SOUTH AFRICA: Two Weeks With Multana Safaris

VertigoBE

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First African Safari

Prelude​

In December of 2019, my parents announced to me that in November of 2020 they would be visiting South Africa with two other couples, for a week or two. Their goal was purely to discover the country a bit, enjoy a photo safari, view the coastline, visit a vineyard or two. When I heard of their plans, I suggested to my father if wanted to stay a week longer or arrive a week earlier, and tag on a hunt to their plans.

Ever since I was about 12 years old I have dreamed of one day hunting Africa, stepping into the footsteps of those grand outdoorsmen and adventurers around the turn of the 19th century. Reading about their experiences is what had set me on the path of becoming a hunter. So why my parents made their announcement, I jumped at the opportunity to organise a hunting excursion as well, as I did not want to do my first safari alone.

My father was quickly convinced and so were my mother and my fiancée Karelle. Plans were made to that effect and after some research, we booked a 7-day hunt with Outfitter and PH Mr. Peter Decroos from Multana Safaris in the Eastern Cape. As we had no experience there, we had come upon this gentleman through common friends. Peter having been born and having lived only a few kilometres from my parents gave us some confidence on the quality to be expected. Speaking the same language, down to the regional dialect was also a plus. I had met him once on the Jagd&Hund fair in Dortmund, where I also met his lovely wife Linda Miso-Decroos.

But then Covid-19 struck.

With all the shutdowns, lockdowns, travel restrictions and sanitary measures our hopes to still be able to leave in November 2020 started to dwindle during the summer. In the end, although I kept my hopes up until only a few days before departure, we had no choice but to rebook to February 2021. By the end of January however, the situation in Europe remained too severe to the taste of Belgian authorities and only essential travel was allowed. We postponed again, to June 2021 this time. All through these modifications, and despite not having any paying customers around, Peter was very helpful and understanding and made no issue of our rebooking’s.

Now we know that the June 2021 booking went through successfully so I’ll provide some more details of the trip. The biggest change, compared to the original plans, was that my mother and my fiancée would be staying home, thus it would be a father and sun trip. The second change was that the original country visit trip with the two other couples, was not going to happen. But instead my father and I had booked for two weeks of hunting, and without much possibility to easily travel and visit within South Africa, hunting would be the primary, secondary and tertiary activity.

Gear​

A little word about some of the gear I took with me and that afterwards proved most useful on this trip. We had decided against bringing our own rifles, which was rather an advantage, as it made travelling that much easier, but I will rectify this for my next safari. Far and above the most important piece of kit I brought along where my 4Stable Sticks. Peter usually used the typical 3-legged African shooting sticks, but my Stable Sticks were vastly better to shoot from and aided enormously in the success of the trip. Secondly, I had brought my Swarovski SLC 10x42 binoculars hanging in a lightweight strap harness. As a lot of the time was spent glassing to find animals, they definitely proved useful. A third piece that also was unexpectedly a contributor to the trip (apart from the clothes/shoes/etc which are expected of course) was a Tilley AirFlo hat which I had only bought a few days before leaving. It did it job well to keep the sun out of my eyes and off my neck and ears, while not being too hot to wear while hiking either. A cheap rangefinder I had brought was also useful for bringing some additional confidence when needed.

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The author glassing the brush for movement.

I had brought tall and heavy leather hiking boots that I usually use for hunting in Scotland, but also a pair of low, light hiking shoes. I never even took out the boots and only wore the hiking shoes. Gaiters were not used either, I just had thick woollen socks. Shorts, for hiking in the heat, were definitely useful too, but they do leave your shins open to getting flayed by all the friendly African brush. I chose to use the shorts, the brush only hurt the first few days, afterwards it is almost a welcoming feeling to have thorns scraping on your skin, because it helps with the itching from the scratches of the previous days.

On our way​

We would be leaving in the early afternoon on Saturday the fifth of June from Schiphol in the Netherlands, flying with Qatar Airways to Doha, then connecting to Johannesburg, with a final domestic flight to Port Elizabeth and arrival around 17:00 on Sunday. We would then have 12 full days of hunting, before flying the same route in reverse on Saturday the 19th of June, arriving in the afternoon of Sunday again.

