SOUTH AFRICA: A First-Timer's Journey (2012 South Africa, Leopards Valley Safari's)

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports' started by rnovi, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. Diamondhitch

    Diamondhitch AH Legend

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    X2, why do I feel like I have been stood up? LOL
  2. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    THIS would be true...it's called Work. :pcwhack: Last couple weeks have been particularly long...

    Now, where were we? :kt:
  3. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    Craig peered through his binoculars, eyes reaching deep into the karoo. Through brush...shrubs...trees. The wind was near dead still and the sun blistered sweat from caked pores. He was leaning heavily on his shooting sticks, balancing the binos carefully to get the best view. Slowly, his shoulders slumped and he slowly pulled his eyes away from the glass.

    He looked left and quickly right, looked up for the sun, now behind us and took his cap off. A set of earplugs on a cord hung from the cap as he wiped his brow with a forearm leaving a streak of mud and dirt behind.

    "They're gone. Just no way. Bloody Blesbok. I don't know what's got into them today but they were skittish from the moment we first caught them. Let's pack it in, try for a Steenie on the way out.

    "Craig" I whispered under my breath.

    "They're...right...there."

    *************************************
  4. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    We celebrated that wonderful day - yesterday that is - with a celebration of Kudu, Steenbok, Springbok and Springbok. What a grand day it was! Four fantastic trophies in the salt we settled down to a fabulous dinner of Kudu and a few wonderful dry reds. And a few more wonderful dry reds. And then...

    And then knock came at the door. It always comes too soon. Too early. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and drolled outside to be greeted by a rage of Wiener Dogs...who all stopped rather short this morning. Bleary red eyes met cold noses on a frosty morning and so it was. The bleary red eyes won.

    Craig staggered out not much better for the day. His smile knocked back an inch or two and moving a tad slower.

    Yes, it was a loooooong night last night.

    Today we left a bit later than normal. We were going to hunt the local lands today, looking for Duiker...and Steenbok...and anything else that might be twitching in the wee dawn.

    [​IMG]

    Frost on the ground this morning. Craig, Kevin, Trina my beloved and I wandered softly in the still morning air. It was dawn...it was cold...and it was so quiet. It reminded me of the days in my early youth backpacking in the Sierra's. That cold, crystaline air...the bite in the lungs.

    I was drinking it all in, savoring the moment when I crossed my feet and planted my face straight in the ground, pitching my rifle into the grass.

    Awesome.

    Craig turned and laughed.

    "SHHH!

    I smiled, picked up my rifle now with a few dings and scrapes in the wood and we set off again. Through ravines...through vales...through a never never land and a looking glass.

    [​IMG]

    It was a heaven on earth. And I was living in the middle of it all.

    Attached Files:

  5. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    Kevin was up to bat again and I was happy to give the morning hunt to him. And for the next three hours we wandered looking and peering and peering and looking.

    I enjoy the walks, the hunt, the chance to be in nature, to feel the blades of grass in my hands and the sun on my face.

    We left the morning hunt for the afternoon hunt and eventually three of us wandered along with the sun beating down. Trina was the smart one, she'd taken enough beating on the grapefruit sized rocks hidden under the grass and retired to the Bakkie with a book and smile.

    The three of us...very much unlike any form of Muskateers staggered along through rocks and weeks. Kevin snagged a foot and went sprawling, Craig stumbled and tripped. It was tough going.

    Craig stopped and pulled the binos up.

    "Robert, hang back here a bit. Kevin, let's head about 200 yards or so. I think I saw one..."

    I looked about and settled in the shade of a tree.

    "BANG!"

    BASTARD!!!!

    Kevin promptly planted a near 17" Blesbok with an absolutely perfect shot through both shoulders. Pictures do not do justice to this wonderful creature.

    [​IMG]

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  6. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    Kevin bagged that wonderful Blesbok not 30 minutes after lunch. With a perfect shot. Shane Shane was left to handle the salt duties and the three of us set off to find another Blesbok.

    I was up to bat now and so it was we staggered off, twisting ankles and tripping the light fantastic as it were. We picked the pace up only to have Kevin take the wrong foot and tweak his knee. The pace had to drop off...but the Blesbok - they were always just around the next bend.

    Craig and I looked at each other. It was just after 2pm. It was time to travel light and fast. Craig radio'ed Shane and Kevin opted to relax in the shade of a tree. I dumped my jacket, slugged down a bottle of water and checked my pockets. I dumped everything except my chapstick and knife and two spare rounds - one in each pocket. As if the four in my rifle wouldn't be enough.

