MOZAMBIQUE: Return To Mozambique With Mashambanzou Safaris

Red Leg

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May 19, 2009
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In 2014, my son and I had a wonderful hunt for buffalo and plains game with Grant Taylor's Mashambanzou Safaris in the Zambezi Delta. In 2015, I signed a contract for a two-week return engagement for October of this year. I have just returned, and the hunt exceeded my every expectation.

I arrived this time better prepared to dig a buffalo out of the Delta. Or at least I thought I had. My first experience in 2014 was notable for a chest-deep wade-about as we struggled for several kilometers across spongy marsh and through deep papyrus sloughs. Courtney makes a wonderful boot for most African hunting. It serves as a lousy wading boot. In my bag this time were a pair of the new Danner jungle combat boots. The irony was not lost on me, as I crawled and slid across charred ground which resembled broken concrete far more than the marsh I left in '14. Sweat was pouring into my eyes, and my knees were barking as my friend and PH Boet van Aarde tried to close on seven dagga boys standing in the middle of a giant flat of dried, burnt, and dusty Mozambique marsh. The low crawl also wasn't doing my borrowed wardrobe much good, but I had least worn my old Selous's on the plane. But more about all that in a bit.

I had departed Houston four days before on Emirates for the long trek to Beira, Mozambique. For those who haven't flown them, Emirates Business class is exceptional in every way. As usual, Emirates had competent staff on either end, and great service and food on board - sleeping flat can not to be over-rated. Gracy Travel had arranged everything with their usual competence, and the meet-and-greet team quickly had me through Johannesburg customs and the security crowd without a single twenty changing hands. Regrettably, no amount of planning and oversight could fool-proof South African Air for the two-hour leg to Beira.

Upon arrival, my rifle case containing my Blaser R8 appeared, but no bag (and also, therefore, no ammo). Grant had a young PH, Scalla, waiting to drive me up to the main camp that afternoon to link-up with Boet. We were able to get the local Air-Link (a SA subsidiary) supervisor to make a call to Johannesburg, and he assured us that the bag was "in hand" and would be out on the flight the next day. It was already getting past mid-afternoon so we decided to overnight in Beira and wait for the bag. A full night's sleep in a hotel was not an altogether bad thing.

Late the next morning, we were at the airport as the luggage came off the plane. You guessed it - no bag. The supervisor was now rather evasive about where it might or might not be. I made a call to Gracy Travel and left the issue in their hands and those of Grant's capable office manager in Beira. Scalla and I headed up country arriving at the main camp at dusk. Boet's lovely bride, Sarah, found a couple of shirts left by a previous PH, and Scalla loaned me a pair of his jeans. Fortunately, I had extra socks, underwear and an additional shirt in my carry-on. Most importantly, I was presented with exactly nine rounds of carefully hoarded 300 gr Swift A-Frames in .375 of somewhat questionable parentage (think reloads with three different makes of brass).

The next morning, Boet, Scalla, Boet's tracker Obanno and I departed early for the drive to Coutada 14, arriving around noon. I quickly set up a target and fired a one-shot "group"; made a bold adjustment; fired another "group"; made a smaller adjustment; and fired a third round which was in the black. Only God knew how tightly the R8 would really shoot these rounds, but I was fairly confident they were at least minute of buffalo. I put four of the rounds in the R8, the other two in my borrowed pocket, and we headed out into the marsh in the cruiser for an afternoon recon.

Around three we kicked up a large waterbuck and as we watched it and its cow race out across the savannah, we all simultaneously spotted several large black animals a mile out into the stubble. At 10x, all we could tell was that no smaller buffalo were with the half dozen or so that were visible. That, at least raised the possibility of a bachelor herd of bulls.

Time was now a problem. Because of the wind direction, we needed to get to the other side of the herd. It also meant we had to take off at a 90 degree angle from them. Thanks to a dry slough and its bordering papyrus, we were able to make the first mile and a half leg at a forced march base. We then turned in the general direction of the herd and were able to close within about 600 meters before running out of cover. We had no other option but to crawl from one bit of cover to the next to close to shooting range.

The marsh had burned several weeks previously creating a blasted looking landscape of ash, dead grass, and newly emerging saber grass (a bad place to put a knee or hand I quickly learned) - did I mention that I had a nice set of gloves in my checked bag?

It took nearly an hour of squirming from clump to clump to reach an old snag within 100 meters of the animals. With the sun dipping toward the horizon, Boet was able to get me on the sticks, and we were able to study the animals for the first time. Scalla filmed and took photos from a bit farther back.

They were indeed a bachelor herd of seven mature bulls. They were quietly feeding and resting as dusk approached. We quickly determined that the best one was bedded with two others. The only question was whether he would stand in time for a shot before full darkness fell. Just as we were considering whether we would have to pull out, the big bull stood. Scalla caught the shot on video.

