SOUTH AFRICA: KMG Hunting Safaris & A Month In Africa!

blacks

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G'Day All!

This will be a diary-style report of our family's trip of a lifetime. apologies in advance for the length. I'll try and keep it as updated as I can, and as WiFi allows!!

This story really starts 3 years ago. I was planning my first African safari along with my wife, Nikki, and good friends Mark and Lauren, who had been a few times before. I ended up booking with Kowas in Namibia and had a fantastic experience.
In the planning for that hunt, I spoke to Marius Goosen of KMG Safaris on the East Cape. Straight away we got on well and I knew he was the kind of guy I'd like to share the bush with. But it was his reaction when I let him know that I 'wasn't' booking with him that really sold it for me. "All the best", he said, you've made a great choice and I'm sure you'll have an awesome hunt! I was impressed and we kept in touch now and then via FaceBook.

So two years later, when Mark and I started planning a second safari centered around Nyala and Bushbuck, Marius was the first guy I contacted. After a little back and forth to gauge exactly what we were after, Marius put us together a fantastic package in Aussie dollars which was great. We got a couple of other quotes too with some outfits from AH, and the offer Marius gave us was very, very competitive indeed. But price wasn't everything, a quality experience is first and foremost for us, with self-sustaining game populations hunted ethically on foot. KMG's reputation was second to none. Plus, this hunt would be the family holiday of a lifetime for Nikki and I, along with our two teenage daughters, Layne and Zara.

We booked the hunt 18 months out and the long wait began. My wife makes for a great travel agent and she spent untold hours at the computer, planning our itinerary and booking all our own flights, transport and accommodation.

In the end, our month in Africa looks roughly like this -

7 Day hunt KMG Safaris
4 Days driving the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town
4 days in Cape Town
4 days in Vic Falls
4 days in Sun City

Plus travel in between and at the beginning and end.

Several people on this forum gave me some great advice in planning aspects of this trip, both through threads on here and PM's. So I owe a great deal of gratitude to those good folk.

So we spent a long countdown from 520 days out, essentially working our arses off to make this trip happen and to afford everything we dreamt of. Both of us working two jobs on top of our kid's many commitments....I'm a shift worker doing 4/4 12-hour shifts, and I run my own Taxidermy business on top of that. It was a hectic time and we were both at risk of burnout by the time the holiday finally came around!!

But finally here it was, the big day arrived.....we made the 5 hour drive from our home in Mount Gambier, South Australia, to our state capital Adelaide. From there it was a 2 hour flight to Sydney. Here we met Mark and Lauren and learnt that our Qantas flight to Joburg was delayed by three hours :( Oh well, a little time duty free shopping for the girls and a little more time at the bar catching up over a Bundaberg Rum for Mark and I!

After a loooong haul, we finally got through the Joburg airport and settled in to the Premier Hotel OR Tambo for a comfortable stay overnight. The next day it was onto SAA for the hop, skip and jump down to Port Elizabeth....all ready to rumble in our new matching khakis :)
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TBC...
 
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blacks

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My hunting package looked like this:
7 day hunt
Nyala, Bushbuck, Eland, Zebra, Blesbok.
3 observers.

Nikki had hunted with me in Namibia and knew what it was all about, despite being a non-hunter. My two daughters have both hunted deer and small game with me before, and while Layne is keener than Zara, neither had shot any game before. In the lead-up to the trip, Layne decided she'd really like to hunt an impala, an animal she'd loved since I first mentioned Africa. So I discussed it with Marius and a plan was made, IF her shooting was up to par and IF there was sufficient time and opportunity on the safari, then we'd give it a crack. I bought her an old Ruger M77 .243, and took her out for several sessions over the sticks to get her up to a basic safe proficiency standard.
I made it clear to the girls that the first week would require a little selfishness on my part, as some of the tougher hunts I'd need to head out alone. We would make up for that later in the holiday!!

We got through all the airports OK and were picked up at the Port Elizabeth airport without fuss by 'Diesel' and his offsider. A real character who was full of useful information on the area. For the first time ever, I was hunting without my own rifle, due to the hassles of touring afterwards. So Mark generously offered to take a second rifle for us to share, a lovely Kimber classic select grade in 300 Win Mag, topped with a Z3 Swaro 3-10x42, which conveniently was the same scope as my regular go-to rig. Mark also took a larger rifle for a little plan him and Marius have been hatching.....but that's his story to tell ;) I'd go-between using Mark's 300 and Marius' Ruger 300WM. Both I felt comfortable with.

