I'll start this off by prefacing with the fact that this is, as the title suggests, my first trip to Africa, and my first time hunting anything that wasn't a rabbit or feral cat in the family fields. Those of you who have read my posts are likely familiar with this information. For you others just joining my saga, Welcome!
The above image is one of the favorites I took. This was the silver lining of the day, after I boogered a shot and missed a ..... tell you later.
I started to dream of Africa in January 2014 after reading in a magazine, while getting my oil changed, about how relatively inexpensive it CAN be to hunt in Africa. After returning home I did a web search on everyone's favorite go-to, and found this site. I probably spent as much time on this website as I did doing homework in the second term of college last year. All the stories and images and videos fanned the spark of a dream that was building.
I looked over hunt reports, and browsed the classifieds and DEALS section on here, and finally found the "First Blood" package that Patrick Reynecke of Bushwack Safaris posted. He is a PH and the Outfitter for this tale. Patrick is a very kind person, and did what i would say is more than he needed to just to ensure I had a very enjoyable time. He was quick to reply to emails, patient in answering my questions, and even went a little further to get some answers to a gun import question I had. Ultimately, I didn't take that shotgun, but I thoroughly appreciate him going the extra on my behalf. His 13 year old son went on a few of the hunts with us, and is on his way to becoming a seasoned hunter, and eventually a PH.
In June of this year, I received a bonus for extending my contract with the Army. 14 years going strong, I figured I'd be foolish to give up now, and if they want to give me money to keep at it, who am I to decline?!?! I checked with my employer for the dates where I could get two weeks off, and not be denied because of someone else's prior request, then I paid my deposit for the trip, and booked my flight. That's when time really started to tick for me. I had a solid date to look toward, and a plan in mind for what I wanted to hunt. I have another thread that chronicles the choice of animals not included in the package deal. Also, while speaking of package deal, I'd like to explain to new hunters that a package deal is that price. Your Outfitter must organize concessions and lodging, pay those places and his employees, etc, so get your critters or no, you will pay the agreed price. I'm not sure about other outfitters, but I have a certain time frame to go back and get the ones I missed. That will be a good opportunity (read: "excuse") to return to the Dark Continent. Please don't take this as a bash against Bushwack, it's only providing info that I didn't understand before. I'm not upset about that detail.
We spent the week at a Bed and Brai called Biki Bini Bos. I was the only hunter on the property, but there were local people staying in other chalets. Again, not an issue. Schalk and Marie-Lo Havenga were excellent hosts. She would not allow me to eat leftovers, even though I suggested it for one of the meals, since they were starting to get an assortment. He drove me around on the bakkie a few times, and shared in my fun. Their kids and significant others were also visiting for the long weekend. I arrived the day before a national holiday for brai. Imagine that, no one working one day a year just to celebrate the barbecue....I'm looking at you, America! We should follow this tradition!
My accomodations were terrific, and the bed was better than some of the hotels I've stayed in here in the States. All the amenities of home were present, and none of the aggravation we call "work." The staff took care of cleaning my laundry, making the bed, and all the dishes. I was practically not allowed to lift a finger, not even to get a drink sometimes. I kind of felt like I was living on an plantation from the last century.
My flight across the ocean was on Delta. They were hassle-free in checking in my gun case. I had no problems with the locked ammo box in my suitcase. I used my own non-TSA locks on the gun case, TSA locks on the ammo box and suitcase. The powers-that-be didn't choose to look at my things, and I had no issues with the airliner. Patrick had been helping and advising me on the gun import stuff. I considered using one of the permit assistance companies, but decided against it. I had no issues doing it myself, and no one asked me for any money. Patrick was there beside me to give some extra support at the SAPS office, if needed. He also would not allow me to take my own luggage out to his SUV when we left. His son had the gun case, he took the other two bags. All my time in the Army tending to my own gear made this hard for me to accept, but I just let it happen. Strange land, new culture. Learn to accept all the change, it's not half bad!
We drove directly from the airport toward the lodge, but stopped after escaping the hectic suburbs at a small diner and had dinner. I had a side of ribs that would cost me over $15 here, for about half that price. Once again, I was surprised that I wasn't allowed to pay my own tab. Things are going to be VERY different on this vacation from any other I've ever had!
By the time we got to the lodge, I'd already seen several African animals, to include the herd of red hartebeest I'd be looking for later in the week. The rabbits I saw on the road looked larger than the ones I've always seen here, but more to come on that topic as well. Pulling up at the lodge, I was met by Schalk and Marie-Lo. He showed me to my room, and once again I had all my things carried by other people. Second floor, with a balcony, and no one to bother me at all. I was so tired from the lack of sleep on the airplane that I was out like a light but 1130 pm. Wake up would be pre-dawn so we could drive to another concession to try for the first two animals on my list of seven.
For anyone going on their first safari, or those of you who like to share your tales with other, but don't like to repeat yourself constantly, I suggest getting a journal to take along. Lots of people like to just type away their thoughts these days. That is convenient, and much faster, but I chose to take pen and paper. I got a leather-bound one from a local bookstore for about $30. I used not quite half the pages, and intend to put pictures on several of the remaining pages. I expect to have a different one for each foreign hunting trip I take. If you choose to follow this example, write some at your lunch break, and again after dinner. Waiting until the end of the day to do all your entry for that day will take lots of time, and detract from some of the details you'll want to recall later.
In the next several day, I'll be transferring the thought scribed into my journal onto this thread. I hope you'll all enjoy the story. I apologize if I switch from past tense to present tense, but I'll try to provide you with the quality imagery that will help you feel like you were with me.
To my outfitter, camp hosts, and new friends in Africa: "baie dankie" for making it a memorable first trip!