    We would travel light and fast. The look in Craig's eyes mirrored that in mine: We Will Find Them. We WILL Hunt Them. We WILL WILL IT.

    Sweat was running down the back of my shirt now. The Blesbok were 500 yards away, prancing in the distance. A herd of them. We crouched low, working angles and shadows, trying to keep the trees and brush between us and them, moving fast. And we'd get there...to a place 200 yards away from where they were supposed to be...

    And they'd be gone. A shadow in the wind. Nothing but dust wafting in the breeze...a breeze that only exists in the wake of a scattered herd.

    Northward then. Northward. And uphill. At a near sprint. I sounded like a hoover vacuum, sucking in air any way I could. Craig looked at me, I nodded. There's more O's on the path to glory.

    And they were 600 yards away and then gone...and 400 yards away on the sticks...and gone...and two Kudu Does wandered past in our frozen stance...and gone...

    West we went...and south...maybe they were at the watering hole...fresh tracks...and no Bok...and then east...and North again up that same hill...and west...and south...and down to the water...and east...and north...and west...

    They were 500 yards ahead again...we could see them dancing in the trees. My shirt was drenched stuck to my back. We knew they were there...we tucked in low, crouched, moved in slow around the shadow side of the brush...ten more yards...ten more yards...I hugged Craigs side, inches off his six...ten more yards...we came to the right of the brush, hugging close...Craig had the sticks up close...moving into the shot...not a sound...my breathing as soft as a whisper...

    Into the shadows, the long shadows in front of the trees, we came in low, Craig moving the sticks 18 inches forward, 18 right...18 forward and then...

    Craig stood up...balancing his binoculars on the sticks...they were out there. In front of us. I could feel them...WE could feel them. The sweat dripped down my spine...cold...The African Sun behind us beating down on us...

    And they were gone. A shadow...a figment...a phantom in the African shade...

    I pulled my bino's up, scanning to the right, my PH with his to the left. I'd grown to this habit easily - Craig would focus on the quarry...I would scan everywhere else both with and without the bino's. The trees, the brush...the twigs...through and through...I was taking lessons from the gentleman next to me.

    Craig peered through his binoculars, eyes reaching deep into the karoo. Through brush...shrubs...trees. The wind was near dead still and the sun blistered sweat from caked pores. He was leaning heavily on his shooting sticks, balancing the binos carefully to get the best view. Slowly, his shoulders slumped and he slowly pulled his eyes away from the glass.

    Defeat. Defeat.

    He looked left and quickly right, looked up for the sun, now behind us and took his cap off. A set of earplugs on a cord hung from the cap as he wiped his brow with a forearm leaving a streak of mud and dirt behind. His watch read 4pm...

    "They're gone. Just no way. Bloody Blesbok. I don't know what's got into them but they were skittish from the moment we first caught them. I don't know...maybe try for a Steenie on the way out.

    "Craig" I whispered under my breath.

    "They're...right...there."
  7. Diamondhitch

    Diamondhitch AH Legend

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    Thanks for the fix!!! LOL

    Those big mature Blesbok always seem to photograph smaller than the younger bulls. Beautiful animal.
  8. Bobpuckett

    Bobpuckett GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Sure Glad your back I needed more chapters for this book! I see a best seller here.
  9. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    "Seventy yards out...behind the big trees...another 10 yards...I see them."

    Craigs body changed. The slumped shoulders were gone, his hat snapped back into place and the binos came up again followed seconds later by the sticks.

    "Ok, get ready. Get on the sticks...they're coming."

    I pushed my binoculars behind me, off my left hip and unslung the .300. The big brush they were behind was about 70 yards out and they were moving to the left...down the slight hill we were on. There was a screen of brush and trees they were behind...with gaps here and there. They'd move through the gaps and we'd have a chance to see them and get a shot.

    I got on the sticks and settled in, adjusting them a bit shorters for the downhill angle and slipping the safety off. I had my head on the stock, barely 1/4" of gap between the bill of my ballcap and the rear bell of the scope for me to see through. Craig was snugged in tight off my right, whispering sweet nothings in my ear. "they're moving...get ready...they all have horns...I'll tell you which one is the male..."

    60 yards out a female bok stepped out from behind the brush screen and froze. She was staring straight at us and we were exposed. She was staring right at me...right in my eyes...right into my soul. Rifle, Sticks, but she couldn't see my eyes through that 1/4" slit between the cap and scope. "Don't...move..." I heard Craig whispering. Seriously? I held my breathing down as shallow as I could.

    Eternity passed...the Bok dropped her head and plucked up a bit of grass and then stood there chewing, staring...She had to have us...we were dead to rights exposed...

