SOUTH AFRICA: Mpeti Safaris Graduation Trip


AH member
Jun 23, 2019
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Raymore, MO
Hunting reports
South Africa
This was my fourth safari to South Africa but first with Mpeti Safaris. I have enjoyed every safari and have had the privilege to take some nice trophies and hunt with some really good PHs but this was my first trip to KwaZulu-Natal and first with Conrad Fick as my PH. The vegetation was thicker than that of the Eastern Cape or Limpopo where I have previously hunted. As I understand it, we were the first group of Americans to hunt with Mpeti. They have previously offered some local hunting and primarily catered to European photo tourists. Despite the limited hunting, the animals were skittish and provided a more challenging hunt than many on my previous safaris.

This trip was about hunting with my daughter as this was her high school graduation gift, so we spent most of our time pursuing her trophy list. I did discuss with Conrad that I would like to hunt a buffalo but only if it could be done without taking away from her hunt. Conrad was very understanding and while we made a few stalks when we came across buffalo, we didn’t spend time focusing on them until the end of the hunt after my daughter had harvested most of what she had come for. She was hunting nyala, blue wildebeest, impala, and duiker. While a zebra wasn’t originally planned, she did take the opportunity to take a nice stallion on the last day when an opportunity presented itself. Accompanying us as observers were my father and sister who also wanted to enjoy the trip with my daughter before she departs for college.

The area we hunted was approximately 12K acres and was connected to the Pongola Nature Reserve where we also hunted. Mpeti lodge was located on the 12K acre area. I will say hunting on the reserve was very different than my previous safaris as we were often hunting along the banks of Jozini Dam and we regularly encountered elephant, rhinos, crocodiles, leopard tracks, herds of buffalo, and numerous plains game on the reserve. On several occasions we had to back out of a stalk because we encountered either elephant or rhino and Conrad wanted to make sure we didn’t get into any precarious situations. The scenery was absolutely stunning and the reservoir provided an opportunity for us to fish for tiger fish one afternoon.

We arrived at Mpeti early afternoon on the first day after a short flight from JNB to Richard’s Bay. That afternoon we settled in, shot our rifles, and took a drive through the area and down to Jozini Dam. The next morning was overcast and was lightly raining off and on. The weather seemed to keep the animals from moving as, I believe, we saw fewer animals that day than any other. Nonetheless, a couple of hours into the hunt we were putting a stalk on two nyala bulls and ewe. We were able to get within 70 yards and Conrad set the sticks. He told my daughter the bigger bull was between 27-28” and we might be able to do better, especially since it was just the first, day but she thought it was good enough after that long 15-hour plane ride. One shot through the shoulder and the nyala was down after a short, 40 yard run. We loaded the bull up and took it to the skinning shed. After that, it was time for lunch and the Mpeti staff surprised us with a shoreline lunch along the bank of Jozini Dam. Watching hippos and crocodiles while we ate was very enjoyable.

Shore lunch.jpeg.jpg
We had numerous stalks on days 3 and 4 but didn’t result in shooting anything other than a francolin (more on that later). We had several blown stalks and several times she was on the sticks but the animal didn’t present a clear shot or spooked before she could shoot. She is very sure when she pulls the trigger so she sometimes takes a bit longer to shoot than some might, but I would rather her miss an opportunity than rush and wound an animal. My daughter’s most desired trophy was a duiker and it was proving to be a challenge. While others in our hunting group had seen several nice rams, we had seen only a couple ewes so Conrad decided we should do some night hunting in nearby sugarcane fields. So that night we went after duiker but only saw small rams and ewes. Had she been hunting common reedbuck she could have shot several 12”+ rams but she was focused on the duiker.

Through conversations the first few days, Conrad learned that my dad is an avid upland hunter so he surprised my dad with a shotgun and shells on day 4 and insisted he pursue some of the francolin we had been seeing. I really appreciated Conrad doing this as I could tell my father really enjoyed it.

On day 5 we slept in since we had stayed out until 2AM looking for a duiker. We hunted for just a few hours that morning before we went fishing for tiger fish but did run into a herd of buffalo with a nice bull in it. We had limited time since we were going fishing but still tried to put a stalk on them. We were able to get within 45 yards of the herd but couldn’t get a clear shot at the bull. After several minutes a cow spotted us and the herd ran off. While fishing, Conrad grilled the backstrap from the nyala she had shot the first day. It was delicious like all the other food they prepared for us.
Tiger fish.jpg

Day 6 Conrad decided we were going to focus on a blue wildebeest. Less than a half hour into the day, we came across a group of approximately 20 grazing in a semi-open area. We were able to put on a good stalk and get within 100 yards of the herd and up went the sticks. She could have shot several bulls but there was one with bigger bosses that Conrad wanted her to shoot. After 20 minutes without presenting a clear shot, the herd started to move in the opposite direction. We were able to circle around on them and once again get on the sticks as the herd walked towards us. Unfortunately, the herd had strung out a bit with the target bull being in the rear and several cows noticed us as they closed to 30-40 yards. While they spooked, it appeared they went into some thick cover, but we didn’t believe they went far. Conrad suggested we get lunch and give them time to settle down so that’s what we did. Shortly after lunch we went back to the area where we had seen them and relocated the herd. We were able to close the distance once again to 80 yards and the sticks went up. This time the bull was feeding in the open allowing for a clean shot in the shoulder. Ater a 70-yard run, the wildebeest was down. That night we went out again for duiker but didn’t see any trophy rams.
Blue Wildebeest.jpg

Day 7 we were going to try for an impala and hopefully run into a duiker. Right away we were on impala. The first stalk was on a single ram that spotted us as we were moving in. She was able to get onto the sticks but wasn’t comfortable with a frontal shot given it was 170 yards away and it quickly ran off. Not long after, however, we spotted another group of three rams and were able to get to 100 yards and on the sticks without them spotting us. A quick shot to the shoulder and the impala was down. That afternoon we were able to make a nice stalk on an old buffalo but it didn’t have the “look” I was after so I passed on it.
Congrats and thanks for sharing!
Day 8 we decided to pursue my buffalo in earnest. Despite seeing a number of animals and being within 50 yards numerous times, the groups didn’t have a bull I was interested in shooting or they spooked before we could get a clear shot.

