Africa In Our Hearts

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“Mama, when are we going to Africa again?” Johannes lowers the spoon he was about to dip into his muesli and studies my face carefully. I know how eagerly he awaits my answer; he has probably been keeping his request under wraps for a while. After all, long-distance travel is a big item in our family budget. But I also know that our two boys are drawn to adventures in faraway countries and that they don’t expect a luxury vacation. Johannes and his brother Max had reminisced about our last trip to Africa so often and so enthusiastically, that we, their parents, had long since begun to make new travel plans. So all I had to do was exchange a glance and a smile with my husband Oliver. Then we delivered the good news in unison: “This autumn!” We didn’t get much further than that, because the rest of the details were drowned out by loud whoops and cheers from our children.


Blue pool, red sand

Since our trip to the Kalahari a few years ago, we have been friends with professional hunter Volca, who has regularly invited us to visit him again in Namibia. So our choice of destination is clear. After a short phone call, the vacation plans are finalized – straightforward. We want a family hunting vacation, a hunting trip that our children can also enjoy. So a little bit of everything, a mixture that caters to different needs! Fortunately, no problem for Volca, who is himself the father of two sons and knows exactly what a hunting family with children longs for.

The remaining weeks before our departure fly by. Having landed on time, Volca Otto picks us up from Hosea Kutako International Airport near Windhoek. We are thrilled to be reunited and the welcome is warm. We have planned to spend a few relaxing days on the “Intu Afrika” farm in the Kalahari before returning to Windhoek. Not far from the city, we plan to hunt in an area still virtually untouched by tourism and hunting. Exhausted from the long journey, the four-hour drive to the hunting farm drags on a little, but when the first red dunes appear in front of us, our spirits lift. Now our vacation begins! As soon as we arrive at the comfortable lodge in the heart of the game reserve, the children are already splashing around in the pool. While I sit on the terrace with a cold drink, Oliver, who is visiting the lodge for the second time, greets the staff, who remember him from the last trip and have been working for Volca and his wife Marelize for many years. We have enough time to relax and have a pleasant first evening. We don’t want to go hunting until tomorrow.

Throughout the year, the farm mainly hosts photo tourists, who usually only stay a few nights. The farm’s hunting guests supply the in-house kitchen with fresh game, which enriches the menu every day. For us, the focus here is not on trophy hunting, but on providing meat for the lodge’s guests. We are not picky when it comes to game species or trophies; we want to hunt what Volca needs for the kitchen. A relaxed starting point for the next morning and our first day of hunting.

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The air is still cool when we set off to a remote part of the reserve, before sunrise. Riding in the open off-road vehicle makes us shiver. The children can barely contain their excitement. Game keeps appearing in front of us and the boys never tire of naming zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, oryxes, and springboks – or discovering new species such as steenbok and hartebeest. We are marveling at a clan of meerkats seeking cover behind some bushes at a safe distance when Volca spots a single oryx bull moving over the next dune further away. I suddenly remember that we are on a hunting trip, and my heartbeat accelerates. Stalking here in the Kalahari is not particularly difficult – the red dunes, which structure the vast terrain at regular intervals, generally provide the hunter with sufficient cover to get close enough to the game. Usually, it only gets difficult on the last few meters: You never know exactly where the game is on the other side, or whether it has already moved on to the next dune.

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We march single file through the red sand, covering the last meters on all fours. Oliver stays behind with the children at the foot of the dune, while I lie next to Volca in the hot sand. The oryx bull stands in the shade of a single tree, directly facing us, completely still. 140 meters to the target, but he is not yet standing wide. Slowly, very slowly, the bull turns his head to the left and walks away. Volca whistles briefly and the bull pauses. The shot rings out and my first oryx immediately goes down.

Great moments with the whole family

Volca gives Oliver a signal, and the children run towards me. I am delighted with the good shot and my first oryx. And I get to share this experience with my whole family! However, we can’t linger too long. The sun is already high in the sky and the heat is gradually becoming unbearable, so we have to make sure the game is gralloched and refrigerated. We join forces to load the oryx onto the off-road vehicle and take it to the nearby game cooler. I help with field-dressing and the children watch, fascinated. We rarely see such a large animal at home.

A soundscape like Jurassic Park

As planned, we return to Windhoek for the last vacation days to hunt near the city on land that has not been inhabited or farmed for decades. In this environment, hunting in Africa can be experienced up close and personal. The area is only secured by a fence in the direction of the town; towards the hinterland and mountains, there are no barriers that could prevent the game from moving freely. So we need to be prepared for anything and to expect nothing – this is hunting at its most authentic!

The landscape in this area has a completely different character. The sky is cloudy, showers fell last night, and the sandy soil gives off the earthy, heavy scent of rain. Although the trees are only just turning green, you can imagine how it will look when spring progresses and the vegetation bursts into leaves. Below a range of higher mountains, a river meanders through a charming valley, flanked by lush green meadows with tall trees that are sure to attract game. Beyond this valley, scrubland gradually transitions into dense, thick bush.

