Wake up was five today as Strang wanted to be out at six. Another hard sleep, I was startled by the alarm then quickly dressed and headed for coffee. I asked Debra how she slept, and she said, “fine until the lions started roaring at four”. When I got to the dining hall, the butler had coffee ready, and I asked him “do you often hear lions in camp” and his reply was “we have too much lions here”. I thought to myself, what an amazing place, I feel very blessed to be here.
I delivered two cups to the girls and one to Debra then went back to watch the sun rise over the Luangwa.
We almost got out on time and a little after six we were in the bush. It wasn’t long we began to see some game and we made our way to check the baits. The nice thing about Mbizi is you are literally hunting once you leave the camp!
Nothing had hit either bait and Strang said it is rare a bait gets hit the first night, so we carried on in search of kudu and bushbuck plus two more baits.
It is a beautiful morning, in the low 70’s, very comfortable hunting weather. An hour or so later we ran upon a family group of Roan which is always a welcomed sight for me. We tried for a few different impalas, but they just didn’t cooperate so a little before noon we were back at camp for lunch.
We came across a nice sized herd of Impala and after a short stalk another bait was collected. This bait went up in a spot where they had baited a leopard last year but did not take him.
It was a rather slow afternoon overall, but we managed to pick up an impala a couple of hours before dark. And there was a place Strang had seen the day before that he believed would be ideal spot for a big male leopard. Not far from a water hole and surrounded by high hills, just the perfect habitat for a cat to live.
Once back to camp, everyone hit the showers and met at the bar afterwards. The food, drinks and service here at Mbizi have all been outstanding. A short smoke after dinner and I was off to bed, ready to see what tomorrow holds!
Up at five out at six, seems like the long travel days and hitting the ground running on Safari has caught up with all of us. I felt a bit tired and so did the girls.
We moved around checking baits, all the while hunting kudu. A little before eight Strang spotted some zebra so off the truck they went to try and get a shot. It wasn’t long and they were back, the zebra saw them coming and went over the top of the hill. The terrain here is very hilly with lots of bush, so the plains game hunting has been a challenge.
Just after nine Melcom spotted a bushbuck and got my attention. I tapped the roof and told Strang there was a Bushbuck. Melcom said he was a very good male, so they took the shooting sticks and slipped off the vehicle walked back 40 to 50 yards and tried to find him.
They got a brief glimpse of him, but he was in the heavy bush with a female, and eventually slipped away. It’s standing Bushbuck habitat, but very difficult to see due to all of the vegetation. We carried on and came across a young Puku ram in an old burn.
Before heading back for breakfast Strang wanted to but this big valley so he gave his tracker Ovi a lighter and told him to get with it. After several fires were started, he asked the girls if they wanted to start a few. So, they did and before you know what we had a big blaze moving through the valley.
The sun was getting high, and the day was moving on, so we may go for camp. We arrived a little before 12 and had lunch on the deck then a short nap.
A typical but outstanding lunch at Mbizi
At half past three we were out again in search of kudu. It turned out to be a slow day, only spotting some kudu cows and calves.
The Happy Crew
We carried on in search of a kudu bull to no avail. We arrived back in camp about 6:30 and were met by Michael, the owner of Mbizi. He greeted us with a big smile and wished us a happy anniversary. Everyone headed to the showers then we met back in the Lounge for champagne toast to 35 years of marriage!
The chef prepared another amazing meal, and as we finished, I could see headlights from across the lawn and hear talking. Michael had arranged for people from the local village to come sing and perform a traditional dance for us.
It was quite interesting, something more to add to the whole experience of being here. Cigars and whiskey, after dessert and the night carried on. We enjoyed music and conversation, and before you knew it was midnight. I said my good nights and made way to the chalet.
I woke to daylight, a little foggy from the party last night. Looked at my watch, and it was 9:30! As I made way to the dining room for coffee, I could see that no one was awake. Just before I reached the dining room Strang rolls up in his Land Cruiser and made a comment, something to the effect "howzit Bwana, seems that we had really tied one on last night". Apparently the balance os the crew stayed up a couple more hours after I departed.
Strang wanted to get out and check baits right away and asked if I would join him. I said yes but I need some real food, so we ordered up a full breakfast of bacon and eggs and sausage with grilled tomatoes and sweated onions. After breakfast, we felt somewhat more human and headed out to see if we’ve had any activity overnight.
