Namibia August 2018 Species to be hunted: Elephant, Crocodile, Hippo and various Plains Game Booked with: Leopard Legend Safaris into Balyerwa Conservancy, Caprivi Stip, Namibia Our hunt was booked well outside of a year in advance with Lwyk Jansen Van Vuuren of Leopard Legend Safaris in Namibia. Our contact was Troy Ginn who owns International Outdoor Consultants located in Hamilton, Montana. Troy has helped us book hunts with other outfitters and has great connections with honest, reputable and dependable outfitters around the world. After booking the trip with Troy I briefly met with Lwyk later at the 2018 SCI show in Las Vegas. He made a good impression immediately and seemed very enthusiastic about our upcoming hunt. He even had some footage available from past elephant hunts and got me excited for our upcoming adventure. The months ticked away until August finally arrived and we were on our way. Upon our arrival in Namibia, I reconnected with my wife, kids and step mom who all arrived before my father and I. After a few days of tourism we flew into Katima and met Lwyk, Francois and a handful of crew members. We loaded the Land Cruisers and made tracks toward the Caprivi. After a stop for lunch at a hotel overlooking the mighty Zambezi, we continued on until we arrived at our next stopping point. We unloaded the cruisers and climbed into a small aluminum boat powered by a 20HP yamaha engine. As we made our way down the canals, the look of excitement and disbelief was on all of our faces. This felt wild. On our arrival at camp, the staff and conservancy operators were present and greeted us with handshakes, hugs and hello's. We were escorted to our rooms which consisted of canvas tented chalet style structures with tile floors and functional bathrooms. This would be home for the next two weeks. Our first morning out started a bit late with sighting in rifles, breakfast, organizing and what-nots. We once again trekked down the river in the small ferry and got into the cruisers to begin our first morning of game viewing. It wasn't but ten minutes and we encountered a very large group of cape buffalo. Lwyk had mentioned that he had planned to take one eventually and since everyone was with it made for a great opportunity to break the ice. A stalk was made and after a succesful sneak and a great open sight shot, we had a real nice cape buffalo on the ground. Now I know what you're thinking... The PH hunting during the clients trip? Well, my father and I have a philosophy that we are all hunting together (PH or guide included) and want to experience everything that a location has to offer. My eleven year old twins were with and it was a very good opportunity so it only made sense to see what played out. As luck would have it, we made a memory within the first hour of our hunting expedition with Lwyk, having taken a great buffalo bull after the first stalk, which rarely ever happens. After photos and processing, we headed back out in search of more game and took in the newness of the unfamiliar country side. The Balyerwa area is a mix of mopane forest to bushy/grassy plains, as well as river delta that houses all sorts of wild game. There was no shortage of animals present, and just driving down the trails provided endless viewing and photograph opportunities for the family. It wasn't long and we ran into a couple young juvenile lions who were more than happy to have their photos taken, all the while marking their territory and eventually wandering off into the thickets for an undisturbed afternoon nap. This hunt, my father planned to hunt crocodile and hippo and I had planned on elephant and roan. We also arranged for my son to take some plains game should the opportunity present itself. It wasn't long and my father and I split up to focus on the game we desired. Most of my mornings and evenings were spent hunting elephants that crossed the Kwando into Namibia from Botswana daily. After a herd was spotted, we would make an attempt to get close and scour the group for a good bull. There is no shortage of cows, calfs and immature bulls within this area! The middle of the day was spent scouting areas for hippo and crocodile as well as checking thickets for herds of elephants that had not went back across the border in the morning. Afternoon was typically slow for elephant activity so I helped construct and bait several blinds for crocodile which was a unique experience. On approximately the sixth day of our hunt, we made an approach on a herd of elephant bulls that were camped inside of a heavy timber pocket for the afternoon. After sorting several bulls out I was face to face at seventeen yards with a large bull. His thick, heavy set tusks spread out wide and carried the mass out to the tips. The tusks were evenly matched, bright white and a sight to behold, but after consideration I passed in hopes of a bigger bull as I had set my sights on a fifty pound goal. Elyk and the trackers estimated this bull to be right around forty pounds and unfortunately this would be the best bull spotted during the trip. One day, after checking many waterholes and river spots, a game scout reported that he had spotted a bull hippo in a pool of water late in the evening. The next morning we snuck into the pool and found the hippo in the shallow water sleeping along the shoreline. After a quick diversion with a tossed stick to get the bull to move to a favorable position, the shot was made and the first hippo was down! It wasn't long and the scouts returned from a walk up the trail and said another bull hippo was not far in the next pool. We made our way to that water and after consideration, Lwyk made a shot on a bull that caused quite the commotion. It seems that the initial shot richocheted off the "V" of the skull and stunned the bull sending him into a dazed frenzy. After several bobs and spins, Lwyk sent the next round perfectly to still the pond. Another bull was on quota and my father decided to try for a bigger bull than the first. It turns out that there was another pond within close range that had yet another bull laying in it and the whole group, including my wife and kids made the stalk. The bull quickly sensed the danger and finally after some cat and mouse, my father connected perfectly and sunk the bull. Hours later the