Dates: Nov. 7th - Nov. 10th, 2010 Location: Near Pongola in Natal, RSA Company: Leeukop Safaris www.leeukopsafaris.co.za PH: Niel Uys Animals taken: Nyala, Mountian reedbok, Blue wildebeest Species seen but not taken: Elephant, Crocodile, Hippo, Ostrich, Common reedbok, Common duiker, Red duiker, Waterbuck, Warthog, Kudu, Impala, giraffe, Zebra, Jackal, monitor lizard, and tortoise. Rifles: CZ 550 Safari Classic in .416 Rigby/ Winchester 70 Featherweight in .270 Ammunition: 400 gr Rhino bullets for the .416 & 150 gr. Rhino bullets for the .270 handloaded by my friend Chris Melgard of Safari Bullets. This report must start way before the dates mentioned. In November of 2009, before Christmas, I saw a post on AfricanHunting.com named "Best Gift Ever, Free Hunt for Nyala with Leeukop Safaris". I opened the post and read it. All that was required was to post "ENTER ME". So I made my post and did my translation of Leeukop from the little Afrikaans I know, which was "Lion Head". I never thought much about it after that. A few weeks before I retired from 30 years as a public school teacher, I received an e-mail from Jerome who owns the AfricanHunting.com site saying that the original winner had to pass on the hunt due to health issues and I was the runner-up! I immediately looked up the post again a read all the fine print and conditions of the hunt and contest which offered a free, 3-day 4-night stay and Nyala hunt including the choice of two of the following species: Impala, Blue Wildebeest, Warthog, or Mountian Reedbok. I could find nothing that led me to believe this was not on the "Up and up". But still, over time I have learned that "If it seems too good to be true, it can not true". I was contacted also by e-mail by Niel Uys of Leeukop and flat-out asked him if there were hidden expenses, if this was a trophy hunt or a cull hunt, everything my suspicious mind could think of. All my questions were quickly answered telling me that no, this was a straight-forward hunt for Leeukop to give back to the hunting community. Still, there was that nagging thought in the back of my pea-sized brain. I had already booked a hunt with a company I had hunted with in 2009 to take my son on his first safari for his 25th birthday. So I contacted Niel and asked him if the dates after this hunt were open and he confirmed that they were. So at this point all that was needed was to trade airline tickets once they were in my possession from the online company. Two weeks after retirement, 2 days before we moved homes, and two weeks before we were to fly out I rolled a lawn mower over on myself and broke both bones in my lower left leg. As I lay on my back looking at my foot going in two directions that feet are NOT supposed to go, all I could think of was, "Man, what an idiot you are...how are you going to go on safari now?" Poor Niel with the first canidate having to opt out and now me, just two weeks before I was to leave, had to wait to reschedule this hunt yet AGAIN. Two surgeries and months later I finally got clearance to fly after constantly badgering my doctor. I contacted Niel, he gave me available dates, we made arrangments, and purchased air tickets. Fast forward...Adele Jansen van Rensberg, of "Hunters Permits Africa" made the arrangements where we were to meet Niel in Pretoria and the transfer was made. We met Niel Uys and his beautiful wife, Anele in a McDonald's parking lot. If you have ever read Robert Ruark's decription of a PH, I swear he was talking about Niel and not the great Harry Selby. He was so handsome and fit (having played High School rugby for the Blue Bulls), I was glad my wife is blind to my 53 year old, out of shape physique. Our bags were loaded and FINALLY we were off to our free hunt. In the 5 & 1/2 hour trip between Pretoria and Pongola, we saw a LOT of Africa I could never imagine. Lively chat, jokes, and stories along with our many e-mails made me feel like we were traveling with dear old friends. Niel had warned us of the road works, some of the stops lasted over 35 minutes. Along the way Niel asked me which of the other species I had decided on. I told him the Mountain Reedbok and a Blue Wildebeest since these were animals that I had not yet taken. The Mvubu lodge was full the first night we were to arrive so Leeukop Safaris put us up in a neighboring Bed & Breakfast. Niel unloaded our bags as the sky opened up with a tremendous thunderstorm that had the generators working overtime, due to power failures. Though he and Anele had been on the road a long time and away from their young children, Niel would not leave us until he felt we had been taken care of to his satisfaction. He also presented us both with Leeukop shirts, a hat for me, and several stickers