The first two baits were a zero. We made it to the third bait at half past ten, this is the first bait we hung.
As we roll up and Strang says “this is the one that will be hit”. He sent Ovi and the boys to check and only moments later Ovi was back with a smile.
The game camera proved it was a solid male with a nice pumpkin head and Roman nose, a distinctive notch missing from his left ear. He had fed two times in the early morning then appeared once more a little after 9AM!
Strang said let’s get out of here and collect an impala to freshen the bait. With the daytime heat the bait has rotted quickly so we want to be sure he has nice, fresh meat when he comes back.
Normally we don’t go but a few minutes before bumping impala but today we struggled to find one. Finally, at 11:10 we got in a herd, and I collected the ram.
We hurried back to camp to get chairs and go set up the blind. Time was of the essence to get in and out of the bait site as quickly and quietly as possible.
Debra and I stayed back and enjoyed coffee on our porch. There is a small pan next to our chalet and a family group of elephants appeared for a drink. A beautiful sight, we took in the moment to remember this beautiful, wild place.
Once finished everyone came back to camp for a short nap as the remnants of the Anniversary Party were still lingering in most of our heads.
The hunting group went out at half passed three while Debra and I stayed back. We enjoyed the evening on the deck soaking in the sights and sounds of Africa while the sun set across the Luangwa.
The hunting party showed up well after dark, no leopard. We finished the evening with another great meal, and everyone called it an early night.
Anticipation of tomorrows hunt is on my mind, curious to see if our leopard has fed or walked.
I tossed and turned a bit last night and was awake at five when the alarm went off. I went for coffee straight away and made my usual delivery to Deb and the girls. Strang met me in the dining room a few moments later and we talked about the day.
We were out just after first light and headed for the farthest bait since it’s been two days since we set it. Nothing had hit so we carried on to the next bait. We saw a few kudu cows and some impala and waterbuck along the drive. After the second bait was a zero, we moved to the third one. While driving Ovi spotted two Dagga Boys off in the bush, mature bulls with hard bosses but not over 38.
The third bait had no activity so now to the last one. We are all anxious to see what happened last night.
As we approached, we could see the bait had been hit and the cat fed hard, devouring almost all of hind quarters on the old bait and a few bites out of the new one. The trail camera proved up it was out boy “Notch”. We’ve named him that for the notch missing in his left ear. He was on camera at 11 and 2 so we have high hopes he will be back.
The hunt continued for kudu and new baits. We wrapped up the morning and were back in camp for lunch just before noon. After a great meal of beef stir fry and rice, I sat on the deck and wrote in my journal. My eldest daughter is not feeling well and has chosen to stay back in camp, so I got the fourth seat in the blind this evening.
We were settled in the pop up just before four and it’s dead still with the sound of doves cooing in the trees around us. At about 4:25 Strang said “listen, you hear that”? I could not but the second time he said, “it’s a deep grunt”. Hopefully this is Notch making his way to the bait.
As sunset draws nearer, the slight breeze in our face carry’s the distinct scent of rotting meat, something you’ll never forget about a cat hunt.
Nightfall approached, and we could hear the distant sounds of bushbuck barking and bush babies screaming so we speculate in our minds where Notch could be roaming about.
The sun set and night fell with no sign of Notch. Strang called the car, and we slipped out of the blind and made way to camp. Odd that he did not come back. All we can do is wait for morning to see if he fed after we left.
We are back to the normal schedule of being up at five and out at six. We pulled out of camp just as the sun was rising in the bush, was coming to life.
As usual, we made our rounds, checking baits, and the first three had no activity. We made it around to check the last bait where we had been hunting Notch, and slowly approached to inspect the tree. No activity, it seems he has moved on. He did not feed after we left.
Strang had a plan to drop the baits down to the large fork in the tree and tie them together. If Notch comes back, he will be able to drag the bait off to where he wants. Then we will follow the drag and set the blind, this should greatly improve our odds as he should be more comfortable.
We carried on in search of kudu and zebra, to no avail so back to camp we headed. Deb and the girls had a cup of tea on the deck by the river while I wrote in my journal.
Debra and Dyason
After lunch everyone went for a siesta. The plan was to be out of camp at half passed three in search of kudu and zebra.
It turned out to be a slow evening with not much game moving. Not sure if the lions are hunting and has game sitting tight or the continued bright moonlit nights.
