stalks right up to the edge of the island. Once we were situated, the hippo were right at 90 yards from us. The problem was that the bull was now facing straight away from us while the cow was perfectly broadside! After waiting for the bull to change positions and turn, it became apparent, he was perfectly comfortable just where he was. George crawled back out and went around to the side of the island and started throwing dirt clods into the water to try and get the bull to turn and investigate the sound. After thirty minute of this, nothing happened other than getting the cow extremely nervous. When George crawled back, he told me that he had told Timett to start the boat and to ease around the north side of the island toward our position He told Timett to stop the boat before he got in the line of site of the hippo. Hopefully, this might get the bull to turn in that direction to give me a side brain shot. As the sound of the boat motor slowly got louder, the bull's head slowly came up. My .338 was resting on my Harris bipod in the prone position. Rock steady, all he needs to do is turn 90 degrees. Instead, he, the cow and the calf took off heading upriver to get away from the intruder! Crap. Almost two hrs of laying in ambush for nothing. This was a perfect set-up. Good rest, 90yd 100yd shot, resting hippo. As we watched them slowly move away at a steady pace, I told George he should have Timett take the boat and swing wide around them and cutoff their escape route. We knew that they were comfortable with this area, so maybe they would come back and we could get the shot we wanted? Why not? Let's try it. As Timett eased the boat into their escape path, they stopped. Timett dropped anchor about 500 yards in front of them. It was enough to stop them, but not close enough to get them too nervous. Pretty soon they turned and started making their way back in our direction. (I just love it when a plan comes together!) After about an hour, they were back in the original spot, only this time, the bull was almost broadside. George verified that the one in the correct position was indeed our bull. He just needed to turn his head a couple of inches to get the right angle for the shot. George set my video camera up on the ground so it was videoing the shot and we could verify a correct hit. When I nodded that I was ready, he threw a large dirt clod into the river between us and the hippo. It was just enough noise to get the bull to slightly turn toward the sound. As George whispered 妬n the ear the .338 Win Mag. bellowed. The bullet 都macking hide and bone was unmistakable. After the recoil I saw the bull's head sink and I knew the shot was good. After the whooping, hollering, backslapping and handshaking we checked the video and verified that the shot was directly in the ear, which at that angle, took the bullet into the brain cavity. The waiting game begins!
George said that, depending on how much was in his stomach, he should float in about 1 ｽ - 2 hours. During this time more and more locals in their morkoros began showing up. With such a long wait, I started to worry about, what if the current takes him? If it does, how far downriver will he go? What if my shot WASN乃 that good? What if he isn't dead? About that time (at the hour and forty five minute mark) George yells for Timett to get in the boat! He sees him and he's ours! Hallelujah, what a relief!
Let me tell you?.getting a 5,000lb hippo onto a sandbar in the middle of the Zambezi river is not an easy thing to do with just 杜an-power? Luckily, ten or so locals had gathered to share in the meat. Even then it was all we could do to roll him over and over until we had him up in about 6 of water on the sandbar. This is the same sandbar that I had videoed five crocodiles sunning near while we were waiting on the hippo to give us the shot! After numerous pictures it was time to start the cleaning process. It was now 2:00pm. At 5:00pm we had approx. 1500 2000lbs of meat, head and hide in the boat. By then, the local count had grown to 15. It was a good thing because it took everyone to get the loaded down boat pushed off the sandbar and into deeper water. Now, here we are, four grown men (700lbs), 1500-2000lbs meat and 200lbs of gear (ice chest, guns, tool box, back packs, etc.) in a 16 aluminum boat. I leaned over and looked at the tag riveted to the inside of the boat and it stated 溺aximum Weight Capacity: 780lbs? There was about four inches of the boat sticking out of the water! That's ok, we only had 24 kilometers to go? at night? in the crocodile/hippo infested Zambezi river?.. Away we go!!!!!