for my rig at home. We were to be picked up and driven to a lodge that was also owned by the B & B for dinner. As we sat down to dinner at the lodge, in walked Niel. We made plans for our pick up the next morning and impending hunt. Usually the rifle hunters at Leeukop hunt almost exclusively on foot. They have a policy that one may NOT shoot within 200 meters of the hunting vehicle and blinds are reserved for bowhunters only. Remember I was nursing a broken leg and had not walked over 200 meters since the accident months ago. We decided that we'd drive until the animal was spotted, then drive on past, get off the truck and make the sneak back to see if we could find a shot. I was impressed at the hunting ethincs Leeukop insisted on and held their clients to! Morning arrived, as did Niel, as always, 15 minutes early. A trait I appreciate. We loaded up and drove to the Mvubu Lodge. As we pulled through the gate, protected by an armed guard, I felt and was assured that we were in a safe place. Immediately we started seeing game in the form of Nyala, Impala, White Rhino, and Warthogs. Our room was not cleared yet so Niel stored our bags and loaded my gun case in the Toyota Landcruiser along with his blood dog, a fox terrier named "Nala". He asked if I felt like I wanted to stop at the skeetbaan, (shooting range), and I said it would not hurt to check the rifles again. We drove the tar road to one of Leeukop's gates. As we entered the armed guarded gate, we met Eric, our Zulu tracker. A stop at the range again made me wonder about the .270, (see 2010 safaris pt.I). It was on the paper but even with some adjustments....well you know what I mean if you have ever had a rifle that you just didn't have confidence in. My .416 Rigby cloverleafed two shots at 100 meters with the scope on 2X. Niel had decided that Mountian Reedbok would be our first species. It was a cool, overcast day with many puddles from the thunderstorm the night before. I appreciated the weather living on the cool, wet Oregon coast. Unfortunately, African animals don't appeciate this weather. We started driving up mountians as steep as my home has, only with vegetation that reminded me more of Hawaii. Niel told us that they had been in a drought until only three weeks before and that they had found nine dead nyala bulls and a giraffe that died while giving birth. As we climbed and climbed, my ears popped over and over. We crossed several passes and the view we were treated to cannot be expressed in words or done justice by cameras! About mid-morning we spotted a herd of Mountian reedbok and drove on, as we had planned. At an appropriate distance, Niel stopped and we all got off the Land Cruiser. Sneaking as quietly as I could on the steep rocky road, we approached the herd. Niel set up the sticks and pointed out a nice buck. I got on the sticks but his vitals were covered by a rock and he took off before offering me a good shot. Eric told Niel that he'd seen a bigger buck further up the mountian on the opposite side of the road. He asked me how I was doing and I told him my leg hurt but we'd come this far.... on we climbed. Soon Eric pointed, Niel set the sticks, I put the .270 on it and looked through the scope. Niel saw I was looking at the incorrect one and got me on the right one. I took a deep breath centered the crosshairs on the buck laying in the grass and squeezed the trigger. It jumped up and ran. "You missed" Niel said. I thought, "Shooting down hill makes the bullet fly high, Dummy". I knew better! I was kicking myself especially after Niel told me that was a monster for a Reedbok and would have easily made Rowland Ward. Niel said, "Billy, why don't you shoot everything with your .416?" I was skeptial, afraid that the big gun would blow up the two smaller animals. But he told me that the taxidermist could fix them and said he could tell that I was more comfortable shooting the CZ. Very observant for someone who had only seen me shoot a few cartridges! Knowing me better than I had thought, to ease my suffering, Niel told me that aloe had a really special taste and asked had I every tried it. I'd used aloe on burns but told him, no I had not tasted it before. He broke off a piece of leaf as Eric drove up in the Land cruiser. I put it to my tongue and was I surprised! NASTY STUFF does not describe it. Niel laughed, I called him all the bad words I'd learned in Afrikaans, then went for a beer in the cool box to wash out my mouth. Niel only had water and that just didn't work. He'd gotten me good! I had to appreciate the joke because if you can't laugh at yourself you shouldn't laugh at all. He did give me some gum and I had some mints that Anele had purchased for us at a fuel stop the day before. As