Once back in camp I grabbed a whiskey and I retreated to the deck to watch the last bit of sunlight sink in the distance. The calm sound of the river running, was interrupted intermittently by a hyena yelping off in the distance.
After showers and another great meal, I was tired tonight and called it at 9 PM. Everyone said this sounds like a good idea and followed suit.
As I fall asleep, saying my prayers, I wonder what the new day will hold. That’s what I always love about being on Safari, you never know what will happen next.
I was startled by the alarm at 5 AM and quickly dressed and did my coffee deliveries to the girls.
We were out shortly after six and the sun was starting to rise, beautiful cool morning here in the valley.
The first bait we checked which was the third one set was hit last night. Baboons or monkeys had turned the trail camera, so we didn’t have any photographic proof of the leopard, they were deep, long claw marks in the Ebony tree, which leads Strang to believe this is a heavy male cat.
Being just before 6:30, we backed out of your quietly and made a long drive down a new road in search of kudu zebra. Within minutes, we were hammered by tsetse flies, so we broke out the Skin So Soft and lit the elephant dung on the back of the cruiser.
It helped some but everyone managed to get bit several times this morning. On our way back, we collected a large old male baboon to sweeten the bait.
We went on and checked the far bait for any activity. As we approached the dam, Strang spotted some kudu and there was a mature bull, with the group. It took a few minutes, but we finally got a solid look at him, and Strang said no, he’s not big enough. He estimated to be somewhere around 49 or 50 inches.
After checking the bait, and there was no hit, we made our way back to set up the blind and get ready for tonight.
It’s a great set up, should be about a 30-yard shot. Afterwards we made way to the shooting range to let my daughter shoot the rifle at this range just to be 100% confident it’s hitting exactly where it should. One shot a half inch low proves it’s right on.
Back at camp we enjoyed lunch and some rest and relaxation. The hunting party will depart at four today. The bait is less than 3 Ks from camp. So, we should hear the shot.
About five, I hit the shower and retired to the deck to watch the sunset. As I sit, I wonder if and when I will hear the shot. The champagne is chilled, and everyone is ready, we only need Spots to cooperate.
The crew showed up after dark, had a lioness come by the bait and a female leopard shortly afterwards but no male. By then, light had faded, and they called it a day.
The chef prepared ribeye steaks with potatoes and a small salad. We relaxed by the fire until 9:20 when we turned in. We will carry on tomorrow, checking baits and work on setting new ones.
Up at five out just after six we need baits. It was a slow morning only finding a few groups of impala. Seems the full moon has game movement somewhat restricted. Strang wanted to get something more substantial like kudu or zebra, but they eluded us.
A little after nine Ovi spotted some Impala rams but the quickly bounced off into the high grass. Before Strang could start the engine Steven said, “buffalo Bwana”. About 125 yards, it looked like 3 to 4 dagga boys so out came the Blaser R8 in 375 and they were off as the buffalo melted into the high grass.
They found a good bull and waited for him to move a bit to take the shot. The wind swirled and the buffalo caught their wind and took off. Just short of 2 hours in the heavy bush and long grass and no shot - that’s Buffalo hunting!
We carried on in search of bait. At 12:20 we got onto zebra and off they went in pursuit. About thirty minutes in we finally got an opportunity and just as she got in the trigger squeeze, they bolted and ran.
It’s been a long morning and we finally got to camp for lunch around one. Strang and the girls headed to the swimming pool to cool off while Deb and I relaxed on the deck. It would be a quick turnaround as Strang wants to get out at two.
By three we spotted zebra, and the stalk began. The hunting party took off and the rest of us stayed at the car. The sweat bees were unbearable and after nearly an hour we heard the shot about a kilometer away. It took a bit of bush cutting but we got the cruiser to the zebra and loaded up.
Strang stopped at a place near the river where he will put a new bait and the team offloaded the zebra and started the skinning. It was getting late so Strang took us back to camp and brought a couple more guys to help with skinning.
After hanging the new bait, he did a drag and made way back to camp.
Michael, Debra and I sat around the fire enjoying a couple of sundowners while waiting on everyone to arrive for dinner.
After dinner, we finished the night with Strang and Michael telling stories of cat hunts of the past. I called it just after ten as we will be out early again tomorrow.
I woke about a half hour before the alarm and lay in bed saying my prayers.
Shortly after first light we headed out to check baits. The first stop was the last one hit, and nothing came to feed on the baboon. So Strang added fresh zebra to the tree and put up a new game camera.