Remember that they had worked on the engine? Well?it wasn't entirely fixed. With the boat being so loaded after about 15-20 minutes, it would begin to load up and start flooding out. The plug would begin to foul then 徒aput? No engine. Pull plug, clean, leave cowling off to get better airflow, start engine after 20 or so pulls, here we go! 3-4 miles per hour max. We pretty much did this all the way back. Some of the conversation on the way back centered on the possibility of staying on one of the islands if the engine 田onked out for good. Fine with me. I just knew I wasn't sleeping in a boat full of hippo meat! At one point in the trip, we hit an eddy in the current that forced the nose of the boat down, almost to the point of going under water! That scared the crap out of us. After that episode I asked George about the lack of life jackets. He, very quickly, explained to me that if the boat capsized, to head for the closest land, but do it 砥nder water? He said under no circumstances, swim on top of the water? I think you can figure out why!! Four hours after we started our journey, we see a spotlight in the river. We know we are getting close to camp so we assume it has to be someone looking for us. As we got closer we realized two things: 1) Yes it was the search party sent to rescue us and 2) They were stuck on a sandbar so we had to go and rescue them!! A short time later we pulled up to the bank at camp. Needless to say, Sandy was a basket case? She just knew that a hippo or croc had gotten us! Once the stories were told along with the pictures and video, and a few sundowners were had to keep the stories flowing smoothly and nerves calmed down, everything was all ok and back to normal. Day two ended with a big bull hippo in the salt!
Since the girls had not been able to spend any time on the river I told George that we should spend the morning taking them with the big boat on a sightseeing trip. We could scout for a big croc while we were at it. That sounded pretty good to all so after breakfast we loaded up and headed out. We had a fantastic morning and Sandy and Barbie really enjoyed it. We were able to get them up to four to five pods of hippo so they could experience them 砥p close and personal? At one of the pods, the bull submerged and resurfaced so close to the boat that when he came up and 澱lew? the water actually got them wet. (scared the hell out of them also!) The crocs started coming out about 9:30am but during the course of the morning we didn't see any that 菟eaked our interest. They all looked to be in the 8 to 12 range.
After a good lunch back at camp we decided to take a short nap and head out about 3:00pm. This time we would take the 16 aluminum boat as the engine had been worked on one more time and they said it was running fine. When we left camp at 3:00, we decided to go and check on the man-eater upriver from camp. As we swung wide around the west end of the island, we idled slowly so we could check his sandbar. Sure enough he was there. We turned the boat and idled back out of view then circled back around to the north side of the island. The sandbar that the croc was on was on the southwest corner of the island so we beached the boat on the northeast corner. George and I removed our shoes, loaded rifles and started our stalk circling around the north side. A lot of this part of the island had been burned off, so the stalk went pretty easy. When we got within 100 yards on the southwest corner of the island, it was time to belly crawl. As we approached the edge of the island, the sandbar where we last saw him was about 50 yards off the island. We slowly crawled to an opening in the burned bamboo and peaked over the edge. No croc! Somehow he smelled us, sensed us, something. He was long gone. We decided that we would come back in the morning and build a blind for this bad boy (option 鄭?. To get him we were going to have be in a blind and wait him out. The rest of the afternoon was spent cruising the river and checking out numerous crocs. Until late that afternoon all we saw were 8 to 12 crocs. We were passing one island and from several hundred yards I noticed a croc on a small sandbar close to the island. When I looked thru my binoculars it was apparent that this was a huge croc. I got George's attention and when he saw him he agreed. We turned and headed for the opposite end of the island that he was close to. It looked like if we could make it to the edge of the island closest to him, I would have a 100 yard shot. Once we beached the boat we eased around the edge of the island to check his location before beginning our stalk. When we peered thru the reeds he was still there and about 300 yards away from our location. Just as we were about to circle around, he slid off the bar and into the river! Crap! Looks like all we could do was to put option 釘 in place. We made our way to a place directly opposite his sand bar? After clearing out an area and making a make-shift blind, we cleared the path out and marked the trail. If we had no luck the remainder of the afternoon, we come back after this big boy tomorrow.
Heading back to camp we would go past a town called Matarara that was right on the banks of the Zambezi. From daylight until dark, there were five to six places along the river that consistently had 20 to 30 people that were washing clothes, swimming or bathing. A discussion developed with George about how many people were taken by crocs. I told them that the number given in the states was one person a day is killed by crocodiles in the length of the Zambezi River. After a chuckle, he informed me that in a stretch of river 50K upstream and 50K downstream of Matarara, there was at least one person a day killed by crocs! The one man-eater that we had been hunting was taking two to three people a month from a small village a mile from camp! I was having trouble understanding how the locals could continue to spend so much time at the river bank knowing how dangerous it was to do so. George explained in a way that I understood. He asked 滴ow many people die in car accidents in Houston, Texas daily? I thought a minute and answered 撤robably one or two a day? He then asked 泥o you still get in your car and drive to work every day? Wow! Never thought about that way.
