South Africa Safari with Cruiser Safaris
First I would like to express my most sincere thanks to the country of South Africa and their people. We were treated very well, we felt welcome everywhere we went, and everyone we came in contact with was very happy to have us visiting their country! This treatment contributed tremendously to our already amazing trip! thank you Pieter from Cruiser Safari for an experience of a life time! Juan (PH), thank you for your outstanding experience in the bush, and your tremendous patience with my wife! For your young age, you are an amazing PH, again, thank you!!!!Thank you South Africa for this wonderful trip!
19 Jul 2012
My alarm clock went off at 0700, I couldn稚 not believe it was the next day already, it seemed like if I just got in bed. LOL!!!! Oh well, it was time to get ready for breakfast and the four hour drive to the Limpopo Province where Cruiser Safaris is located. We got ready and went down for breakfast; some eggs, bacon, tomatoes, toast, juice and coffee. Finished and went back to the room to get all our things together and wait for our ride. Paid our bill, and we were ready to go. Right at around 0930, a van pulled up, it was from Cruiser Safari, the driver was John (Juan) who would end up being my PH. We greeted each other and loaded up all our gear in the van. We wanted to get going to see if we could possibly got an opportunity to hunt in the afternoon. We wanted to hit the place running. The weather this morning was very pleasant, maybe in the mid to low 60s, and the night before the temp had dipped well into the low 40s and maybe into the 30s. Cold for this Florida crowd. We immediately noticed how dry the air was, and our sinuses felt it right away. Not the 90 percent humidity weather we had left 2 days ago.
Started our drive, heading north to the Limpopo Province. The highway was very nice, the same as in the US, with the only exception that they were driving on the wrong side of the road (for us, right way for them). LOL!!!! As soon as we got out of Johannesburg, John started pointing out animals. The area was dry and brown, just like in our Mid West states during the winter time. I could notice a similarity to South Texas, with the same type of small bushes, shrubs and such. No wonder, South Texas ranches are doing so well with African game. Soon we got off the high way, and into small two way roads. Now everything got interesting, luckily I was not sitting up front. LOL!!!! Once in the Limpopo province, we spotted several congress of Baboons on the side of the road eating who knows what. The drive was not a leisurely drive, John needed to get us to Cruiser Safari real quick and in a hurry. So, there was no time to stop and view the scenery, I wished we could have, but we needed to get to the lodge before sunset.
We went through a small town name Thabazimbi, and John told us that we were less than an hour away. We got to an interception and the paved road ended and into a well travel gravel road. This would be the road we would end up traveling every day, two to four times a day for the next 12 days. It was well maintained, but extremely dusty. At around 3 o団lock, we arrived at Cruiser Safaris and we were greeted by Delmarie who had glasses with freshly squeezed orange & tangerine juice. She then escorted us into our bedrooms, and gave us a few instructions for breakfast times, laundry service, and some general info. As we left our bedrooms, we were greeted by the owner, Pieter. We exchanged hellos, and he asked us if we felt like doing an afternoon hunt, and my friend Sergio & I said for sure! We took our rifles to the range, to make sure they were still dialed in. After 3 shots, my 300 Weatherby and my 30-06 were good to go. We only had about two hours of hunting time, so we quickly went to get some of our gear (Camera, binoculars, ammo, hat & jacket), and on the way we went.
Twenty minutes later we arrived at a place call Ben痴 Lodge. My driver got out and spoke to the lodge care taker, and we were given the green light to hunt. We got out of the Toyota Land Cruiser, and sat in the back. The back was set up with a bench seat, we were sitting about 8 feet off the ground, perfect height for spotting game. This place offered a lot of game, but we were only allowed to take impalas, warthogs, kudu and wildebeest. This place was set up with areas where game could not be taken (safe zones where they fed the animals). The areas was thick with a visibility of maybe 20-30 feet, and every tree, brush, bush had thorns, I would later find out that everything in this area would poke you, grab you or stick you. This afternoon we did not pulled the trigger, but we were able to see lots of giraffes, impalas, steenboks, and some female warthogs with their little piglets. Finally, we were hunting in South Africa, and I was like a little kid in an candy store; excited is an understatement. John was an amazing young PH with an eagle eye, at 25 years old, he could spot game everywhere. Later on I would find out that he was an excellent tracker too.
We arrived at the lodge at around 6:45 PM and we were told to get ready for dinner. We put our gear away and got ready for dinner. Dinner tonight was going to be Kudu, rice, potatoes, salad with avocado and bread. BTW, this meal was delicious! I don稚 think I lost any weight during this trip.