At the second bait no hit either. This one was the second bait hung on day one so we dropped this bait and will use it as a drag going to the next bay. This is the one where notch had fed. No luck, Notch has obviously moved on. So, we will drag these old baits to a new site.
We found a location in a dry riverbed about a kilometer from the old bait site and set a new bait as a drag bait.
Next, we moved on to the far bait and arrived about nine and could see it had been hit. Upon closer inspection a lion hit it and by the size of the claw marks a big heavy cat.
Before we left, we stopped by the dam and hung the rotten baits for hyena. There is a machan overlooking the bait site and Michael said has been a very productive spot for hyena in the past.
While hanging the bait we heard a lion calling not far away in the bottom. It’s 9:13 AM and the lions are calling, what an awesome experience.
We arrived back in camp after one and had lunch. The hunting party will leave camp at four to go sit over the hyena bait. Deb and I enjoyed the afternoon on the river and had dinner at eight. The camp hippo has been grazing in the yard most of the evening.
Around 8:40 the car pulled into camp. When Melcom got to the table he reported that they saw no hyena but had two male lions in the four-year-old range come and chomp the bait.
Deb went to bed, and I followed a few minutes later. When I was walking to the chalet the hippo was about 20 yards off to the side of the walkway and for some reason decided to come for me. I shouted and shined a light in his face, and he turned away. I never thought that I would be charged by hippo in camp!
Strang had instructed us last night that he wants to be out earlier today so we can get another bait hung before we check all the others.
So, wake up was at five, but departure would be 5:30. I immediately got out of bed when the alarm went off and did my coffee run. I prodded everybody to make sure they were on time, and we got out of five minutes late.
It took a good hour to get to the location where we were hanging the new bait so there is plenty of sunlight. It’s a beautiful spot with a small stream of running water. perfect habitat for a leopard.
There was a fresh sign near the water’s edge, where some buffalo had been overnight. Once the bait was hung, we moved on and started checking baits, seeing the occasional group of impala, some kudu cows and a young roan bull.
The first bait was a no hit, this is the new one put out for Notch. He seems to have moved on.
We got to the second bait, and it had been hit. A fair bit of the baboon has been eaten along with a couple of chunks out of the zebra we put up yesterday.
Unfortunately, the game camera didn’t work so we don’t know what it was that fed but by the claw marks Strang thinks a good size cat.
We carried on the hour plus drive to the bait we put up yesterday overlooking the spring. It had not been hit so we started our way back to camp.
By about 11:30 we got to the new bait we placed along the river bait. No sign of leopard but a big hyena tracks down the road and under the bait.
Back in camp everyone grabbed a cool drink and headed to the deck. The plan was for a four o’clock departure, so we relaxed and enjoyed a nice lunch. While giving thanks for the meal, I prayed for my daughter’s safety and success.
After lunch, most decided to take a nap and be well rested for this evening, I sat and watched the river roll by, enjoying the sights and sounds of Africa.
They were out at four, so I headed to the deck with a glass of wine at half past five to wait for the shot. This bait is close to camp so we should hear it, without doubt. Well, the sun set without the report of a shot. The hunting party was back in camp after dark for showers and dinner.
We were up at five and out a little after six and about five minutes from camp my daughter spotted a big Bushbuck, so I tapped on the car and Strang stopped. They quickly got out and tried for a shot, but the bush was so thick in the buck very wise, so he went deeper into the forest.
Morale is a bit low today, so I told my daughter that it ain’t over til it’s over. Many times, hunts go late into the fourth quarter, so I told her it takes perseverance and prayer to be successful so keep your head up and be positive.
We made our way to check the bait they sat last night, and the cat didn’t feed. This is really odd, the cat eats one day then skips a day then comes back then skips a day again. We are beginning to think the lions are very active in this river bottom and that’s got the leopards on an erratic schedule.
When we reached the second bait, it had not been hit either, so we continued on. About 7:05 Strang came to a stop and said “kudu, let’s go”. Off the cruiser they went in pursuit of the three kudu bulls. About 20 minutes later they were back, the bulls had given them the slip.
We checked the final bait in this area and were on our way to the river bait when a kudu was spotted. A total of 4 bulls and 2 cows in the group, so it appears the rut has started.
Off the cruiser, they went and within five minutes the crack of the 300 Win Mag and report of a solid hit. The bull was heart shot and ran about 100 yards downhill, which was a benefit to us making the retrieval job easier.