Since today was to be 田roc only day it made no sense to get out early. The crocs wouldn't be moving until it warmed up at around 9:30am or later. No matter to me, I was up at 4:30am looking for hot water and coffee. By 5:30am some of the 澱oys were up and about so I didn't have to go without morning coffee for too long. Around 7:00am George was up and about along with Sandy and Barbie. After a piece of toast and an egg it was time to head out. I felt good about today and I told George a big croc was heading to the salt today! We would have two blinds built at the location of two different big crocs and I felt 斗ucky? So much so that I told George that I wanted to make a quick run back to the range to check the zero on the .338 Win Mag 登ne more time? Two shots, ｼ off center of the bull at 75 yards. I was ready, no doubts existed. To the river we went, loaded up in the aluminum skiff and off we went. First order of business was to check on the man-eater close to camp. Jack had cut a bunch of reeds for the blind so if the croc wasn't on the bar, we would build the blind and hunt it that afternoon. It was a cool morning so he wasn't on the bar yet. We beached the boat and thirty minutes later we had the blind completed. Option 鄭 was in place. Now to head down river and check out our option 釘? It was a 15K ride to where we had seen the other big croc the previous evening. By the time we got there it had warmed up and we were seeing quite a few smaller crocs out on the sand bars. When we got within a ｼ mile of where we had seen the croc, we stopped the boat to glass the sandbar. No croc. We talked about maybe getting in our blind we built the previous evening but decided to head down river and see what we could find. We could always come back if we didn't find anything interesting. After going another seven or eight kilometers downstream we came around a bend in the river and spotted a couple of crocs sunning on a sandbar off an island about 500yds away. One of them looked huge! A quick look with binoculars confirmed that he was definitely a 都hooter? They were on a sandbar on the upstream end of the island. From that distance it looked like they were within 100yds of the island. We swung the boat around as far from the island as possible and came around the downstream side. Hopefully, we didn't spook him. After beaching the boat we followed a couple of hippo trails and eased up to the southwest corner of the island. We could see the smaller of the two crocs on the south end of the bar directly opposite us. He was probably in the 11 to 12 range. Not what we were looking for. As we crawled around thru the reeds to the north, we spotted our croc, broadside to the island and about a hundred yards farther north. This croc was the one we wanted, thick body, big blocky head and we guessed him at 14 minimum. We were going to have to back out and find another way thru the bamboo and reeds to get directly opposite him. I stayed where we were and George and Jack circled around to find a path. The next 30 minutes or so seemed like hours. I just knew the big croc was going to sense something and slide off into the river. George and Jack returned and communicated that they had found a way to get to where we would have a 100 yard shot that was directly opposite of our croc! After a quick check to make sure he hadn't moved, George and I started the stalk. Luckily, this part of the island had been 澱urned previously so we were able to squeeze our way thru the tangle of bamboo without fighting the undergrowth. After about 20 minutes, we stopped and shed all unnecessary gear to make the last 30 yards of crawling a little easier. It had warmed up considerable in this tangle of bamboo and reeds. We were black from crawling thru the burned area and the sweat was running black down our faces. Adrenaline was 徒icking in as we eased toward the edge of the bank. I picked a small opening in the grass and eased up to it with the Harris bipod legs extended on my rifle. Move the rifle a few inches, then slide up. Move the rifle a few inches, then slide up. He was still there! I settled the rifle in and peered over at George. He had taken up a position several feet to my right. As he was getting ready, I thought about the 菟lan? I was to shoot for the croc's brain on the first shot. George would follow up immediately with a neck shot to break the spine. My next shot was to be for the spine and my last shot for the heart/lung area. George had my HD video camera set up and filming on a small mound of dirt next to him. As he settled in with his CZ .375, he nodded that he was ready. I settled the crosshairs on the Leopold 2 x 7 right below the horn? At this angle, the 210 gr Barnes X should penetrate into the brain cavity. At the shot, a large hole appeared directly below the horn and his tail began to thrash violently! George's follow up shot hit water right below the neck throwing a shower of water ten feet into the air. I jacked another round in and put the bullet into his neck, reloaded and put a second bullet into his neck. (I got so excited I forgot about putting the third shot into his heart/lung area!)The croc's head and front part of his body never moved. Just his tail and it was slowly winding down. I heard George say 菟ut one more in the spine so I loaded another round and settled the crosshairs 6 behind his 都mile and squeezed. The beast hunched up and became still. I let out one hell of a yell, jumped up and shook hands with George! The boys were already headed to the beast in the boat whenever they heard the shots. Once they had a rope on him for insurance, Jack came over with the boat to get George and I.