we headed back for brunch, we passed several pit-type bow hunting blinds and one bush camp where people may opt for a more solitary style hunt. Neil told us that if someone wanted to rent one, they would haul in food and they could pretty much have a self sufficient hunt. There were solar panels and a generator for those who like to rough it a bit more than the lodges but still need some creature comforts. We hunted a while longer then headed back to the Mvubu lodge for brunch. We had both cold and warm brunch consisting of granola, whole nuts, fruit, juice and flavored yogurt. A formal setting graced the table and a woman worker dressed in a pressed uniform dress told us the warm brunch menu, grilled tomato, mushrooms and our choice of eggs, saugage and bacon. After we had finished eating, Niel retrieved our luggage and escorted us to our chalet. As we walked past their precisely manicured landscape and inviting swimming pool, he asked if the chalet seemed too far from the lodge, knowing that my leg was bothering me and offered to get us one that was closer if we wanted. He also would stop and hand-sweep any gravel that was on the paver-brick tail so I would not slip. Can you imagine? I felt like a king! Our chalet was as nice as any of our greater hotels in America but with a more rustic feel. It had screened and shuttered windows, luxurious beds, a bathtub and a high thatched roof with a wonderfully comfortable veranda, complete with bar fridge and glasses AND a beautiful view overlooking a bend of the Pongola River. After we were settled in our VERY nice chalet, Niel drove us to his favorite fishing and family picnic spot near the river to see the crocodiles more closely. They had let a lot of water out of the dam due to the recent rains and it was very discolored. He told of catching catfish while his family played near-by and watched the elephants cross the river. This lodge caters to not only the hunters, it is just as pleasant and relaxing for spouses and families. We went hunting that afternoon but the cool weather held and the animals didn't get moving yet. We made plans that night at dinner for what time we would start in the morning. I had a beer and my wife, Paula, a glass of wine. I had run out of cigarettes and Niel had gone to town and purchased me several packs and also had an adapter for the charger for Paula's camera batteries. We heard tribal drums and we were told this would be the signal that dinner was ready. We sat at the table, again done in a formal setting as the woman again told us the menu; venison pie, lamb, vegetables and salad. After dinner, dessert was served. The food was excellent! We had an after dinner drink, said our good nights, and retired to our chalet for bed. On the way back Paula told me that there was a female warthog with piglets under one of the chalets. I flashed my torch in that direction and sure enough, I could see her white tusks and the four little piglets' eyes looking in our direction. She was under that chalet with her four little ones the whole time we were there and became a stop everytime we walked by. The next morning came and the alarm woke me for the first time since I'd gotten to Africa. The beds were very comfortable and the atmosphere relaxing. We went to the foyer of the Hippo Hole Bar which is next to where we ate. Niel was waiting for us. They had a coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cookies, and biscotte ready. I sucked down a couple of cups of coffee, ate a couple cookies and off we went. We entered the same gate we had the day before and picked up Eric but headed in a different direction this time. Soon we were at a tunnel/underpass. Eric opened the gate and we proceeded. This area was flat and more open than the place we'd hunted the day before. The sun was shining and we were seeing game. Lots of game! All kinds of game! Soon Niel stopped the Land cruiser, shut it off, peered through his Steiner binoculars. "Come on", he hissed as he quietly closed the door. The four of us snuck quietly through the low brush. Before too long, he peered over the low brush and signaled Eric for the sticks and for me to move forward. As I crept up, he told me there was about a 26" Nyala and what kind of brush it was near. He set up the sticks, I got on them and he directed me to the Nyala. I took a breath and set the trigger. All I could see was the head and horns. I tried to make out the body but the brush obscured it. Again if you read part I, you know I had a bad experience with shooting through brush. I decided that I could make a neck shot and finished the squeeze of the trigger. I didn't see it but Niel and Paula said I got it. We walked up and there he lay in all his glory. Eric washed