SOUTH AFRICA: Hunting With Grand Safari In The Eastern Cape

Neil Molendyk

AH fanatic
Jul 23, 2014
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Alberta Canada
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Alberta Canada,Saskatchewan Canada, Namibia, Limpopo RSA, Eastern Cape RSA
First off I would like to apologize for this late posting but today I decided to get off my butt and get it done, not to mention that it's currently minus 30 outside here at home, sunny, but minus 30. I ended up hunting with Chistophe Beau's organization, Grand Safari, through an unusual circumstance so please bear with me on a little background. In 2018, I, accompanied with my son, went on a Cape Buffalo hunt and subsequent PG hunt adjacent to KNP with another outfitter and as I went on this African trip with out my wife ( which she did not hesitate to remind me) I thought that we should go to SCI in Reno Nevada the following February of 2019 to reacquaint with the PH, meet with some other friends and have a good time. We, with another couple choose to drive from Alberta to Reno and back through the Pacific NW as a sort of mini holiday.
In April of 2019 I received an intriguing email from a sender that I thought I recognized, but was unsure. It stated that I was the grand prize winner of an African Safari. I choose to ignore it as it seemed unreasonable to me, I couldn't recall entering any draws or contests. Being a bit of a skeptic I thought it must be some sort of scam, you know, some African Prince promising you riches if you send them your credit card info. But the email didn't ask for anything like that. So I looked up the website for Grand Safari and yes, it did exist. I then emailed and acquaintance in South Africa, a member of PHASA and asked him if there was legitimacy in this winning. He replied that he couldn't recall meeting anyone from Grand Safari but that Mr. Christophe Beau was a member of PHASA in good standing. I then replied to the original email informing me of my good fortune with the statement "Well your email is very intriguing but could you elaborate a bit more?" Which he did. And that really started the ball rolling. The hunt must be taken in 2019 on a date that was mutually agreeable to both the supplier and the winner, was to be taken in the Eastern Cape province, and the prize included five PG species and all taxidermy of the animals. The hunt was arranged to take place in November, prior bookings by the safari company and obligations I had to meet at home that could not be rescheduled. And there still was a certain amount of uncertainty that I was holding about can this be real? Again, a bit of skepticism. Onward we go. We (I didn't leave my wife at home this time) made arrangements to meet Christophe at the East London Airport on November 11 to begin our adventure. We also decided to engage in a few after hunt activities so I decided to rent a rifle from the safari company rather than being burdened with logistics of travelling with it through South Africa and subsequently firearm unfriendly Europe.

On November 9 we departed our home and 48 hours later we arrive in East London being met by Christophe Beau and J. Christophe was departing on other business and J was to be our PH and hunt facilitator. I have to admit that there were moments of doubt about this all happening, having hunted in Namibia in 2013 and Makuya in 2018 which I thought would be my last trip to Africa.

With our luggage loaded into the back of the Toyota Hilux we were off to our hunting destination somewhere in the growing darkness. Three and a half hours later we arrived at the lodge long past sunset. The camp staff had our lodging prepared as well as a very tasty supper and a couple of beers. We were the only guests in camp. We were back in Africa!

The next morning we were awakened by the birds singing at 5. After breakfast we departed to sight in the rifle, a Ruger Hawkeye in 300 Win Mag, complete with Zeiss 3-9 scope and suppressor. Sighting in was uneventful but it was the first time I had ever used a rifle with a suppressor and I was quite impressed with it.

This area of the Eastern Cape was not like anything that I had expected. As we had arrived in the dark the previous night it came as a total surprise. For some reason I thought that it would be more open plain but this was steep rocky slopes, river bed washouts and brushy clumps in the draws and acacia thorn that seemed to hide all kinds of plains game. There were springbok, impala, warthog, wildebeest, zebra, tiny ten antelope, kudu and sable to be seen. But it was terribly parched. It must not have rained for months and it was apparent in seeing game animals that had perished in the drought.