So after a pleasant 2 hour drive we finally arrived at Mpunzi Lodge where we were warmly greeted by Marius, Kim, and the lodge staff. It was fantastic to finally meet after a few years of chatting over the net.

The plan we had pre-discussed with Marius, was to focus on the Bushbuck and Nyala first. Marius had teed us up two days to hunt both these species in other area 2.5 hours away, in the home area of Mark's PH Martin, who we would meet there. So we settled into Mpunzi lodge for the night, and at 0400 the next morning I kissed the girls goodbye to commence the hunting part of our journey....

TBC...
 

cpr0312

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Sounds like a great trip! Look forward to how it unfolds and good luck!
 

blacks

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Morning one: We arrive at Martin's place just on first light. It's a horrible windy day, blowing a gale and it's rained on and off for most of the drive, although happily most seems to have cleared. We drop some gear off for our overnight stay and split our hunting gear and crew between the two Landcruisers. Then we head out to the property not far away. It's a huge place, with no shortage of steep hills, some huge bluffs and river valleys, and thick bush covering the majority of it! Nothing at all like I'd experienced in Africa before and I could tell it was going to be challenging.

With local manager Mike on board as well, we start driving a few ridgelines and putting the binos to good use. That is, if you can hold them still long enough! We drive a few miles and glass a lot before the first Nyala are spotted. The sun has now broken though so the PH's knew we would find them sunning themselves in sheltered gullies out of the horrific wind.

Finally, in some typically very steep and thick country. My eagle-eyed PH spotted an old Nyala bull sunning himself, three-quarters of the way up the hill, in a tiny clearing 2km away. Out with the spotting scope, and a closer look revealed a mature bull that was certainly worth of further effort. Mark generously said that I could have the first crack - well, I pretty much pushed him aside as I can run a little bit faster than him ;)

Moving the cruiser around the top of the mountain to circle around the bull, we closed in on foot to an area we hoped to get a look within range and downwind. After wearing a little boot leather and bashing downhill through some thorns, we managed to get down on the opposite face level with him, on a small shelf just like his, where we could set up the sticks. Marius ranged him at 260 yards, not really what I wanted first morning with a borrowed rifle, but I took a look through the scope on Marius' Ruger. I would the Leupold up to 10x, Martin gave me a shoulder to support the rear of the rifle, and I felt good, as I did on the range the night prior. Talking it through with both PH's, we agreed on allowing for a couple of inches of drop and the same in wind drift. I held on the spot and squeezed the trigger, and the bull jumped with a good hit, quickly disappearing into the thick stuff. We stayed put to mark the spot, and Marius called in the trackers with the dogs to find him. It didn't take long for Lloyd, along with JRT's Flex and Rigby, to find him stone dead; and we made our way around the gully head. I had nailed him right through the heart with a 260 yard cross gully shot. A beautiful wide old trophy, with broomed-off horns and teeth worn right down to the gums, just what I like! What a way to start!

It was a difficult recovery to lift him out whole on a tarpaulin but we all pitched in and soon had him ready for photos then butchering. An amazing start to the hunt and I couldn't be happier with my Nyala!

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TBC...
 
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cpr0312

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That's a heck of a start to the hunt! Congrats on the nyala!
 

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That is one fine Nyala! Excellent shooting ... 260 yds off sticks with a borrowed gun!
 

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Nicely done.
 

jasyblood

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Beautiful nyala!! Congratulations!
 

cagkt3

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Well done! Great start to the trip
 

gillettehunter

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Good looking very mature Nyala. A trophy to be proud of. Congrats
Bruce
 

Mark R

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Great report so far Tim. It was great to hunt with you again mate and look forward to the remainder of your trip....
 
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blacks

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Morning two: After a hearty cooked breakfast (first of many!) we travelled to a different property chasing bushbuck. This was a working cattle and dairy farm and quite different to the day before, with some cleared pastures amongst the bush. The evening before we'd heard of the high esteem the East cape local hunters hold for the feisty bushbuck, and their tradition of hunting them over hounds. It reminded me a lot of our Victorian sambar hound hunters here in Australia, many of whom do not hunt any other game. We'd also heard of their veracity when wounded and the danger they pose to dogs.

Marius, Lloyd and I started in a long slow stalk circling a scrubby area containing desmodium that the bushbuck love. We were barked at several times and I saw a few fleeing backsides before Marius 'somehow' saw the shape of a ram and ewe in the tree line. We crawled in through the thick waist high grass and took cover behind some rushes. Glassing him carefully, we found a huge old ram with one massive flaring horn, but the other was unfortunately broken off short and he'd also lost an eye. A true old warrior!