the dirt off the horns and they used a sling with handles to transport the bull without dragging it so the hair wouldn't slip. After photos, Eric opened it up to make the pack back to the Toyota Landcruiser easier. Niel said, "Watch this". As the animal was opened, a cloud of dung beetles of different species, some irridecient green, and flies came from directly downwind. I' never seen such a display. We loaded the Nyala and Nala started protecting "her" trophy and barking at Eric who seemed to love this game and would get her to attack his boots. We decided to walk a bit on this flat and soft ground because we seen a herd of Blue Wildebeest while Eric took the Nyala to the skinning shed. We got on the "spoora" (tracks) of a herd and followed it for between 800 meters and a full kilometer. I was sweating and needed to answer nature's call, Nala needed a drink and Paula wanted to stand in the shade because she had dressed to cover up from the intense sun. I was on one side of the brush, Niel and Nala on the other near a waterhole, and Paula holding my rifle standing in the shade in the middle when we heard a snort and a HUGE warthog came boiling out of the brush RIGHT past Paula! When I say right past, that's not quite accurate. Paula had to step back to avoid him! Niel and I were very startled but Paula just thought it was an neat experience. What had Niel and I going was we'd seen black rhino spoora just minutes before. Niel said it was about a 13" pig and I started to wonder if maybe I would change one of my chosen animal species. Eric was called and returned with the Toyota Landcruiser. Niel then dropped him back off to finish a full body skin of my Nyala, then drove us to Nkwazi Lodge for brunch. Though different than Mvubu, everything at this lodge was also five star and attractive. We ate and Niel explained that this lodge was more of a fishing camp and pointed out the boat ramp, docks, boats, and hippos. We finished brunch and drove to the boat docks. Niel selected a fishing boat to show us the hippos from, started the motor, I cast off the bow line and Niel the stern line and off we sailed. Niel apologized with every tiny bit of spray that the wind blew on us but to me it was relief from the heat and very familiar because I spend much of my time on a boat and always have. The hippos were interesting and lively. It reminded me of the "Africa Country" ride at Disneyland as a child...only these hippos were real! There was one bull and one baby in the group so Niel was very careful to get us close enough without being "too close". As we returned to the dock, Niel showed us the big "party barge" as I call them that was for large groups to fish and picnic from. We took Eric food that the Nkwazi staff had prepared for him since he was finishing the ears on my Nyala. We left him to finish lunch and Niel drove us off to see an elephant herd. One of several. Again, something I'd never seen in the wild! We shot lots of photos and video of these massive beasts and headed back for Eric. We loaded up after he finished and headed back to the mountains through the crossing gates under the tar road. As we climbed, we saw another Mountain Reedbok but both Niel and Eric told me that he was a "little man". After a long time, as we crested the second mountain, Niel stopped and pointed back to the shores of the lake and told us that was where I'd taken the Nyala. I could NOT believe the size of this property! Then he pointed out the boundry on the other side of the vehicle and it was just as far! If any one says that hunting behind high fence is unethical, they really need to see Leeukop property. It is bigger than many of our hunting units in my home state of Oregon. A person could walk for days and never reach the opposite boundry. When we drove on the paved road at highway speed, it took 15 to 20 minutes to get from on side to another. This is not a "put and take" operation with non-native species. If they would have purchased, say a Rowland Ward animal and released it...they'd probably never see it again! This proved to me that this was a real hunt for real wild animals and completely "fair-chase"! As evening approached we spotted a pair of Mountain Reedbok bucks. Again we made the stalk and were unbelievably close when they were pointed out to me. A quick off-hand shot from my .416 kept this one from giving me the slip. Though not as big as the one I missed the day before he was an old fellow and I was exceedingly happy to have trophy number two in the salt. As we shot photos, Nala got protective of her trophy again with Eric. It was funny to watch these two go at it. I asked Niel to get in one of the photos with me which he hesitated slightly, showing me the humility he