Out tracker had heard of an old impala ram towards the north end of the 22000 acre hunting property so we decide to check it out. After glassing the area we spotted a pair of rams in amongst the brush surrounding the water troughs and a stalk ensued to within 250 distant. The stalk is not easy as the ground is littered with rocks and stones of all sizes and rolling an ankle wasn't something I was looking to do. It was difficult keeping up to J and his tracker but Imanaged to catch up to them for the shot, and miss. Well the impala ram is off up the ridge and over into the next valley with no sign of blood. He was about to give me a lesson on hunting in his terrain.
After returning for lunch and a brief nap at the lodge we embarked for the afternoon hunt with Black wildebeest in mind. I hadn't given much though on hunting black wildebeest but the more I observed their behaviour the more interested I became. Our Toyota Hilux takes us up and down the steep dirt trails to observe the groups of plains game and watching the Black Wildebeest bounce and run around it easy to see where they get their name of "Clowns of the African Veldt. Eventuallty we spot a small group of black wildebeest and manage stalk on them. But just as we get into position to check them out closer, four red hartebeest that we didn't see to our left get spooked and run through the group of wildebeest causing them to run off as well. Well it was looking like day one was going to go empty handed . Just as we were about to leave the area though, our tracker spotted a lone Black Wildebeest some thousand yards distant, a quick set up with the spotting scope confirms that it checks all the boxes for J, the boss must be of significant size, the horns must go down below the level of the eyes and then project up past the top of the boss. J believe that the older bulls are usually alone , this one we commenced our stalk on foot up to about 220 yards at which point the bull became aware of us and started to get twitchy. Slowly p on the sticks and I squeezed off a shot. I was positive I heard the bullet smack him, as did J and our tracker, who commented that he saw blood as well. But the wildebeest took off like a race horse out of the starting gate. Up over the rocky slope we had only descended only an hour earlier and we found him in a deep crevice on the other side in amongst some thick brush. The sun is touching the western horizon as pictures are take. Fortunately the camp trackers and skinners had a full moon to retrieve the bull in the dark.


Day two: Wake up at 6 am, breakfast at 7. Our route this morning down the dusty trails takes us past the area of the impala miss in the hope of finding him again but to no avail. There are still blue wildebeest, blesbok and nyala and warthog to pursue. But the idea of a golden wildebeest is beginning to creep into my thoughts as I already have two warthogs in my trophy room at home. This area was not typical for nyala but was we drove down the trail it became apparent that there was a lot of blesbok in the area so we began our quest for a good ram. There were bontebok in the area as well and I was informed of the characteristic as well as the financial differences in the two similar species. Blesbok was part of the package so blesbok it would be. After glassing the various groups I spotted what I thought was a good ram and pointed it out to J. J's inspection of the ram convinces him that he is worth a stalk and after we get to within 180 yards J sets up the sticks again as the ram is considering his departure with J coaching me to not be too long. I settle the crosshairs on the rams shoulders and try to calm myself as I touch off the shot on the broadside ram. The ram seems to stagger back a bit before taking off to our right down over the ridge where he piles up. Another african plains game is in the bag.


Realizing that it was only 11 am we decided to stop and see if our old impala ram was about his favourite spot but again he was not. Time for lunch, a nap again and some late afternoon driving. There is a nyala ram that has been sighted several times in the past hunting season but never spotted again after the initial sighting.Tomorrow we will go looking for him.

Day 3
Breakfast early, that was immediately interrupted by our tracker telling J that he had spotted the nyala ram coming out of the drainage bottom and heading up a rocky abutment. Breakfast can wait as we pile into the bakkie and head to where J suspected the ram is going. As we glass the cliff like structure we observe not one but two nyala rams in the company of some nyala ewes and impala ewes heading up to the top of the ridge. J and our tracker decided that it would be futile to try to climb the ridge up to them, the wind would be blowing from us to them and we would be too noisy trying to catch them in all those rocks. Rather, we drove around the rocky structure to the other side where a parallel rocky structure existed. If we could climb up there we could glass the top of the rock that the nyala were ascending and maybe get a shot at them across the gorge. We watched as the nyala rams and ewes came into view, the younger ram leading the older one as he followed the ewes that had descended the rocky slope in front of him.Then as if he had a magic trick, the larger ram vanished as if into thin air. We had ranged him not a minute earlier at 320 yards and now he was gone. As we watched the smaller ram and ewes continue down the ridge and away the wind seemed to pick up out to 30 mph of the north east, the sun disappeared behind the clouds and it wanted to threaten rain. Just then the small group of impala ewes crested the ridge where the nyala ram disappeared and disturbed theorem out of his bed. He had bedded into a small pocket in the rocks, shielded from our view by some small brush which screens him from our view. But now he was stepping into the open.


With the ram standing broadside to me I placed the crosshairs straight up his front leg and midway up his torso. J was watching him through his binoculars when he glanced down to tell me to get ready for the shot. Seeing that my finger was on the trigger he whispered
"take it" just as I squeezed the shot off. The ram tumbled down 40 or 50 yards towards us as I chambered another round, and when he stopped tumbling I placed another shot into his chest to make sure that he was anchored. That's when J informed me that he had taken previous clients on hunts looking for this particular ram but had aways come up empty handed.


