BENIN: Hunting Benin With Atacora Safaris & Christophe Morio

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by Hank2211, Apr 5, 2017.

  1. Hank2211

    Hank2211 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    [​IMG]

    Well, here we are with another hunt report. As usual (for me), I'll post more or less as I write sections, so it won't come all at once.

    This one all started over Christmas, 2016. The family was enjoying a nice holiday in Maui just after Christmas. My wife suddenly decided she would like to visit Japan in the late winter/early spring. I'm used to these ideas, and if I pay them little or no attention, they usually go away. This one didn't. It began to take on a life of its own. I had no choice but to make it clear that I had little desire to, and no intention of, visiting Japan. For reasons I would think are obvious, I try to avoid making such pronouncements if I can. Here, I couldn't.

    But far from killing the idea, my wife asked if any of the kids would like to go to Japan with her. As it turned out, our daughter had reading week about the same time as the trip was envisioned, so they decided to go together. A close one, but it turned out OK.

    That left me with some time on my hands, since I didn't have to avoid the condo all day to get away from discussions about the virtues of Japan. Some of that time was spent on AfricaHunting.com, and it's there that this story begins.

    Christophe Morio, who I had never met and knew only from AH, posted that he was hunting Benin in the winter of 2017, and had a couple of openings for western savannah buffalo and hippo, along with a variety of plains game found in Benin. The openings were in March. This was a happy coincidence - my wife would be in Japan for much of March! I like to think of this as Karma, a dividend for my being a good husband. I get to hunt, while she is travelling with one of the kids. Everybody's happy!

    I put my booking agent, Dean Stobbs of LTL Hunters Africa, on the case. He came back within a couple of days with some dates and prices for a combined buffalo, hippo and roan hunt over 10 days. I said let’s book it, and I was in. I will admit that this was the least amount of due diligence I’ve ever done for a hunt. But I was comfortable with Christophe’s reputation here on AH, and with the hunt reports I’d read.

    The decision to go started the whole process of getting ready. Usually I have lots of time to think about these hunts, but here, I would be leaving about two months after booking. That meant I had to arrange a few things quickly:

    1. Make flight plans. This was actually pretty easy. Air France is just about the only major carrier flying from Europe to Cotonou, and all of their flights arrive around 9.30 in the evening. Atacora starts hunts the second day after arrival – you are met at the airport, taken to a hotel for the evening, and then the next day, up and out by 5.30 for the 12-13 hour drive to the camp. So the travel agent didn’t have to consider too many options.

    2. Get my Visa for the trip. Everybody needs a visa to visit Benin, so that they can track you down in case you decide to stay forever (!). Or maybe for some other reason. Who knows. But this requires that you give up your passport and entrust it to FedEx and the Benin Embassy for a couple of weeks. Application filled out (with information supplied by Atacora Safaris), pictures taken, bank draft obtained, and everything sent off.

    3. Apply for hunting permits in Benin. Actually, Atacora does this for you, but they need some pictures and additional information, including the descriptions of the guns you plan to bring, and the exact amount of ammo. If you think showing up with more ammo than your permit specifies is a bigger problem than showing up with less, you haven’t travelled to Africa. Show up with the exact number specified in the permit.

    This also requires that you decide which guns you are going to take. The first was easy – I’d bring my Martini Gunmakers .300 Win Mag for plains game, along with 50 rounds. The second was a bit more difficult. I needed to bring something bigger for hippo and buffalo. I had three choices: .375 H&H; .404 Jeffery and .416 Rigby. I decided to bring the .416 this time. It’s made by Rigby and is a beautifully balanced gun that fits me very well. I don’t even mind shooting it from the bench (too much). 40 rounds for this one. Anyone doing the math will discover that this ammo weighs about 10.5 lbs, or just under what I’m allowed to take. Some more math. I was only allowed 50 rounds per caliber. So while I had zero expectation of shooting 40 rounds of .416, if I wanted to bring more ammo, it could only be in .416. So why stop at 40 rounds and not take 50? Because 50 would put me over the weight limit.
    The .300 ammo was Barnes VOR-TX in 180 grain, while the .416 was Federal Premium loaded with 400 grain Barnes TTSX. More on these bullets later.