    She dropped her head again and took a step, stopping to stare at us again, and then another step...and then...she vanished behind a brush 6 feet away to the left. In her stead was another doe who stopped exactly where the former was...and she was staring straight at us. The first doe stepped out on the other side of the brush and now we had two sets of doe eyes upon us.

    Sixty yards away...barely sixty yards away...two does...and then a youngling stepped out behind the second...freezing in the sun and staring straight at us again.

    The air was dry and cool and did little keep the sweat from dripping off my nose. No breeze at all...and I was eternally grateful right at this moment that there were no flies in the air. The moment was not unlike watching a doe stepping out of the brush in Texas Hill Country, that ever cautious small step after small step, tasting, testing the air. Big eyes gathering in details and nose gathering scent. They had to know we were here...they had to know. Ages of time passed...ages. Five minutes...ten minutes. They knew it wasn't right...fifteen minutes passed as we held our breathes...

    And then we had a cluster of Boks backed up behind the second doe, pushing forward gently. The first doe, to the left, her red-and white hair glistening in the sun broke her pose and started walking leaving her cover behind...walking straight towards us.

    STRAIGHT towards us. "Steady...Steady... I could hear Craigs whisper...I prayed the Boks didn't.

    And they came. The herd came...the WHOLE herd filed out from behind the cover in single file.

    "Female...Female...Female...Female...Female...

    Thirty yards out the lead doe made a small adjustment and turned to the right, now taking her broadside right past us. It was a parade of Blesbok at thirty yards, a mere thirty yards right in front of us.

    "Female...Female...Female...Baby...Female...Female...

    They just kept parading by. And we just stayed frozen in time. Nothing twitched, no movement. My shoulders were aching and we had to have been frozen in time for more than 15 minutes now. My trigger finger was stiff resting on the side of the rifle, off the trigger and my eyes were dry, still staring between through the slit between the ballcap and the scope.

    "MALE!

    Somewhere after 18 does and fawns parading in front of us steps out a Male at 70 yards surounded by still yet more does and a couple smaller bucks. There was no question at all, he was the king of this herd. His confidence was stunning, his head high in the air and the dark red of his fur glistened. I could see the fight scars on his face, old secondary growth on the horns. The bases of his horns were thick and the tips were heavily worn down.

    He had a swagger to his step.

    Behind him were a couple of smaller bucks. They might have been nicer, I don't know. The only memory is of that King stepping out. I knew instantly...he was the one. He went behind the second shrub and came out the other side, turning left exactly in line with the does before him. He was walking towards me now, sixty yards...fifty yards...he was straight on...bucks and does on either side...

    I lowered my head, giving up my 1/4" slice of vision and settled down on the scope. He'd be there...that thick #8 reticle would be on his chest...my finger moved to the trigger...

    I couldn't see him...I could only see red. The scope was still set on 10x...and I couldn't move.

    My breathing was shallow...I couldn't see...I couldn't move...I adjusted my shoulder and shifted the rifle a scant 1/2" to see more. I saw the King...and right behind him was a doe...the .300 H&H with a 180 TSX in it...I had not shot. Over-penetration would take out the doe...I had no shot.

    Craigs telephathic message was coming through in morse code dots and dashes...shoooooooooot...shooooooooooooooooooot...

    At 30 yards the male turned to his right and the cluster of Boks spread out to single file. I would have a shot if...if I knew what I was shooting at. I couldn't tell anymore...I had to lift my head to see. I picked my head up ever so gently...he was there, in front of me and right where the crosshairs needed to be. I settled back down with a dreadful feeling.

    I had to take the shot...and now. They were crossing from right to left and I was frozen on the sticks. I couldn't move my feet, couldn't adjust in the sticks, couldn't rotate the rifle to keep the bucks shoulder in the scope...I l shifted my weight on my arches...relaxing my right foot and curling my toes on the left...millimeters...he would be out of...

    BOOOOOOM!

    The shot rocked my nerves and the herd exploded. I couldn't see...couldn't see in the scope. My hand was shaking furiously as I racked another round into the rifle, sending the spent brass thirty yards away. I couldn't see...the tails of the Boks dancing in the distance, dust hanging in the dry, still air in their wake...

    To the left I saw the big male circle north and turn in a tight circle, facing us for one last moment.

    "There..." said Craig and at that moment, the great male fell.

    [​IMG]

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  10. Bobpuckett

    Bobpuckett GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    WOW! Love that slingshot look of the horns. put a couple of rubber bands on those horn grab one of the rocks laying on the ground you could have shot another one. :thumb:
  11. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    Craig could barely contain his excitement. I, on the other hand, was spent. My emotions were ebbing and flowing like the tides. Joy met tears met jubilee. My hands shivered and shook as adrenaline and excitement overcame me.