As we got closer to him in the boat, he actually started looking bigger! It's hard to describe the feeling when I actually put my hands on this beast. He was awesome! Big old wide head, huge body, he was everything I had hoped for. There was a dry sandbar about thirty to forty yards from where he lay partially submerged in about 3?4 of water. We decided to get him moved over there for picture taking. Once we got his mouth tied shut (you never know!) it was all the four of us could do to get him out to a little deeper water, then drag/float him for those 30 yards. After a lot of grunting, groaning and sliding, we finally got him up on the dry sandbar. While we were getting everything ready for taking pictures, a couple of morkoros showed up with five locals. They were extremely happy that we took this monster! They told us that he had been in this area for years and they were sure that he had killed some of their neighbors in the past. After taking lots of pictures it was time to get him in the boat. Thank God we had the five locals to help us as it took everything nine of us could muster to slide this behemoth up and in the boat! I don't know what he weighed, but it was all we could do to get him in there with the man-power we had. Now began the long ride back to camp.
It was slow going due to the weight of the croc, four men, our gear and the fact that we had to go upstream against the current. Two or three beers out of the cool box helped to make the trip a little shorter. It was a hot ride as the wind was coming from the east and we were traveling west with it at the same speed. Essentially, this made it feel like no breeze at all. After a couple of hours George was able to get enough cell service to text the camp and have them bring the truck and meet us at a village downstream from camp. We could shorten the ride by an hour or so. The best part was Sandy & Barbie was coming with Tony and bringing ice, Crown Royal and coke with them! Let the celebration begin!
As we rounded the last bend in the river before the village, we could see the truck, Sandy, Barbie, Tony and the entire village waiting for us. I was standing up in the boat dancing to my interpretation of Elton Johns 鼎rocodile Rock as we pulled up to the bank. As I stepped out of the boat my wonderful wife handed me a Crown & coke and gave me a big ole kiss! Damn, I love this woman! After all of the congratulations and back slapping took place, the villagers helped us get the croc from the boat to the back of the pickup. Now the entire village wanted to see this croc up close. More pictures were taken, more laughing?ife was good! We had brought a five pound bag of candy with us so Barbie had Jack get all of the village kids together and form a single file line and he then got all of the village adults to do the same. Barbie got at the head of both lines and started passing out candy to the entire village population! The big blonde headed white woman was very popular buy the time we rolled out of the village!
Back at camp the plan was to have a little bit of a late lunch then take the girls out and spend the remainder of the day after tiger-fish. Good plan, but once the crocodile celebration started, that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the evening. I値l skip the details out of self- preservation but I will say that that the next morning there was one half gallon of Crown Royal bottle and one fifth of Patron Tequila bottle empty at the bar area.
Needless to say, the next morning everyone was moving a little slower than normal. That was ok because the plan was to get up around 7:00am, have a little breakfast, pack our stuff, make sure the hippo and croc hides were prepared and salted ok, then drive an hour and a half to Catapu. Catapu is a private concession of 30,000 hectares owned by James and Pat White. James and Pat own a furniture making company in Beira that ships products world- wide. They purchased Catapu in 1996 for the timber production. Since then, they have built a lumber mill and a very nice lodge with multiple chalets. In the main lodge is a super restaurant also. A lot of people overnight here on their way north or south traversing Mozambique. James is a conservationist at heart so he has invested a lot of time and energy building up the game populations that were ravaged by the civil war. James told me that when they purchased the property they did not see one animal on it in the first two years. He has added 4 bore holes and built an additional four large pans to hold seasonal water. He also employees his own Anti-poaching teams. While the game is not back up to pre-civil war levels, they are improving steadily. In our two days here we saw Suni (unbelievable numbers!), Red & common duiker, warthog, baboons, Impala, Chobe Bushbuck and Nyala (one bull that we estimated at 29 30?. I honestly believe there is no better place to hunt Suni in all of Africa. The numbers and quality are here for sure.