Needless to say breakfast had turned into brunch after which we decided to drive through different areas of the property. We had run into a group of giraffe, zebra, eland and more springbok. I had decided that i would like to find a golden wildebeest as I had a blue at home.
Our travels took us past the impala ram home court but again he was not to be found. We eventually came across a herd of blue wildebeest with four golden among them. Three were smaller but even the larger one was not the one that J believed to be on the property. Our tracker suggested another area to check and just as the sun was setting he spotted a good looking golden, hiding in a group of red hartebeest. With light fading and as we approached closer, the golden wildebeest broke from the hartebeest group and embedded himself into a herd of domestic cattle. He then broke from the cattle herd, over and down a rock drop, across an open area for half a mile and into a group of black wildebeest, the broke from them into a dry watershed and out of sight, heading north. If we were to go after him it could be a challenge.

Day 4
We are up at 5, coffee and a muffin by 5:30 and heading out to find our golden wildebeest with intentions for another late brunch. J thinks it may be best reverse our route from last night and maybe we could cross the tracks of the golden wildebeest first thing. But that didn't bear fruit so we continued on our reverse course but to no avail. After half an hour of bouncing over the rocky trail we came to a stop just to do a bit of glassing around. Then out of the blue our tracker spotted the golden, about a mile away, running with a herd of Oryx, heading to the location that we had left half an hour ago. But as he had done before, he left the other herd and returned on his track, then ran up to the herd of domestic cattle that were only 400 yards to our left and on top of the ridge that he went over the previous evening. As we were out of the truck and working our way towards the cattle herd in anticipation of him trying the same trick as yesterday evening, I got on the sticks as he appeared to go from cow to cow, hiding among the herd as he approached the ridge. As he reached the ridge top, he stopped and then reversed his track back down from where he came. I decided that if he was clear of the cattle and I had a good shot on him that I would take it. At 180 yards he stepped between two cows and hesitated. I took the shot and heard the bullet's smack. No cows fell down but the golden took off and when he was clear I took another shot at him on the run and cratered him at 150 yards. All done by 7:45. Brunch will be earlier but no complaints here.


So, now onto that pesky impala ram. We had found the old ram a couple of times in the next few days but he always managed to give us the slip and it was getting frustrating. On day 7 we travelled to the area where he was known to haunt but once again there was no sign of him so we left with the truck to look for warthogs, but as we are leaving the old ram appears out of the watering area and is heading in the same direction as we are travelling. J stops the Toyota and he and I get out while our tracker and my wife travel further away down the road. And as sure as there is dust in Africa, the ram continues heading in our direction and then joins a small group of red lechwe. After following him and the lechwe and getting on the sticks three times but with no clear shot, he finally breaks away from the lechwe and starts heading to his home territory, but at 200 yards he presents to me a broadside shot and I take it. This time it connects and I finally got the old master.


The hunt was over but we had a day or two left which we spent with J touring the area around Tarkestad, hoping for rain, but none came. We dropped off our animals with Karl Human of Human Taxidermy, also part of the prize winnings, shoulder mounts on all but the nyala, which is to be a wall half mount. We had an incredible time. Made some very good friends.

And never forget "Happy wife, happy life"
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Nice report.
Very nice!! I’m glad it all worked out and you didn’t miss out on the opportunity!!!
Congrats and thanks for sharing!
One thing that I didn't include in the hunting report but I will share with you now. The main reason that I couldn't hunt earlier in the year was that I was undergoing treatment for a wolf called Cancer. I thought I had him beat in 2016 but he came back. August and September were booked to receive radiation treatment, and May of 2020 I was told that the cancer was undetectable. I was still a bit weak at the time I took the hunt in November. But I took it and damn glad I did. The hunt was followed by a week long tour of South Africa's Garden Route to Cape Town. Then we spent 10 days in Holland visiting family, some of whom we hadn't seen in 45 years. Now with this Covid thing shutting down the world, at least for now, this win and trip was a true blessing in disguise. For anyone facing the Wolf called Cancer, he can be beaten. And if you don't do it already, get checked.Don't let that wolf on your doorstep.
Congratulations on a successful Safari and thanks for posting a report. he eastern cape is truly a special place. Glad to hear you are winning the cancer fight.
Thanks for a great report. I am going through “Africa Hunting withdrawal”! Our hunt in Namibia has been postponed twice already. I am glad you wrote it up now. It keeps the fire to get back burning. Your Friend, Brian
Congrats on your hunt, and beating the wolf, which has visited my wife twice.
Thanks for the hunt report. Good job. Looks like some nice animals and a even better trip.
Loved your report and very inspiring stuff that you made your trip so soon after taming the Wolf.
My wife got rid of the Wolf many years ago and has never looked back.

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