Day 9 was our final day of hunting. I discussed with my daughter about shooting another animal since I didn’t think the duiker was going to happen and I wanted her to have more trigger time on her trip. She declined and she and Conrad were adamant they would hunt for one until the end of the trip. Nonetheless, I told Conrad she could shoot a zebra and we would still try for the duiker that day and night. After breakfast we spotted a group of zebra with several giraffe. Conrad mentioned the giraffe would make the stalk more difficult, but the cover was relatively thick and he thought we could make it work. After 20 minutes we were in on the zebra and the stallion sorted himself from the group and presented a quartering shot at 80 yards. The zebra took off running into some thick cover, but we could tell it was a good shot and we were able to quickly recover the animal. We quickly positioned the zebra for photographs and then we were off. I asked Conrad if we were going to take it to the shed, but he said he had texted a group to come get it since we still had a buffalo and duiker to get that day.
Almost immediately after leaving the zebra we spotted a group of buffalo. We started our stalk, but the wind was swirling, and the buffalo ran off. We didn’t see any others until we were returning to the lodge for lunch when we crossed paths with a bull and cow. This bull had the drop I was looking for, so we decided to forego lunch and chase the buffalo since the wind was in our favor. The grass was tall and the cover was thick where these buffalo were grazing. This required us to parallel them for several hundred yards before we could get a clear shot. Finally, we were able to get to an opening where the bull would pass 30 yards from us. When he stepped into the clearing, he turned and presented a frontal shot. I hit him square in the chest and he went down. After several minutes of being on the ground he was able to get to his feet and I hit him two more times through the chest.

It was now early afternoon and Conrad suggested we go grab a late lunch/early dinner and shared that he wanted to travel to a pineapple farm to hunt duiker that night. Late afternoon we departed for the pineapple farm and it immediately started to drizzle. We immediately saw several duiker including a nice ram, but he ran off before she could get a clear shot. At this point it was a steady rain and it appeared to keep animals from coming out into the open pineapple fields. At this point I was ready to admit defeat and return to the lodge so we could get a good rest before leaving early the next morning. After discussing with Conrad, he convinced me to hunt for 30 more minutes and then we would call it a night. Of course, my daughter was all in, so we continued the hunt. Several minutes after the conversation, we rounded the corner of a field and the spotlight shined on two duiker including a nice ram. My daughter took aim and hit him behind the shoulder at 35 yards. She had finally taken the animal she wanted the most at the end of our hunt. On the ride home both were quick to point out the hunt isn’t over until the very end and made several comments at my expense.

I can’t say enough good things about Mpeti Safaris and Conrad. All the lodge staff were very nice and the lodge manager, Ruan, was constantly making sure everything was going well for us. The food was outstanding and fancier than the previous safaris I have been on. We did eat game we shot but also had steaks and a lot of seafood given the proximity to the coast. The hunting was also more challenging than some of the safaris I have been on, probably due to the thick cover. I’ll also say I rarely have seen the herds of buffalo on my previous trips that we saw at Mpeti and the Pongola Nature Reserve. They were self-sustaining with cows, calves, and young bulls far outnumbering trophy bulls. The cover and terrain at Mpeti also made for lots of spotting and stalking where we could get in close to the animals, which is the type of hunting I prefer. It was such a great trip I am already planning my return with the entire family.
Trully a hunt and a trip of a life time!
Your daughter will remember and cherish this her whole life!
I love the huge smiles on your daughters face. It is obvious that she had a great time. Wonderful memories I'm sure. Good job!
Trully a hunt and a trip of a life time!
Your daughter will remember and cherish this her whole life!
It was a hunt of a lifetime! She’s hunted with me since she was three but this was a special trip for the two of us.
Yes, her smiles tells it all. Congratulations on the hunt and for getting her the zebra even though she said she was done. So glad you were convinced to stay and her trophy was taken.
Congratulations on a nice hunt for you and your daughter. and Your dad's smile says more than a 1000 words. You might as well start planning your daughters college graduation safari.
Hunted Pongola in 2017, and MKuze Falls PGR which is very close, in 2013

KWazulu /Natal is a very special place !

Congrats on your hunt and thanks for sharing .
Very nice hunt. I like how non-commercial this hunt seemed compared to many. It sounds like a really unique area to hunt.
Awesome hunt! thanks for the report.
Thank you to everyone for all the congratulations, compliments, etc.! It really was a great time with my family and I appreciate you letting me share it with the AH community.
Very nice hunt. I like how non-commercial this hunt seemed compared to many. It sounds like a really unique area to hunt.
It really was a neat area and having the opportunity to see hippos, crocs, elephants, etc. while hunting definitely put it over the top. I also like that it is a smaller operation that doesn't mix groups and prioritizes a personalized experience.

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