After arriving and getting everything unpacked we had a fantastic lunch at the main lodge then retired back to our chalet for a short 渡ap? (The previous night's celebration hadn't completely worn off yet?ol) About 3:00pm we loaded up with Tony driving, me in the cab with Tony and George, Sandy and Barbie riding in the high seat in the back. Sandy would be the hunter this evening. We had also decided that she would be using George's .375 H&H with solids for these small antelope. We were after Suni and Red Duiker. Once we got out of the 哲o Hunting Zone around the lodge, we started seeing game, especially in the denser areas. In these areas Suni were everywhere! So much so, that we decided to concentrate on the Red Duiker first, then try for the Suni later. After a couple of hours we had seen four or five Red Duiker but they were always on the move and we were unable to get Sandy set up for a shot. As the shadows started getting longer and darker we were about to call it a good afternoon and head back toward the lodge. As we eased thru a very dense area we spotted another Suni. It was very apparent that this one was special. For a Suni, his horns were huge! We weren't taking a chance on this one getting away in the thick underbrush so we decided to let Sandy take him from the top of the truck. He was only about 30 yards away, but the brush was very thick. Just a split second before the shot, he started to run. At the shot he went down but I could tell the shot was pretty far back. George and I ran over to him and finished the job. This was one very old Suni ram! His horns were very thick and over 4 long! He should place very high in the SCI Record Book! Sandy was super happy but didn't like shooting the .375 H&H too much! It was a happy trip back to the lodge and a Suni celebration was planned! As we were driving back to the lodge we came upon two Nyala bulls right at dusk. They were standing back in the brush about forty yards of the road. Both were good bulls but one was a monster! Sandy immediately whispered to George, 鼎c I take him too? Nyala was not something we had planned on taking. Catapu had one left on their quota and Grant already had a client booked for Nyala to come here and hunt one after we left. Whew! That just saved me some bucks! Both bulls spooked so we continued on to the lodge.
Once we got back to the chalet, George and I began the skinning duties. Since this was not one of the Mashambanzou normal camps, we had to do our own skinning. Not a problem. George did all of the work, I just keep the surefire flashlight concentrated on the area he was cutting. Even though it was for a full mount, it didn't take too long and we were finished. A good hot shower, a great dinner with a few drinks to celebrate the life of a great old Suni and we were ready to call it a night. Sandy also told me that night that she wanted me to go ahead and try and take the small antelope that we had planned on her shooting. She wasn't use to the .375 and really didn't feel comfortable using it. She didn't care which one of us got them, she just wanted the full body mounts for the trophy room. She was having a great time just being in Africa with me and her sister and that was all that mattered. Do I have a good woman or what?
The original plan was to look for Red Duiker in the morning, come in for lunch, then pack up to move to 溺upha Camp or 鉄able Camp which was another two hour drive from Catapu. If we weren't successful on the Red Duiker at Catapu, we could also hunt them at Sable Camp. Over breakfast Sandy and Barbie said that they REALLY like this place and asked if we could stay one more night before moving? 滴ey, I'm having a great time, whatever you girls want? One more night it is then. This was ok壇 by George so this became the new plan. As we were finishing breakfast before heading out, James approached us and said that a leopard hunter was arriving in a few days and asked if we would shoot a few baboons so they could do pre-baiting? No problem. We would squeeze this in while looking for Red Duiker. The only problem with getting the baboons was that all of the groups were hanging around the pans that still had a little water in them. Catapu rules were that no shooting is allowed within 500 yards of any of these pans. Try as we might, we didn't find any that were not within one of those buffer zones. We pretty much spent the morning after the baboons, so with no luck we headed in to have a little lunch.
Great lunch, short nap and we were out again by 3:00pm. George knew the location of a salt lick so we decided to check it out. When we got about a half mile from it we decided to park the truck and walk in by ourselves. Leaving the girls, Tony and the scout we took off on foot. As we eased up to the lick, we saw Warthogs, Bushbuck, Suni and one Red Duiker ram. The bushbuck spotted our movement and became nervous and started to move off. He in turn, made everything else get a little skittish. The Red Duiker turned and started walking into the wind away from us. George and I back out and circled around wide to try and get a shot as he moved off. After a few hundred yards we saw him easing thru the brush and I set up on the sticks with the .375 H&H. I could tell the direction he was traveling would take him into a small opening in the brush. As I settled the crosshairs in the opening he started slowly walking thru it. At 100 yards the 300gr solid punched a neat hole thru both lungs. I knew it was a good hit, but he still ran 50 yards before piling up. A lot of backslapping and handshaking took place! It was a good Duiker and I was very happy. We carried him out to the road and George said to wait and he would go back and get the truck and the 田rew? Sitting there waiting by myself, admiring the beautiful ram, I couldn't help but think of my Dad. I really wished he was still of this earth to be able to share this with me.