We met the other two guys hunting there, they were from South Dakota, Lynn & Myron. This was Lynn痴 second time hunting with Cruiser Safari. The rest of the PHs showed up, and we were introduced to them. Sergio痴 PH was Craig the senior PH at the lodge, who had been there about 10 years. Then we met Johan, who had been there about 7 years. Then came senior Johan, the oldest at 38 years old. This was a fun group to hang around with. We hung around after dinner, getting to know each other a little more. We had a fire going, and of course I had to smoke a cigar. Sergio & I smoked a brand name 鄭frica? which I had purchased specifically to take to Africa.
Pieter, came by and told us where we were going to hunt the next day. I was going to a place called Zandrift, and I would be going after Gemsbok, Wildebeest, Impala and Warthog. Our departure from the lodge was scheduled for 0630 AM, and we were going to spent the entire day out in the bush. My poor wife was a bit scared about spending the entire day away from the lodge.
At around 10 o団lock we decided to hit the sack and get ready for tomorrow痴 adventure. We went to our room to find the bed ready, with a hot water bag between the sheets to keep us warm. It was too hot for me so I gave the bag to my wife. The temperature had already dropped into the 40s, nice temperature to sleep. Our bed was very comfortable with nice down blanket to keep us warm during the night. I set my alarm clock and went to sleep, I knew we had a long day ahead of us the next day.
20 Jul 2012
My alarm clock went off at 0500 hrs, which it didn稚 matter, I was wide awake since I couldn稚 sleep with the anticipation of today痴 hunt. I got up got dressed and decided to let my wife sleep a little more (she likes to sleep a lot), and went outside to get a cup of coffee. Well, to my surprise the temperature had dropped well into the low 30s, so it was cold for this Florida weather boy! By this time, my friend Sergio was up and we talked a little, not knowing what to expect of today痴 full day of hunting. Then Lynn & Myron woke up, and Delmarie started to bring our breakfast. By 0530, I decided to wake my wife up. Breakfast was eggs, potatoes, some left over kudu, toast, juice & coffee.
My beautiful wife stumbled out of the bedroom, wearing her new her 5.11 khaki pants and her upland shirt with a camo fleece. She looked adorable, wearing hunting clothes for her first time. This made my morning! My better half was with me in Africa and heading out to hunt with me. She was ready to take the day. We had breakfast, and our guide John was ready for us. As it turned out, our driver was name John as well, so we decided to name him John Boy so we can differentiate between both Johns. By 0630, we hit the road, and today we were heading out to a place called Zandrift. As I stated before, we were in pursuit of Gemsbok, Wildebeest, Impala and Warthog.
We reached Zandrift by 0715, and by 0720 we were riding in the back of the Toyota Land Cruiser. It was a nice crisp and clear morning, with the temp around 38-40 degrees. As John would put it 渡ice hunting weather? The animals should be moving early, and sure enough. We spotted a group of impalas and decided to do our first stalk. The wind would play with me throughout my stay in Africa. We walked for about 2-3 miles, and when we got close to the impalas, the wind shifted and they said see ya! John said 渡o worries, it is early in the day?
Drove for about 45 minutes and about 50 yds to the right of us was a nice Gemsbok standing there facing us. John took one look at him and said to shoot him. Well, by the time I got my rifle and aimed at him, he was gone and disappeared into the bush. We gave chase, and tried to stalk him, but the wind did not want to cooperate with us; we saw the Gemsbok running and not stopping at all.
I was excited that in a couple of hours, we had seen two of the seven animals I was going after. We continue to drive, and we came up on an interception, and John spotted 5 Gemsboks standing in the middle of the road. They were about 800-1000 yds out, and again we decided to try to stalk them. This time the wind was cooperating, and we were getting real close to them. We got to within 250 yds from them, and again the wind shifted on us, and they winded us and again they left. John proved to be an excellent tracker. We followed their tracks for roughly 4 miles, and came up to within 75 yds of them, but none of them offered a clear shot. The bush was very thick and we could barely see 15 ft in front of us. While we were trying to find a hole to shoot through the brush, the &^%$@ wind once again shifted on us and again they were gone! We looked at each other, and laughed at our great luck with the wind.
By now, it was close to noon, and it was getting really hot! So, John suggested we go seat by the water hole to have lunch and see what we could see there. By this time, my wife was a little tired, and she was ready for lunch and looking forward to sitting in the shade. We came up on this make shift blind (they call it hide), where we could seat in the shade looking over the water hole. We had ham & cheese sandwich with chips, and soda & water for lunch. I was too excited and was not hungry at all. The weather was nice (with the exception of the wind), it was a cloud less day with the temperature by now in the mid 70s to maybe 80s and very dry. Within 30 minutes of seating at the blind, a warthog and her little piglets came in for a drink. No more than 5-10 minutes later about 8-10 kudu cows and their offspring came in for a drink and some salt from the salt lick they had there. Following the cows was the most magnificent kudu bull I致e ever seen in my life, this stud had 60 horns and you could tell he was the stud for this group. I grabbed my rifle and started to lift it, when John whispered that we couldn稚 hunt kudu here. I looked at him and smiled! I grabbed my camera so I could shoot some nice pictures of him. Later on two young male warthogs came in for a drink and a group of mongoose went right next to our blind.
