- Jan 12, 2010
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- SCI, DU, Pheasants Forever
- Canada, United States, Zimbabwe, South Africa (Eastern Cape; Northern Cape; North West Province, Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo), Namibia, Cameroon, Benin, Ethiopia, Liberia, Argentina
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.
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