The rest of the afternoon was spent chasing baboons, with no luck so close to dark we called it a day and headed back to the chalet. Same scenario, the girls showered while George and I repeated the skinning script as with the previous day. Once that was done and we both cleaned up we headed done to the lodge for dinner and to celebrate the life of the Red Duiker! While sitting around the fire enjoying Mozambique Rum and coke? Pat came up and told us that they were expecting a bus load of Italian students that were on a tour of Mozambique. After we had a fabulous dinner George and I decided to continue celebrating the Duiker while the girls decided to call it an early night. Once the Italians arrived, I, being the age that I am, spent the next three hours trying to explain the hunting/conservation concept to a young Italian guy that didn't quite get it. I'm not sure if it was due to my redneck Texas accent, the amount of Mozambique rum that I had consumed or the fact that he knew nothing about the subject. George, on the other hand, was trying?well, was just trying, with a young attractive Italian girl. After a while, George slipped over to where I was and whispered don't tell them we are hunters. Tell them we are conservationist! If you don't you could ruin my chances As you can imagine, I busted out laughing!
As the evening got later more and more of the tour group headed off to bed. George was still talking to the one girl so I went to the restroom. When I came out a few minutes later I returned to the fire pit to find that everyone was gone including George! Hum? guess the 田onservationist angle worked after all. Oh well, I guess I値l walk back to the chalet that was about a quarter mile away. After I had gone a couple of hundred yards down the road I saw headlights coming. It was George looking for me! He said the conservationist thing didn't work so when he saw that I had left, he thought that I had started walking back to the chalet. Needless to say, sleep came easily that night?ol.
We were up at 4:00am packing and loading up for the trip to Sable Camp 2 hours away. After gathering up the salted hides from the Suni and Duiker, along with the backstaps and tenderloins from both, we loaded up and hit the road by 5:30am. At 7:30 am we pulled into Mupha/Sable Camp after a long, bumpy and dusty drive. The camp was built on the banks of the Mupha River and was nice. Nothing fancy but everything you needed - generator power, flush toilets, hot water, clean rooms, etc. This concession was about 200,000 acres and according to George, held a good population of Roosevelt Sable along with, common and red Duiker, Reedbuck, Eland, Nyala, Warthog, Bushpig, Bushbuck, Oribi, Kudu, Lichtenstein Hartebeest and Chamca baboon. By 9:00am we were unloaded and settled in. All of my hunting gear was gathered and we loaded up in the truck to go and look for Sable. This concession was very 都cenic with tall hardwoods with long, meandering openings that paralleled the river. The roads would traverse the wooded areas then skirt the fringes of the openings. As we eased the truck up to these openings we would periodically, stop and glass the fringes. After an hour or so of this, we spotted our first group of Sable! From 700yds one bull looked worth investigating so we exited the truck and circled downwind to get a better look. As we approached the area we last saw the group, it was apparent that they either winded or saw us approaching. We spotted them entering the wood line on the far end of the opening about another 500 yards from us. We were able to get a good look at the bull we had seen earlier and he wasn't quite mature enough so we headed back to the truck.
This scenario was played out a couple of more times in the next few hours with the same results. Plenty of Sable but no mature bulls yet. As the evening shadows started to grow considerably longer, we were easing along in the truck and just exiting a patch of woods when we slowly came to the edge of another long opening. Just as we passed the last bit of thick trees, we looked to our left and, under a large tree about 130 yards away, was a group of Sable laying down in the shade. I don't know if they didn't notice us or what, but they didn't spook! George and I eased out of the truck on the off side and worked our way around the truck. George set up the sticks and I got ready. There were two bulls with the group. One young, thin horned bull and one with massive, broomed off horns. I immediately settled the crosshairs on the shoulder of the big bull and waited on George's call. I had a slight gap in the tall grass that exposed the bulls shoulder and he was facing left lying perfectly broadside. As George studied him with the binoculars, the bull turned his head and looked directly at us. When George saw the mass at the base of his horns he started to whisper take him? Before the 鍍ake crossed his lips, AT&T sent a 210gr Barnes-X crashing into his heart. The bull lurched forward, stumbling to get to his feet. As I followed his progress in the scope, he half ran, half stumbled behind some trees and disappeared. I knew the shot was good and we would find him close. George took off running with me close behind. As we rounded the tree line where we last saw him, we spotted his white belly thirty yards away in the tall grass. Everything had happened so fast, but I learned a long time ago that when the 滴unting Gods smiles upon you, take it. For every time things happen as this did there will be numerous times things just quite don't work out!