    I walked up to the Bok slowly, Craig to my left. I gently poked the Bok in the eye with the rifle barrel and let out a great sigh of relief. I cleared the rifle and sat down next to the King. He was glorious

    "What happened, I saw you pick your head up and thought 'on no...'

    I pointed at the rifle "scopes on Max" I said. Craig started chuckling and I started laughing. I had forgotten to reset my scope after the Springers the day before.

    "I thought they were gone." Craig shook his head. For more than two hours we had chased, at high speed, this herd of Blesbok desperately hoping they would make a mistake. And they almost didn't. When that doe stepped out she was staring uphill, straight into the sun trying to identify two stacked hunters. We didndidn't look right but we didn't look human either. She stared at us for a solid 5 minutes? She knew but she couldn't quite put it together. We were completely exposed, standing in the shadows cast by the sun.

    I put a hand on the great buck. My Blesbok. He was worth the entire trip.

    Craig broke the silence and thumbed the radio
  12. timbear

    timbear AH Enthusiast

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    Oh...my...God!:sweat: THAT definitely was worth the wait. Rnovi, you could teach Hitchcock a thing or two about suspense!:nailbiter: Keep it coming!:clap::clap:
  13. RickB

    RickB AH Fanatic

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    Love the read! Excellent!!
  14. GSTONE

    GSTONE AH Veteran

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    Bravo!...Again! :thumb::whoo::beer::clap::clap:
  15. Jay Kelley

    Jay Kelley AH Senior Member

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    Sounds like a great time by everyone. Haven't been there yet, but I'm going!
  16. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    congtrates on the blesboks rnovi.
    man you are a great story teller, you can draw us in. every day im checking your thread
    :biggrin2:
  17. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    Intermission time!


    My Gear:

    Pre-64 Model 70in 300 H&H: 3# Timney trigger that shoots 1.5" groups at 200 yards

    Ammo: Handloaded 180gr. TSX @ 2,950 fps. TSX's worked well enough - put two holes through the lungs and the critters die. I never saw anything spectacular about them. They just worked and that's about all I can say. They certainly penetrate well, that much I can say. 30+ inches of penetrate on a kudu is entirely respectable. It just wasn't spectacular.

    Zeiss Diavari/Victory 2.5-10x40: For being such fantastic glass this scope annoyed me so much I left it with my PH as a tip. The eye relief was highly variable with power and short even on 2.5x. The FF1 focal plane still felt odd and took a lot of getting used to. I don't miss it.

    Leica Ultravid HD 10x42: Absolutely astounding glass. And 10x42's are heavy worn around the neck all day. I loved them off the Bakkie and started to hate them on the run. By the end of the trip I was swapping with my wife for her 8x33's on the stalk.

    Minox HG 8x33 (Japan version): Excellent second tier glass not as good as the Leica's but much, much more portable. I could wear these all day without burdening my neck. When I got home I ordered a set Zeiss FL's 8x32's (I wear glasses normally and wanted the longer eye-relief of the FL's over the Minox) for stalking purposes.

    Knife: Arno Bernard 3". Never used it. In fact, in retrospect, I wish I hadn't bothered with it. A pocket mini-swiss army knife would have been more useful with cuticle scissors and a nail file. As an aside, my guide had a knife, my tracker had a knife, there were two or three in the car I never needed, nor wanted for a knife.

    Camera #1: Nikon P510. I love the super-zoom on it and the pictures but it's just not pocketable and therefore became a PITA to transport on stalks.

    Camera #2: Canon S10. I've had this cam for a few years and it's still my go-to cam but it's lacking in the zoom department.

    Otis Small rifle cleaning kit. Just don't leave home without it.

    Leatherman pocket tool: plenty good for all my knifing needs but not enough for ALL my needs. I need to add a series of scope tools (torx, allen wrenches, etc.) like a small driver with the right heads.



    By the end of my Safari I would bail out with a loaded rifle (4 in the mag) and two spare rounds (one in each pocket), the Minox 8x33 and that's it. I'd slug a bottle of water and then we would jet out. I didn't bother with a knife and ended up leaving the vest behind too. LIGHT is RIGHT out there.



    Clothing:

    Clothing: Less is more. No doubt about it...

    3" Brimmed Hat (REI Safari Hat highly ventilated): OUTSTANDING! Loved my hat.

    2x synthetic Pants: Prana mountain pants, Marmot Scree Light pants. I absolutely LOVED the Prana pants - they fit me perfectly and had a lot of stretch material in them making them great for running about without binding. They did not shrug off thorns quite as well as I would have liked though. Cotton has it's place.