We were back in camp by 10:30 and Strang wanted to head down to the far end of the concession and put out two more baits. They took a pack lunch and left for the day, as it’s about a 2 1/2 hour trip one way to the bottom end.
They will check the bait we placed the day before yesterday by the spring and if it is hit, they’ll put the blind up and hunt this evening.
Deb and I had a nice day staying back and enjoying camp life relaxing by the pool.
About 5:30 they made it back to camp, a female leopard had fed so they didn’t stay at that they carried on back to camp.
We now have six baits out, all zebra and kudu so good fresh meat. Fingers crossed we only have a couple of days left.
Wake up was six today so I made my coffee deliveries then went and sat on the deck and enjoyed the sunrise. Over the next hour, the balance is group trickled in and we got out of camp just after seven. The plan is to check all the close baits then back to camp for lunch and the hunting party will depart at noon.
We made our rounds and had no leopard feeding on any of the three baits. They will go check the far baits as well as set one more bait out. They are carrying everything with so If they have a hit they will stay and hunt. The rest of us stayed back and relaxed in camp, doing a bit of reading and writing.
I had a shower about five and took my place in a comfortable chair on the deck overlooking the Luangwa. Michael was pouring wine for Debra and me while we speculated on the outcome of the day.
I said, “if there was no hit, they’ll be back by 5:45. If we don’t see them by then they’re hunting”.
Now about 5:30 a lion started roaring again and seems to be making his way closer to camp. He carried on right until sunset. Nightfall came, and the optimism rose. I knew they were out and had a good feeling about today. They are at the far south end of the concession, so they have a minimum of 2 1/2 hours drive.
Not paying attention to time just enjoying conversation and good wine. I noticed a bit of chatter around the camp. Within a few minutes, Dyason came to the deck with his cell phone and said “bwana, they have got the leopard”! He had his phone on speaker and we could hear all the guys on the back of the car singing.
We all jumped up and made a toast to the success of the hunt and anxiously awaited their arrival. A few minutes later the staff all assembled in the driveway and started to sing the song of celebration.
The cruiser pulled up with everybody joyous and the congratulations started. A huge smile on my daughter’s face was the first thing I saw, a welcomed site after 12 hard days of hunting.
Everyone in the hunting party hit the showers and were back at the bar for a champagne toast and celebration. We relived the hunt as Strang and my daughter told the story.
They found that one of the new baits put out the day before had been hit, but not hard. It was about 2:30 and Strang said, “let’s prepare everything and sit”. Shortly after three they were in the blind and the car pulled away.
The leopard first showed up at about 4:45. They could see him off in the distance, lying under bush looking at the bait and lounging. He made a walk past the bait, looked up at it and kept going. A few moments later he had come back, walked past a bait again, then went and lay down under a bush.
Suddenly, the quite was broken by a cell phone alarm going off. Somehow, my daughter had set her phone for a 5AM wake up but inadvertently set it for 5PM! Strang muttered to her "turn that damn thing off". The leopard didn't seem to notice the sound and lounged under a bush.
Strang said at one point the leopard made his way around to the back of a termite mound and peered over the top, looking at the blind. All he could see was the top of the head and eyes, he said it looked as if the cat was staring, straight through the blind!
The leopard finally made his way into the tree and Strang said whenever you are comfortable, and the cat presents a good shot to take it. She said she was nervous and had to calm herself before squeezing the trigger. The Blaser R8 in 375 went off, and she saw the cat hit the ground hard then, but then run off.
Of course, nerves are tense at a moment like this, and she couldn’t believe she made a bad shot. Strang said he was watching as the cat ran and could see blood, but it appeared low on the shoulder. Suddenly they heard a deep growl and Strang said “that’s it, he’s finished”.
Strang called the car and by time it got there the sun had fully set. They moved slowly on the blood trail and found a leopard stone dead about 80m from the bait.
Through the evening, as we reminisced, my daughter acknowledged all of the life lessons she has learned over the last 12 days. She said it took patience, perseverance, and prayer to be successful. The Safari had its highs and lows, but that is what makes for the total experience. Something I have always gotten out of hunting, is that when you challenge yourself against nature, you learn lessons that will shape your outlook on life. She has now had that experience and will be richer for it.
The chef, Thomas prepared another amazing meal, and afterword the celebration continued. I called it at 2 AM, but they were still going hard, so I have no clue what time the party ended.