He was everything that I dreamed about. Jet black body, beautiful mane, and heavy, broomed off horns. His teeth indicated that he was also a very old bull that had served his purpose. The feeling you get when you first walk up on such a majestic animal is really indescribable. The adrenaline is still pumping so you are excited, but sad at the same time. I think that only a hunter can understand these kinds of feelings all at the same time. It was an honor to take such a bull. Once I had my private moment with the bull I heard the truck bouncing its way over with Sandy and Barbie. I rose from the bull and hugged George and Francisco (the tracker) and thanked them for helping me fulfill a thirty year dream.
The Hunting Gods had been very generous so far. Seven days into the safari and I had my Hippo, Croc and Sable along with Sandy's monster Suni and my Red Duiker. We had three days left so I figured we were pretty much on cruise control! No pressure as it had been a great safari so far. I still had Oribi and Bushpig on my wish list but honestly, I was perfectly content with what we had accomplished and decided just to enjoy the rest of our time and relax. With that said we all conversed when we got back to camp and decided that we would load up first thing in the morning and spend the last three days at Muanza Camp, or 溺ain Camp? It was a couple of hours drive and a little closer to Beira not to mention it was a little nicer camp and George and felt like the 堵irls would enjoy it a little more. Right after we got back to camp Grant stopped by to be able to finally put a face with the emails and conversations that we had had on and off over the last nine months. After a couple of hours Grant pulled out heading to Muanza camp. We would meet back up with him there.
The ride was once again long and dusty. As we pulled into the entrance to Muanza camp it became apparent that George was right. This camp was more suited to the girls liking. As we rolled to a stop, Sarah (camp manager) and the other staff were there to meet us. After the unloading and a tour of the accommodations were given, cold drinks and a fantastic lunch were ready for us. You could really tell this camp had a woman's touch, which Sandy and Barbie really appreciated. Once we relaxed a while around camp we loaded up and took off to explore this concession at about 3:00pm. The afternoon was spent driving and looking, without any real urgency for the need to shoot anything. Throughout the afternoon we saw numerous common duiker, waterbuck, reedbuck, warthogs and a herd of Sable. All and all, a very relaxing and enjoyable day. Later we had a fantastic dinner of warthog stew with rice, fresh salad and homemade bread and 田hips? then finished with homemade bread pudding. The rest of the evening was spent around the fire having a few sundowners and telling a few stories.
Sandy and Barbie decided to 都leep in on this morning so George, Francisco and I left camp at daylight to see if we could locate any of the Eland known to be in this concession. During a conversation around the campfire the previous night George mentioned that there are some really good Eland here and that really peaked Sandy's interest. Seems her goal was to better a bull that I had taken in the East Cape back in 2004? Throughout the morning we looked for Eland tracks crossing the roads and we located a couple of herds (at least the areas they were in) with the intent of coming back that afternoon to see if we could locate them. By lunch time we headed back towards camp to grab a bite and get the girls. During the conversation with Sandy about us locating a couple of groups of Eland that morning, I told her that If she really wanted an Eland, we were going to have to get on their tracks and follow them and try and catch up to them. I wasn't too worried about Sandy but I felt that it might be too much walking for Barbie. Sandy decided that she wasn't that 杜ad at the Eland and we would just add it to the next trips 努ish list? Sandy also told me that she and Barbie had discussed the possibility of heading back to Beira a day early so we could actually start the trip home without a three hour ride in the truck. That sounded fine with me so we discussed it with Grant and he made arrangements for us to stay in Beira at a bed & breakfast the night before our flight to Johannesburg. The plan was now; hunt that afternoon at Muanza, get up early and go to a local school to distribute school supplies that we had brought with us, then load up and head back to Beira that next afternoon.
After having a little break in the hunting action the last couple of days, I decided that since we only had one more afternoon of hunting, it was time to get serious about finding a good Oribi! Throughout the afternoon we saw numerous common duiker, a few red duiker, warthogs, Liechtenstein Hartebeests, waterbuck and Nyala cows. It was getting late but no Oribi. With about an hour of daylight left George headed to an area they call 徹ribi Flats? When we got to this area we immediately began seeing Oribi. About the fourth or fifth Oribi seen, looked to be a good ram. We excited the truck and eased around some brush. He was about 150 yards away, standing broadside between two six diameter trees. I was on the sticks and ready as George whispered 鍍ake him? The .338 cracked and even with the recoil, I saw the bullet hit in the dirt behind and front of his chest! The ram spun around and ran away to the right as I heard George whisper, 祢 though you never missed? As I jacked another shell in, the ram ran behind some palmettos and turned and faced us with his head and neck visible. The crosshair settled where I knew his chest was and I squeezed the trigger. The ram dropped in his tracks. George looked at me and said 祢 see how you are, you miss the easy shots and make the hard ones!? Smart ass?ol. In my defense, I walked down to the two trees later. The Oribi was 150 yards from us and the trees were a 100 yards away. With my sight picture the Oribi was standing directly between them. The bullet deflected off of a ｽ dia. Branch that I didn't notice while I concentrated on the crosshairs in the scope. No excuse, I should have noticed the branch in the way. With the Oribi 妬n the salt that pretty much completed my safari. I didn't get the Bushpig, but that just gives me one more reason to plan a return trip!