After a few good stalks and close calls, we decided to sit on a hillside and glass a large basin to see what eventuated in the afternoon. Time was of the essence as today was my daughter Zara's 15th birthday and I needed to be back at Mpunzi lodge before dinner!

Marius 'somehow' spotted this guy's backside under a bush a kilometre away at the top of the opposite face. After taking some landmarks as bearings, we left Lloyd with the radio and spotter and headed off - we didn't even know if he was a mature ram but had nothing to lose! Down hill we went, through a jungle of cover along the creek, and then started stalking up through the thick bush on his side knowing he was at the very top somewhere. It was steep going and of course thicker than it had looked through the binos!
As we got closer we slowed right down. The strong wind was actually helping us now, Marius thought we were now within 20 metres but we still couldn't see him.

Only taking small, ultra-slow steps when the wind blew, we could actually hear him chewing before we could see him. His horns came through the thickets, '10 yards' Marius whispered, and gave me a nod that the ram was a shooter. With the scope as low as it went on 4x, I watched as he fed increasingly closer to us. His head and neck went through the scope, then when I thought I had shoulder I took the shot offhand from a mere 8 yards. I still could not make out the whole animal it was so thick. Down he went. I quickly reloaded and closed in, as the ram regained his feet and took off downhill! Marius and I closed in side by side, me parting the grass with the barrel and Marius his shooting sticks. He'd holed up in a hollow under a thick bush, but was pretty crook from a high shoulder shot. A quick finisher and I had my ram.
Another beautiful mature trophy and the hunt is off to a fantastic start! One thing that will stay with me is the needle like sharpness of his horn tips. That made me glad the follow up was short with no dogs required!

I couldn't believe this hunt! One of the absolute best stalks of my life. And we made it home for birthday cake! Happy birthday Zara!!


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cpr0312

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Great bushbuck!! Definitively on my list when I go to the cape!
 

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All that practice stalking with a bow must have gotten Marius in the mood for an up close and personal experience.

Nicely done, both of you.
 

cls

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Great report and animals, waiting for the rest of the report.
 

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One fine bushbuck and look at those “stelleto” sharp horns!
Congratulations on an exciting stalk!
 

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Congratulations on some fine trophies. The buffalo in my avatar was hunted with Marius along with PG. Great outfit and a great guy to hunt with.
 

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Morning 3: I need to start this part by recapping an old story. In Namibia 2016 I tried hard for a Hartmann Zebra but we just couldn't make the penny drop. And ever since, I've had a couple of mates regularly reminding me of that. In fact, the 'Zebra hoodoo' had grown to such proportions that even my own mother was having a dig at me on FaceBook! Anyhow, hoodoo or not, I was determined to come home with a nice zebra flat skin this time, and I knew exactly what I liked - wide black stripes with little or no shadow stripes, and a nice clean white coat.

Today we spent the morning with all the girls afield, searching for the aforementioned black and white ghosts of the veldt. Eventually we found three zebra amongst plenty of other game but they gave us the slip. We had a good bushwalk though and it was great for the girls to get some miles in their boots. But still no zebra! But we did see plenty of Kudu, Impala and warthogs.

We arrived back at camp to the news that Mark had bagged out on hippo! I won't tell the story of his hunt, as that's his job, but they were waiting for it to float. So quickly we made the decision to take the afternoon off to witness the recovery effort...an amazing learning experience for our family and quite probably something we will never witness again! Marius loaded up his truck and drove us all the 2 hours to the scene of the hunt at the river, all overlooked by the local village chief who as looking very happy by the time we arrived on the scene. As we drove through the settlement there were people waving at us to bring them meat back - word travels fast! By the time we arrived the hippo was on the bank ready for a photo session, and then the 20 or so locals all waiting with knives and bags could get to work.

This day was very important to my family I believe. For my (very fortunate) children to see the simple things in life are what really matters - to see people who have very little so happy really changed their thinking I believe. A roof over their head, clothes on their backs, and for the coming days, protein in the bellies. Hours later when we commenced the long, steep 4x4 ride out of the river valley, there were people walking down the hill, plastic bags at the ready.

To see Mark's hippo up close was amazing for all of us, and the joy and benefit it brought to so many had to be seen to be believed. This is the story we need to be showing the anti-hunters out there, not hiding what we do from view. I'm a firm believer in that. A very humbling experience all round and one that I find difficult to express in words. Thanks to Mark, Martin and Marius for being willing to share it with us!

And yes, we had some hippo on the braii for dinner ;)

TBC...

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