    4. Get my gun permits from the Government of Canada. You need permits to take your guns to Africa if you’re Canadian. More forms, but I’ve done these many times, and the people at the relevant government agency are efficient. I had the permits back within two weeks.

    5. Visit the doctor for relevant prescriptions. Fortunately, I already had my yellow fever vaccination, since it’s required to enter Benin. I did update my Dukoral, for cholera, and got prescriptions for Cipro and a few other things I thought I might need. But did not think to ask for an oral antihistamine. More on that later too.

    Notwithstanding all of my planning, things did not get off to a great start. I asked for a car to take me to the airport about 2.5 hours before the flight (it’s a 25 minute drive). That would give me lots of time. Just as I was arriving at the airport, it dawned on me that I’d left my ammo at home. All the bags were by the front door, and I forgot to load that one bag. This was a problem – not only did I need the ammo, but without it, my firearms import permit was invalid.

    I told the driver we had to go back to the house, and get back to the airport, and do that within 45 minutes, so that I would beat the cutoff. He was game, and with a sense of panic (on my part), we made the round trip with a few minutes to spare. Not how I like to start a trip.
    I checked the guns and ammo in Calgary, and asked that they be checked through to my final destination. There was no problem with this, even though Air Canada and Air France are not part of the same alliance. The routing was Calgary - Toronto - Paris - Cotonou. I had my doubts that everything would arrive! For those with enquiring minds, the guns were packed in a Tuffpak, while the ammo was in its original packaging, in a Pelican case.

    All the flights left on time, and Air Canada was flying a Dreamliner to Paris from Toronto. I had a very comfortable pod, and after an Ambien, quickly fell asleep. I was woken up about an hour and a half before arrival in Paris for breakfast.

    After a 4-hour layover in the Air France lounge, complete with a steaming shower, I had a very nice flight on Air France, arriving in Cotonou at about 9.30 pm, on schedule. As soon as the airplane door was opened, I had a sense of déjà vu. This is like Cameroon - the heat and humidity (especially) hit you immediately. I would have to get inured to this, or hunting will be difficult.

    Passport control was quick and painless. No request for the yellow fever card. I went to the luggage area, and met Dean, who regular readers will recognize by now. Dean is my booking agent, and is a Zim PH himself. There's no (direct) cost to have him here, so he's here to film the hunt and to get the feel of hunting in Benin - it's his first time as well, and he arrived about 10 minutes before I did.

    We were met by our meeter and greeter, and waited a fairly short period of time for the luggage (this is not a big airport). A little bit to my surprise, everything turned up, rifles and ammo and all. Last time I flew Air France, they lost the ammo for the duration of my hunt.

    We quickly had the luggage x-rayed, and then the greeter and I were ushered into the police office with the guns and ammo. The policeman checked the serial numbers, and then counted each round. One at a time. But all was in order, so we finished the process in less than 10 minutes. My greeter asked if I had 10 Euros, which I gave him. He passed it on to the policeman. There was no sense that I was held for ransom, and frankly 10 Euros is less than I usually get asked for in Jo'berg.

    We quickly left the airport, and after getting through the throngs which seem to teem around every airport in Africa (other than perhaps South Africa), we piled (and I do mean piled) into a mini van shuttle to take us to the Hotel du Lac, where we were to spend the night. If you've seen the minivans which ply the roads of Africa, you will have an idea of what we looked like. Fortunately, since I have a very well-defined sense of my personal bubble, I was protected from unwanted contact by my gun case!

    We quickly checked into the Hotel du Lac, and I was shown to my room. I immediately turned on the A/C, had a quick shower, and settled into bed for a short sleep. It was now 11 pm, and I had to be up and gone by 5.30. The hotel is very clean, the staff are very pleasant, and overall, it was one of the better deals I’ve found in such hotels in Africa.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2017
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  2. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Congrats on making it to the airport on time and certainly for escaping Japan.
     

  3. cpr0312

    cpr0312 AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Looking forward to more!
     
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  4. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Sounds like you cut it close with getting everything to the airport. Amazing it all got there with you. Been looking forward to this report. Bruce
     

  5. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Well that's a start, looking forward to the rest.
     