I could instantly tell it was a solid hit, and fired another insurance round as the herd bolted. That bullet merely creased his brisket. However, the first shot was through his heart, and he went less than 15 yards before piling up. We took some final pictures as night fell. At camp, his width measured 40.5 inches - an exceedingly nice bull for the Zambezi Delta.

buffalo Mozambique.jpg

Coutada 14 Buffalo - An honest forty-inch bull

The following morning we were up early to spend a day looking at Coutada 14's plains game. A primary goal this trip was a Lichtenstein Hartebeest. We were around game all day, including two aborted stalks on Hartebeest, and took a nice reedbuck which was also a timely addition to the larder. Finally, we spotted a bull and a cow feeding with one of the rarest sights in Mozambique - a small herd of Chapman's zebra. These animals suffered particularly badly during Mozambique's bush wars, and only now are beginning a modest comeback. These were the first Boet had ever seen in the Delta. A nice waterbuck was also nearby.

We again took to our knees to get in range, and spent more than an hour watching the composite herd waiting for our bull to stand. Scalla again caught the shot. The video is primarily of interest because it gives a good idea of coastal Mozambique's terrain and animal diversity. Remember, there is no fence within a thousand miles.


The next morning we were off to our next camp to focus our efforts on a sable. I was down to just two precious rounds, but received the good news that my bag had been located and would be in camp the next day along with forty rounds of Woodleigh Hydros. That afternoon, feeling a bit like Barney Fife, I took my two bullets and went hunting a sable.

Late in the day we located a herd which was being shepherded by a nice bull. We again crawled and waited and crawled some more. Finally, at last light, the bull gave me a quartering shot at what looked to be 200 yards. The brilliant Leica optics made the shot possible. A "thunk" drifted back to us, but I became ever more concerned as the 200 yard shot turned into more than 250 long paces. A quick search turned up a blood trail which we followed for about eighty meters before giving up in the total darkness -not wanting to merely push a wounded animal.

We marked the last location, and were there just after first light to resume the track. Needless to say, I had not slept well - replaying the shot over and over again in my head. We had scarcely stepped away from the cruiser when the bull staggered to its feet not twenty yards from where we had fortuitously left off the blood trail the evening before. My last A-frame put the beautiful free-range Sable down for keeps.


The hunt continued almost lazily through the rest of my time in Mozambique - a fortunate by-product of having a full two-weeks on the ground and a tremendous buffalo in the salt on the first afternoon of the hunt.

The Woodleigh Hydro's performed as advertised, cleanly taking everything from a beautiful Nyala and Waterbuck through little guys like suni and red duiker. They also dropped a huge pair of bush pigs in a dawn fire-fight where pigs were zipping past in all directions in the tall grass.








The final four days were spent trying to close with one of the big "blue" Livingstone Eland which ghost through coastal Mozambique. We probed herds, and followed lone bull tracks through the heat and humidity. Finally, on the last morning of the hunt, we crept up to the edge of one of the large savannahs to be granted the gift of a huge bull drifting toward the forest. He presented me with a quartering frontal shot, and he was down instantly in his tracks. A truly incredible conclusion to my most memorable and successful safari to date.


It was difficult to say goodbye to Boet and Sarah. Like many dear friends in this pastime of ours, paths all too rarely actually cross. Fortunately, photos and trophies remind us to periodically visit with each other in our memories - a place where none of us grow older or frailer. It is good to know I'll feel the equatorial heat and see them again soon over a good scotch in the trophy room.

I can't recommend Grant Taylor's Mashambanzou Safaris more highly . A bit of wild, unfenced Africa still remains to be experienced. I urge you to do so if you are able.
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Congrats on your hunt and thanks for sharing! Some nice specimens you were able to take!!!!
Wow, what a hunt! Thanks for sharing. Watching the video of your buff, it looked like you had a relatively small gap between other animals on the second shot, very nice shooting. How many days did it take for your bag to show up?
Great hunt report RL. Congratulations on a great hunt! Did your clothes/ammo bag ever arrive?
Sounds like you had a hell of hunt. Nice to get that big buff out of the way early. Congratulations!
Wow, what a hunt! Thanks for sharing. Watching the video of your buff, it looked like you had a relatively small gap between other animals on the second shot, very nice shooting. How many days did it take for your bag to show up?
I am about 10 yards to the right, so the shooting lane is a bit larger. Five days with borrowed clothes and ammo.
Wow, what a great hunt! I think I shall refrain from referring to you as General Fife however. ;):)
Congrats RL, that was an altogether fantastic experience, with great trophies !
Congratulations on an amazing hunt!
That's just awesome Joe!

I love them all, but the suni amd red duiker... :love:
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Your Suni is grossly exceptional!! Congratulations!!
Thanks for sharing your experience.
Amazing experience and collection of animals. Thanks for sharing.
Dream hunt. Congratulations!
Well done!

Once you had all your own ammo, you must have felt very "rich" indeed!

Heading out after that Sable with what, 2 rounds? :eek:
Looking back through the pics again, you got a nice.... well everything!!! Congrats again on the safari
Congrats on your hunt sir! Great looking trophies!
Congrats on your success - some outstanding trophies! Thank you for the report
Congratulations Joe on a fantastic hunt! I've thought several times this year of the piece of advice you offered at SCI last winter to enjoy life while capable and that none of us are getting out of here alive. I've got to get back to Africa again sometime soon;)
A read like this makes the lust for a wild Mozambique adventure grow immensely.

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