Well, we had lunch and we relaxed watching this parade of animals come in for a drink. 2:30 rolled around and John called John Boy on the radio to come and pick us up. Again, we started our drive, and went to a place where John knew the Gemsbok would be bedded down during this time of the day. We walked in the bush, and walked maybe 2 miles when we spotted the Gemsbok we were after. Well, this time it was not the wind that gave our position away, but a bird the natives call 堵o away bird? This freaking bird started making his noise, and then we had a group of them going at it and before we knew it our position was busted and the Gemsbok were gone. John explained to us that these birds are like sentries to the animals in the bush, and they alert them of danger. By the 5th day of hunting, I wanted to shoot every go away bird I saw. Too bad I didn稚 have a 22LR to take care of these annoying birds.
We continue to drive, and time went by without seeing another animal. By 0410, we came up on another interception, and John got out to see if anything was standing by the roads. He lifted his binoculars, and waived at me to follow him quickly! I almost jumped off the truck and ran to him. He was excited, and told me 杜onster, monster Gemsbok It was a single Gemsbok standing by the road some 900 yds away. He said follow me, we have to get there quickly and before he goes back in the bush. We started running down the trails inside the bush, the wind was in our favor. We would run 100-200 yds, then we would stop and check to see if he was still there. John was extremely excited and wanted to get there quickly. We got closer, and closer and when we were about 250 yds out, the wind shifted once again and the Gemsbok disappeared into the bush. I looked at John in disbelieve and looked up at the sky and I said 敵od, you really don稚 want me to shoot this Gemsbok do you? And smile John, said 斗et痴 walk slow along the road, sometimes they will go in 10-20 yds and stop? Well, we walked the next 200 yds really slow and watching where we took our steps. Suddenly John froze and said don稚 move; the Gemsbok was 30 yds in front of us looking away and I did not have a shot. John told me to position myself behind him so I could take the shot off his shoulder. The Gemsbok turned around and looked straight at us for what it seemed an eternity; then he turned around and John whispered 都hoot him behind the shoulder once he turns , the Gemsbok turned to the right and I saw the right shoulder exposed and John said 都hoot? and I shot! I was already reloading before he could say reload. He stood there and said to be quiet, and he said 妬t痴 down, its down? I was shaking so bad, I had to composed myself before taking one step. We walked in the bush, and no more than 20 feet away laid my first African animal, a beautiful Gemsbok! John walked up to it and he was jumping of joy; I was like OK, what痴 going here. John kept saying, 妬t痴 a monster, it痴 a monster? and I still didn稚 understand, I knew it was big, but how big it was I had no clue. We gave each other high five, and he congratulated me on the kill. He called John Boy to bring the truck over. My wife jumped off the truck and ran to me, we hugged and got we got a little emotional. I had taken my first African game, my dream had become a reality! John pulled a measuring tape, and went on to measure each horn. The left horn was 43 long and the right horn was 45 long with the base of the horns measuring 6.5 in diameter each. He was like 鍍his is a huge Gemsbok? he kept saying. Still I had no clue of what this all meant.
We took several pictures and loaded the animal into the back of the truck. John was eager to get back to the lodge. We headed back to the lodge and the owner Pieter was outside waiting for us. Pieter came up to me and shook my hand and told me that I had a fine trophy, and that in 17 years of operation this was the second biggest Gemsbok taken in his property. By now, I realized why John was so excited about the size of this Gemsbok.
Everyone started to show up back at the lodge and the news of my trophy had traveled all over the radio air waves, and all the Cruiser Safaris PHs knew about it, and everyone wanted to hear how I was able to get such a magnificent trophy.
My friend Sergio shot a nice 41 Gemsbok too. We both scored on our first day of our hunts. This evening my friend Sergio and I smoked a very fine Padron Anniversario cigar in celebration of our successful hunt. We sat around the fire and shared our stories. Before we knew it, it was 11 o団lock and time to go to bed. Another early day was waiting for us the next day. I laid in bed trying to soak in what had happened this day, and couldn稚 go to sleep. I think I ended falling asleep at around 1 o団lock.
My monster Gemsbok
Please let me know if you like this format, or you just want to see pictures of the trophies? Thanks!