    3x Ex-Officio Shirts: two of the three shirts worked ok, but I wouldn't wear them again. Crashing through the Acacia thorns it was obvious the Ex'os just weren't up to the task of shrugging off the thorns. On the other hand they were light and breathed well. Of special note: I didn't realize it prior to the trip, but hiking around with a rifle slung over one shoulder and bino's over the other changed the way the shirt rode on me. I found that one of the Ex'o shirts really chaffed me badly.

    I'm going to Boyt Cotton Safari shirts for next time.

    Boyt Cotton Safari Vest: I'm mixed on this. The Vest itself was fantastic - held my gear solidly and shrugged off the acacia thorns with nary a problem. Excellent kit. But it was also a warmth layer that I didn't need most of the time. By the end of the trip I wasn't using it unless it was cold out.

    1x Merrell light hikers: (me) Ridgeline Ventilator Mid. (Kevin) Moab Vent Mid. (Trina) Keen whatevers. Short answer: the Moab's sole was a touch too soft in the rockier areas and Kevin's arches took a pounding. The Ridgelines, now discontinued, were superb. They had a stiffer mid-sole that ate up the rocks and gave great traction. We both intentionally chose NON-gore-tex boots to have better breathability - no regrets there. The only real issue with the ventilated light hikers was that they have a lot of mesh - I got stabbed more than a few times by thorns in the foot. Still, they worked just great. Lightweight, great traction, runnable (*try running in 4# heavy hikers: ugh!).

    The truth that I found is that Africa is no more challenging than Texas Hill Country.

    Light Fleece Jacket: I have this old REI jacket that has a variable insulation depending on where on the body it is. Extra light under the armpits, a tad heavier in the arms, heaviest in the chest. I bought it at least 8 years ago on super-clearance and this thing is a permanent part of my hunting/camping attire. It's been torn, stitched, repaired, stained and otherwise looks like crap. LOVE it.

    Neck-Gaitor: "The Buff". Seriously, it's just a super thin synthetic neck tube that does the same thing as a bandana. LOVE it. Won't leave home without it. It's great to keep the sun off the neck and add a bit of warmth when needed.

    Wool Beanie: yeah...it got that cold.

    Lightweight Rain Jacket: I needed it a few mornings sitting up on the bakkie to keep the wind off.

    3x Socks: Thorlo Every Day Socks. Thin socks work for me with the Merrels. LOVED them.

    3x synthetic underwear. Boxer Brief style. Biggest win: synthetic.

    Merino Wool long-johns. Wore the shirt a couple times. Never hurts to have that layer if/when you need it.

    Light cotton sweat suit for sleeping, etc.

    In the end, it was basically three sets of clothes and I wore one on the plane. Laundry was done daily so there really just wasn't much need for anything else.



    Everything was packed into a single carry-on suitcase. The rifle was packed in a Cabelas single-rifle case worked just fine. I packed my ammo into a small Pelican Case which worked just fine.

    I also brought a very large suitcase full of extra clothes, give-away items, etc. My wife had a ball shopping at the Swap Meet and Salvation Army for extras. The sweatshirts went over big. Even better were all the $9 Kershaw knives I found on super-clearance. I ordered a dozen and figured I壇 pass them out to the kids in the area?urns out they were 3.5 blades and were a HUGE hit with the trackers and skinners. Shane Shane got two of them.



    Anyway, pack light, then get rid of 20% of what's left. Africa is not uncivilized. I never wanted out there. Light is definitely the answer.
  18. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    NRA, SCI, more I'm sure to come
    Hunted:
    South Africa, Texas, Alaska - hey, they count. Trust me!
    Hey Guys & Gals, thank you ALL so very much for your kind words. It was just the most amazing trip and yes, you can rest assured, I'm going to go back!

    Oh, wait, that was a spoiler, wasn't it? :happywave:
  19. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Messages:
    5,789
    Likes Received:
    79
    My Photos:
    32
    Member of:
    Northeast Wisconsin SCI chapter, Lifetime member of NRA,RMEF
    Hunted:
    Namibia, South Africa (East Cape, Guateng and Limpopo)
    Great hunting report, love your passion for hunting, nice hunting equipment.
  20. Bobpuckett

    Bobpuckett GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,819
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Russellville
    My Photos:
    27
    Member of:
    NAHC Life Member, NRA Life Member,SCI, Buckmasters
    Hunted:
    USA(from Coast to Coast and Alaska), Germany, South Africa, Canada
    Absolutely a Fantastic Read Thanks. You are going on your next safari this week aren't you?

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