  6. sierraone

    sierraone AH ENABLER SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Hank, you have got to start writing fictionalized novels based on your hunting adventures! You would only be limited by your imagination! $$$$$
     

  7. sierraone

    sierraone AH ENABLER SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Should have said to fictionalize your hunting trips, not the novel since I believe by definition a novel is fiction.
     

  8. Rick Cox

    Rick Cox AH Fanatic

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    Doesn't sound like money is an issue... Looking forward to more.
     
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  9. Jfet

    Jfet AH Elite

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  10. Hank2211

    Hank2211 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Not quite sure how to take that!
     

  11. Hank2211

    Hank2211 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Next morning I was up early, and met Christophe’s nephew who would be joining us for the trip to camp. Nephew is about 26, and knows just about everything there is about photography. He also had a new drone with him that he is excited to try out at the camp. I was also excited to see what it could do. We piled into our car, and left Cotonou, which I had yet to see in daylight.

    About 10 hours later, after a long drive over some seriously pot-holed roads, and only one stop for fuel, we arrived in Natitingou, the town (more than a village, but less than a city!) nearest to the camp. Here we were met by Christophe, who, surprise, surprise, looks exactly the same as he does on AH! And one other thing – in the drive from Cotonou, the humidity had disappeared, but the temperature, as shown on Christophe’s truck, had soared. It had been 32 (90) degrees in Cotonou, but it was 42 degrees here (108). Something in the back of my mind was telling me I should have paid more attention to temperature issues . . . .

    During the last leg of our journey – 3.5 hours, about 2.5 of those on unpaved roads, Christophe and I got to know each other a bit, and he filled me in on who would be in camp, what the schedule would be, and all of the other things that go into getting acquainted. We discussed the concession, known as Konkombri. On one side, it borders Pendjari National Park, which is itself quite enormous. The concession is a bit of a rectangle – about 50 kilometers long, and between 4 and 11 kilometers wide (if memory serves). We discussed the animals I had under license, and a little bit about the individual species. I’d hunted many of these animals before, but not necessarily the local sub-species. For example, I’ve hunted both common reedbuck and mountain reedbuck, but had never hunted nagor reedbuck. Turns out it’s bigger than a mountain reedbuck, but considerably smaller than a common reedbuck.

    There are no fences in the Konkombri area, nor are there any between the concession and the national park. There is a river, the Pendjari, which acts as the boundary for some of its length, but for much of the year, the river exists only as pools of water, rather than flowing water. The result of this is that animals are free to roam into and out of the park and concession at all times.

    I quickly concluded that this was a man with immense hunting experience, combined with a true passion for both animals and conservation. I had little doubt we would get along fine.

    We arrived in camp around 5.30 pm. The sun sets late here – there is shooting light until about 7.15 pm, so after getting settled into my room (thatched roof hut), we set out to make sure the rifles were good to go. After confirming that they were, we returned to camp for a few cold beers by the fire – not for heat, but because the smoke keeps the insects at bay!

    The room itself is very comfortable – thatched roof, two beds, some nice furniture, a modern shower and toilet, and a fan in the ceiling. It struck me that the fan seemed to be moving hot air around, but then, that may be better than just plain old hot air. More on this later.

    We sat down to the first of what was going to be a series of wonderful meals. The French don’t let their standards down just because they’re in the middle of nowhere. All of our meals were delicious, generally using meat which had been shot the day before, as well as fresh salads, freshly baked bread and fresh fruit at every meal. Because of the late sunset, meals were also late, generally finishing by about 9 or a bit later. We had decided we’d be up and out by 6.30, so it was early to bed.

    I did find it a bit warm when I returned to the room, but got ready for bed, and while I was more than a bit sweaty, I did manage to sleep, albeit a little fitfully.

    DJI_0009.jpg

    Camp from the drone - there are no fences or barriers between us and the animals . . . as I was to find out!

    Day 1 - March 19

    First day of the hunt. We’d decided to look for buffalo tracks and see if we couldn’t get one in the salt early. Quick breakfast, and out in the truck before first light. It’s a big area, and Christophe wanted to be in the buffalo area by the time the sun came up. We found some fresh tracks, and decided to follow them. Unfortunately, we were busted after a couple of hours, and decided to let them run.