bull floated to the surface and we watched as two game scouts swam out with a lasoo (in a pond with crocodiles) to rope in the large beast. Given the events of the day, I dubbed this as "the day of the hippo". On approximately day eight, the operator stated that he had received an approval from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to harvest a problem lion within the conservancy that had been terrorizing many local herdman's cattle for the better part of a year. He asked if we were interested in hunting the lion and it didn't take long to make the decision. We quickly constructed a blind near a fresh kill and awaited the arrival of the assailant. Within one hour of having set up the blind, a group of Hyena's arrived at the kill site and began to call. It wasn't but a few minutes later and the large cat charged in with several loud roars and chased the Hyena's off of the kill. Once the action tamed down and the lion paused briefly, the rifle barked and sent a bullet through both shoulders plunging the large lion into the dirt. As he rolled and spun, another round found his hips just as he was making a retreat to the thicket and stopped him short. He never twitched a muscle after that. There was a jubilant celebration as a great deed had been accomplished for the local community. A major problem animal had been eradicated and sustenance for the local village would be provided as a plus! The lion was a mature male, approximately 10 years of age with a black tipped mane. It was obvious that he had endured run-ins with the locals before as we found buckshot under his hide when he was skinned. Approximatley day ten led us to a band of elephants feeding through a mopane forest. After dodging in and out of the group, a cull elephant was spotted and my father took the opportunity to harvest a nice elephant with approximately 20lb tusks. Two shots were placed perfectly through the chest cavity and the elephant went less than 70 yards. On day eleven, we finally had a very good Croc show up on camera at a bait site. His head was magnificent and it was easy for a novice such as myself to tell that this was a giant representative for the species. We built a blind the next day on a dirt hill overlooking the river/bait site and hacked off the grasses that hampered a clear view. After laying around in the blind and snoozing for a couple hours, the night got eerily silent towards dark. Despite the lack of sound, I happened to look down at the bait site at the exact moment the behemoth reptile slithered out from the rivers edge. I nudged Lwyk and my dad as I saw the large shape slide silently closer towards the bait, not more than eighty yards away. Lwyk verified that the croc was indeed our intended target and my dad settled in for the shot. The bullet found it's mark and simultaneously the head and the tail of the crocodile shot upwards, indicative of a spinal shot. Two additional shots followed, but were not necessary as the first bullet had done the job perfectly. Upon arrival at the camp, the staff came alive at the site of the prehistoric beast as we pulled it from the back of the cruiser and stretched it out on the ground. It intrigued everybody and lots of laughing, teasing, gasping and admiration were observed as we set the reptile up for photos. It was a true beast of a crocodile at nearly 13' long and extremely thick and heavy. Almost a foot of it's tail had been missing, undoubtedly from an encounter with another crocodile over territory or breeding rights. It was a sight to behold. Despite the dangerous game hunting, we made time for game viewing with the family and some plains game hunting with my son. My boy, fascinated by anything that walks, crawls, flies or swims was extremely eager to bag a few trophies of his own. After a failed attempt at a nice blue wildebeest and another at a good warthog, he finally settled his nerves enough to connect on a nice warthog and then followed up with a very good impala for the area, a few days later. On his last day before having to head back home for school, he made a perfect shot on a beautiful Zebra with literally only a few minutes left of shooting light. Everyone along was all smiles and that alone made the trip worth it. The Caprivi is extremely diverse for game viewing. The opportunity for buffalo and hippo in the Balyerwa Conservancy is off the charts. We saw buffalo almost everyday with herds as large as 300 individuals. After wading through canals onto an isolated island we observed a large Cape Buffalo that easily approached the 45" mark with giant, heavy bosses. There are many elephant in the area as well and numbers range from 20-150 or more individuals observed in a day. Plains game is abundant and we also encountered several wild lions and hyena. We also had a leopard on the game camera at one of our bait sites! If you desire to see African game, this is it! All in all, this area is extremely wild. It is not for the faint of heart and is truly for the adventerous spirit. In the fourteen days I was there, I had joked that I might be lucky to make it home alive. I had close encounters with elephants, been chased off a termite mound by an extremely large Black Mamba, rounded up a poacher, witnessed a swarm of killer bees, had buffalo in camp and almost had the boat flipped by a hippo. Although it was very accomodating towards my family and children, it has it's inherent risks with all of the dangerous game around. I took extra care to watch my children and make sure that both our PH and Operator looked out for concern number one, which was our children's safety. I can honestly say that Lwyk worked extremely hard to make sure my family was comfortable and safe, yet providing an amazing african safari experience at the same time. Never once did I feel like they were jeopardized or put in a threatening situation. As for some of the other aspects of the hunt, the food was excellent and the camp care was top notch. We never ran out of anything that we wanted or felt uncomfortable. Of course, the days could get warm in the Caprivi in August and there is no air conditioning in the camp, but this is what wild Africa is about. You make the most out of what you have. Luckily, we had a great PH and operator to make this hunt an amazingly pleasurable experience. Cheers!