That night in camp, we toasted all of the great animals taken and friendships made on this trip. We were ready to get home but at the same time, saddened that our time in Africa was coming to a close.
After a great breakfast we loaded up the school supplies and headed out to a local school about 45 minutes away. The area school superintendent had a office nearby so we were required to stop and check in with him. After the initial introductions we had to inventory all items and generate two lists. Each of these were then signed by us and the Superintendent and stamped with a government seal. This supposedly was done to guarantee that the supplies were distributed to this particular school only. On a side note, while the items were being counted and the list developed, the Superintendent told the interpreter something that made him chuckle. The interpreter looked at me and said 滴e wants you to know that he is very impressed with you. You are the first white man he has ever seen with two women! The girls really got a kick out of that!
Visiting local schools and bring supplies has become a tradition of ours and it actually is always a highlight of our trips. This was no exception. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with the kids and doing a little to help them out. I hope that by adding this into my report, others will start/continue doing the same.
As always, the drive heading back to civilization was the longest. All thoughts of the previous couple of weeks were in 途eplay mode in my head the entire trip. When we arrived in Beira, we swung by Grants office at the airport to check in and set plans for the evening. Once we got settled into the bed & breakfast, we would clean-up and relax and Grant and George would pick us up for dinner. At 7:00pm that night we arrived at a restaurant right on the beach and met Grants entire family. We were privileged to have a fantastic dinner with Grant, his beautiful wife, daughter, mother, mother-in-law and his Dad. It was a great time and really appreciated by Sandy, Barbie and I. I had just enough Rum & cokes to make sleep come easy, especially since we had air-conditioning and full time electricity!
As normal, I was up by 4:30am. A couple of cups of coffee, an early morning walk on the beach and we were packed for the flight and ready to head out. We had enough time for Grant to take the girls to do a little local shopping before our flight. Once that was out of the way we loaded up and headed to Grants office to settle up? It was pleasant. No surprises with the final bill. It all came out exactly as expected and promised. Once we got to the airport, I was worried about the 堵un issue I had upon arrival. You guessed it! It didn't work when I arrived in Mozambique, so they tried to hit me on the way out! After another hour of arguing and game playing I was allowed to check my guns along with our baggage. Please note: This is where I learned a valuable lesson. SAA checked all of our bags and guns, all the way thru to IAH (Houston) because SAA and Emirates Air are SkyLink partners. DO NOT DO THIS! Before boarding an Emirates Air flight with firearms, you must declare them and they must be inspected by Emirates staff. I should have had SAA checked only to Johannesburg, picked them up and taken them to the Emirates counter myself. What this did was, as we were boarding, they (Emirates personnel) pulled me out of the line at the gate and asked me if I was flying with firearms and ammunition. When I answered Yes? they made me stay there while everyone else boarded the flight to Dubai. (Another self- note!: Mark you baggage claim ticket with which piece of baggage it corresponds to!) They then asked for my SAA issued baggage claim tickets and wanted to know which ticket belonged to my gun case and which one belong to the bag carrying the ammunition. Since I could not tell them this they unloaded the entire cargo hold of the plane to find my gun case and bags! Folks?.there were 330 people on that flight! We were 45 minutes past our scheduled departure time when they said everything was good and I could board. I was not a popular person on that flight!! To top it off, I went thru the same thing in Dubai before our flight into Houston. All of that would have been avoided if the gun case and bags were checked in by Emirates personnel in Johannesburg.
I had a fantastic safari and for that I thank Grant Taylor and Mashambanzou Safaris, George Van Der Westhuizen (PH) all of the camp staff at each camp. I would not hesitate to recommend Mashambanzou to anyone with AH reading this report. I know this was long but I hope that I covered everything that might help another member in planning his/her next adventure.
Once you leave Africa, it never leaves you!