    The sun comes up around 7 am (but there’s enough light to hunt from about 6.30 on), and by 8.30, the heat starts to build. By 10 am it’s really too hot to hunt, and the animals start to lie up.

    So by about 10, we started to head back to camp. On the way, we came across a herd of buffalo which were crossing the road. Seeing us, they split up, one retreating and the other moving forward. We quickly jumped off the truck, and began stalking those that had moved forward. Within a couple of hundred yards we had caught up to them, but they were moving forward at pace, and it seemed unlikely we’d catch up to them. I was ready to give up and head back to the truck when Christophe said wait, “I will call them.”

    I’d heard about this, but in a bunch of buffalo safaris, I’d never seen it. We stood next to some trees, and Christophe began to bellow – “cow in distress” he called it. The response was almost immediate – they stopped, and turned towards us. Some moved forward towards us, but stopped about a hundred yards away. We had plenty of time to look them over. While Christophe said there were one or two shooters in the group, it was our first day, and we could do better. So we quietly retreated back towards the truck. Nevertheless, great fun to see them up close.

    On our way back we came across a troop of olive baboons. One seemed pretty big (these are, by the way, the smallest of the baboons), and Christophe asked if I was interested. Of course – always best to break the ice with something a bit smaller than a buffalo. The angle wasn’t perfect – he was looking away, but I aimed for center of mass, and he dropped off his log as if in slow motion. By the time we got up to him, I could see he wasn’t dead, but also wasn’t going anywhere. One more shot put an end to the matter quickly. First trophy in the salt. And the trackers were happy. They eat baboons here.

    DSC00492.jpg

    Because of the heat, you take a long lunch and rest break in Benin. We weren’t heading back out until 5 pm. Even then, it’s still too hot for most animals to really start moving, but by the time you get away from the camp, it’s closer to 6, and you have a good 1.15 hours of shooting light.

    We saw no buffalo, but we did see kob everywhere. I’ve never shot a kob, and asked Christophe to find an old one, if he could. Before long, he’d found one with one broken horn, which looked like it had seen better days. I took a shot from about 150 yards, and it dropped, but I shot high, and spined it. So another second shot to end the matter. Shooting needs too be a bit ‘crisper’ on buffalo.

    DSC00496.jpg
    One tip broken off, good mass, and lots of scars. Perfect!

    Jean-Luc Damy, the owner of Atacora and a professional hunter himself told me that some twenty years ago, the kob were virtually wiped out in Benin. They had no quota for many years, and eventually, the kob started to make a comeback. Today, I believe they only get about 7 a year on quota, which seems surprising since the concession is teeming with kob. I wouldn't be surprised if you see more than a hundred a day. Apparently, it’s expected that the quota will go up with the next count. But a great story of recovery.

    Overall, a great first day.

    DSC00502.jpg
    Sunset over Konkombri
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2017
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  12. stug

    stug AH Fanatic

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    Nice way to start.
     

  13. thi9elsp

    thi9elsp AH Fanatic

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    Ok, Hank, I'm hooked again. Time to cook some popcorn and get ready for the next installment. Thank you for taking us along! John
     
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  14. rinehart0050

    rinehart0050 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Another @Hank2211 Hunting Report - hooray!

    Looking forward to the rest of the story!
     

  15. enysse

    enysse AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Wow, nice mature kob!
     

  16. 375 Ruger Fan

    375 Ruger Fan AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Great report so far............even Winston seems to be enjoying it. :whistle:

     
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  17. Shootist43

    Shootist43 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Interesting so far. How many "bags" did you take on your hunt? Unless you want to pay a small fortune, hunters leaving the States use 2 checked bags. One for the rifle(s), the other 50 lb. maximum including ammo and everything that doesn't fit in your carry on. It's obvious you have a "flair" for writing, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the saga.
     
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  18. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Good looking Kob. Interesting that they eat the baboons..... Whatever works for them I guess. Looking forward to more of the story. Bruce
     

  19. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Smoked Baboon in Mozambique. Leopard quarter as well.
     

  20. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Not sure if it's a sense of foreshadowing or foreboding......
     
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