possessed. As Paula's camera started to flash, I quicky kissed Niel on the cheek in payback for the "aloe taste" joke the day before. We both roared with laughter and he called me names in Afrikaans this time. You know what they say about paybacks! Unfortunately I jumped the red-eye flash and the camera only captured us laughing at my joke. We dropped Eric and Mr. Reedbok at a different skinning shed and hit the tar road back to Mvubu. That night we dined with Malcolm Thomson, a displaced Zimbabwe PH with experience in parks and game, and Kemp Landman, another PH and the owner's son. We had a before dinner drink and joked. Soon the drums called us to dinner again. At the meal, Kemp showed me a photo of a 10 kilo, (22 pound) tiger fish he'd caught right before the water was released from the dam. I know that when I return, a couple of days will be added to catch one of these toothey buggers as well as a deep-sea trip for sailfish and other species that Leeukop offers!!! (But only if they allow me to play "Captain" Hook of their boat for the day ;-) The air conditioning and dark shades again allowed me to sleep until the alarm on our third and last day hunting. As we walked to have coffee and meet Niel, under a chalet near the warthog brood, stood not one but SIX Nyala ewes! I thought to myself, "This place must be very near the Garden of Eden or at least what God had in mind when he made Eden". Day three was Blue Wildebeest day. We picked up Eric at the usual gate but hit the tar road for a while further to a totally new area. We saw Blues, and Impala that again were so large I thought about switching species but I already had an Impala and wanted the Blue to go with my Black Wildebeest. We would see big Blues and get off the Land cruiser and stalk until we were so close we could hear them snort. They would move off 50-100 meters and we would check wind and stalk over and over until by 7:30 AM I was a pool of sweat and my shirt was ringing wet. We did this with four different herds and I was really getting tired. Finally as we peaked a mountain, Eric and I saw a lone Wildebeest bull dive over the edge. We drove on and stalked back and over the edge of the ridge. We were going downhill and Eric caught a movement out of the right corner of his eye. We stopped and Niel focused his Steiners, then grabbed the sticks from Eric. He got me on them and whispered, shoot right behind the ribs 1/2 way up as the bull looked back over his right shoulder at us. Now Niel and my other PHs had told me how tough the Blue Wildebeest are so as I set the trigger and centered the crosshairs, I said a little prayer that my aim would be true. I shot but lost the Wildebeest in the recoil. When I looked up he was GONE. I thought maybe I'd missed as I sure did my share of that this year but Niel said Eric had seen it go down. We walked to where it was standing and there was a pool of blood that was already drawing the flies and dung beetles. Eric was sent to fetch Paula and the truck as Niel and I followed a blood trail that even an old colorblind, far-sighted man like me could follow. Within 40 meters I looked up and saw a horn sticking out of the grass. He was stone dead! Another short prayer of thanks to God and here came Eric and Paula in the truck. What a way to finish my safaris and this wonderful hunt! Post Blue Wildebeest video talk: The next morning Niel loaded our baggage in the owner's personal vehicle and drove us half way to King Shaka International Airport in Durbin where Leeukop had purchased us airfare from to J'burg so I would not have to withstand the 5-6 hour ride by road! I could not believe the treatment this company had done for us on a FREE hunt!!! I mean how much better does it get???? At the half-way point Niel traded rigs with Karel Landman, the owner of Pongola Game Reserve and Leeukop Safaris. We hugged an promised that we'd see each other again soon. What a pleasant and humble man Karel Landman was! You'd never guess that he was the owner of four lodges and this huge hunting area that we had only scratched the surface of seeing in three days of hunting. He dropped us off at King Shaka airport and bid us a fond farewell. The only things I would change if I was given the chance to do over, would be to spend more days hunting more trophies at Leeukop Safaris' already very low prices, add a couple days fishing like I mentioned, and buy my wife a day with full treatment at their spa which offers more kinds of treatments than I have ever heard of! Leeukop is truly a 5-star resort with luxurious amenities and some of the best fair-chase hunting that South Africa has to offer. The last thing I have to say is: "If it seems too good to be true, you are hunting with Leeukop Safaris!"