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Once we get out of the car, the special charm of this jungle-like landscape is revealed to us: the overwhelming soundscape. From all sides, you can hear the cries of monkeys, an incredible variety of bird calls, millions of buzzing and chirping insects, the grunting of warthogs, and the chittering laughter of hyenas. The children look around in awe, turn in circles, and abandon themselves completely to the acoustic impressions. After a while, Johannes summarizes it perfectly: “Mama, I think the Jurassic Park soundtrack was recorded here!” Guinea fowl and sandgrouse cross our path and quickly disappear into the bush as we begin our stalk along the lush meadows by the river. We move through the tall grass in single file, Volca stopping time and again to scan the areas in front of us. The game here is perfectly camouflaged and incredibly difficult to spot. And although the hunting pressure is very low, the game is extremely cautious. Too late, we spot a few warthogs; they immediately vanish into the bush.

Africa’s Gray Ghost

The flat, stony riverbank now lies ahead. Visibility is difficult: trees and bushes alternate, with lush green grass in front and behind. Volca seems to have spotted game, but soon lowers his glass. He is about to move on when Oliver taps him on the shoulder. There is something behind a tree! It is still more of a hunch than a certainty. Volca spots the wild animal immediately, but it takes me a little longer. It’s unbelievable how well-camouflaged the game is here! Now I realize why this game species is known as “Africa’s gray ghost”: Just 250 meters in front of us, a large kudu bull is standing behind a tree and staring in our direction.

“Don’t move!” Volca hisses. We hardly dare to breathe. Only when the bull turns its head to the side do we slowly retreat behind a bush. Volca explains the situation to us in a whisper: This bull is old and good. And it’s rare to come across such a good kudu so quickly. My husband and I look at each other briefly while Oliver hands me the rifle. No time for discussion…

Strenuous stalking

Volca checks the situation again, searches the terrain for a suitable shooting position, and decides to advance to a small ditch a few meters away.

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The rest of our group should wait here behind the bush. We make very slow progress. But we managed to get within 180 meters of the bull and find a good position. I set myself up with the shooting stick, the reticle is already resting securely on the kudu’s large body, but the angle isn’t perfect yet. After what feels like forever, the bull turns away, takes a few steps, and stops. I breathe in and out slowly, and let the bullet fly. Only when Volca pats me on the shoulder and hugs me do I fully grasp the situation. I gather myself and walk slowly to the prone kudu bull to pay my last respects. My reflection encompasses the entire experience of this unforgettable day in Africa.

Now we have to think about preparing and transporting the animal. After all, the bull weighs about 300 kilograms and is lying in the middle of a jungle. Eben, the older of the two trackers, is already fetching the off-road vehicle while we field-dress the animal. We cut off the head, as the long horns would make transportation to the vehicle difficult. Although everyone lends a hand, it takes an enormous amount of effort to pull the bull up to the truck and onto the loading ramp. Two exhausting hours later, we’re done, and on our way to the game buyer in Windhoek.

Picnic on the Catfish River

The next morning, we want to look for the warthogs again. However, apart from a young sow with a few young, there is nothing to be seen on the riverbank. Just as we want to return to the car, we come across fresh eland tracks. Not far from the spot where I shot my kudu the day before, three elands must have recently passed through. We pick up the trail and let the trackers Eben and Asser do their work. It’s fascinating how the two of them always find tracks that we thought we’d definitely lost! Once or twice we feel we’re very close to the game, but we never get to see it. It goes on like this for quite a while until the tracks finally disappear into the rugged mountains.

By now, hours have passed. The children have bravely fought their way through the bush and, like us, have earned a break. It’s lunchtime, the game is no longer active anyway, and we’re hungry. Volca suggests a picnic by the river and gets out his fishing rod. Max is enthusiastic. Ever since he once landed a salmon for a friend in Scotland, he’s been hooked on fishing. Volca has brought fresh chicken liver, which he now attaches to the hook while instructing Max in the correct fishing technique. We occasionally see clariid catfish coming to the surface to breathe. This spot seems promising. Max casts his lure and doesn’t have to wait long before hooking his first small catfish. Volca helps Max it in, takes a quick photo and returns the fish to the water. We spend a few enjoyable hours on the river. Four larger catfish, all caught by Max, are immediately gutted by Eben and Asser and prepared for the next meal at home. This is a truly happy end to our trip, as we’ve come to our last day here in Namibia. We say goodbye to Volca, whom we hope to see again soon, over a delicious dinner in a cheerful atmosphere. And I know that the next time we plan a vacation, our children will ask: “Mama, when are we going to Africa again?”

by Ilka Dorn


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jgraco33 wrote on 85lc's profile.
Is your 22HP still available? If so have the original case?
tacklers wrote on ianevans's profile.
Hi Ian, I'm contemplating my first outing, leaving UK via Dubai to Africa, taking rifles as you did.

I presume it went okay for you, would you have done anything differently? Cheers, Richard East Sussex
A.A. wrote on Msprenger!'s profile.
Are you still looking for a 375 H&H?
NRA Life, ASSRA Life, GGCA Life
Sable @ the lodge this morning

 
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