The flights were, all things considered, quite pleasant. Qatar Airways is definitely a premier airline and their personnel did everything to make the trip as comfortable as possible. We had to wear a mask for about 25 hours (the length of the trip) however.

During the hours waiting for connecting flights in Doha and Johannesburg, I had started writing out of pure excitement. It is fun now to read my words again, full of expectation and eagerness to get going! I did write the following: “I can’t wait any longer for the adventure that is about to unfold. Already I can feel pangs of fear that it will all be over too soon, too quick. I must make a conscious effort to live in the moment and absorb as much as I can.

Multana Safaris​


Arriving at Port Elizabeth, we were waited upon by Peter who came to pick us up. As it is now winter in the southern hemisphere, light was fading fast when we drove off, with plenty of gold and pink in the sky. We had about an hour to drive total, in the direction of Grahamstown, with a gravel and sand road for the last few kilometres as we drove into the River Valley Conservancy. On the way there we saw a group of springbok in the fields next to us.

At the beautiful lodge with a thatched roof, we were welcomed by Linda, Peter’s wife of 15 years. She is as energetic and welcoming as she is beautiful. After the obligatory aperitif with kudu biltong and black wildebeest droëwors we dined that evening on a filet of black wildebeest. Rare obviously. It tastes like a fine steak with a hint of liver. Some great South-African red wine to accompany the meal of course. But it was not late before we retired for bed. After all the travels, we were quite weary, and I for one wanted to be fresh for the first hunt the next morning.

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The backside of the lodge, overlooking the valley below.

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The swimming pool and the view on the valley


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The lodge itself

A little intermezzo about Multana Safaris: it is a property of 3200 hectares, (=8000 acres), part of a larger concession of 42000 hectares (=100K acres) between 20 different owners or so. Peter’s is primarily consisting of high brush, in which animals can fully disappear, around a large winding valley. As most Eastern Cape properties, it is high-fenced, but the animals would not know the difference, as there are very little open plains and it is mostly hilly or even mountainous brush country. On his property he has self sustaining populations of impala, blesbok, nyala, kudu, waterbuck, black wildebeest, bushbuck, warthog, vervet monkeys and baboons. Out of these populations he allows only sustainable hunting that will not be detrimental to the wellbeing of the animal numbers. For other species, he goes to the neighbouring properties of the conservancy, or on the farms of friendly farmers, who allow some limited hunting on their property.

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Some of the views on Peter's property

Together with Peter, who is a PH himself, and Linda, there are four more people working on the property. Another PH, Thembelihle “Litchi” Sideba, his girlfriend Anelisa who helps Linda to manage the household and aids in the cooking and then Zwai and Monde, two workers who help keep the property running.

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Monday 7/06/2021​

After one quick practice shot of my 4Stable Sticks on 100m, confirming I was right on the bullseye, we made our plans for the day. My father and I are both using Peter’s rifles for this trip, as we did not want to chance it with our own rifles. My father had a Howa .270 Win with a Schmidt & Bender fixed 8x54 scope, while I took a Howa .300 WinMag with a Zeiss Terra 4-12x42 variable scope. These were working rifles, without embellishment, befitting for the hard hunting of the next few days. We each got two boxes of 20 rounds for the 12 days, and just needed to give back what we did not use.

Peter being the age of my father and Litchi being pretty much my age, we naturally divided up into the junior team and the senior team. For the first hunt of the trip we would split up, with Litchi and I going for a walk towards the back of the property. We started off from the patio of the lodge, and quickly went into the brush, following paths worn out by many hooves throughout the years. Not more than 200 meters of walking later, Litchi and I came upon a nice nyala bull, but we decided to leave it behind for now as it was still quite young. While we were glassing the nyala, Litchi suddenly noticed a nice blesbok bull standing just outside of my view, close to the nyala. “Would you like to shoot a blesbok” he asked. Well yes of course I’d like that! Litchi asked to use my bino’s to have a better look at the animal (his is an old pair, with subpar colours and sharpness, so no good for accurately aging an animal). Then we needed to setup up the shooting sticks I had brought and it was clearly not comfortable for Litchi to use this unknown contraption. I had to explain a few more times the next few days how they worked. After a few seconds however, we got the sticks pointed in the right direction and the rifle was lying on them. The blesbok was quartering toward us, almost looking in our direction, feeding on some grass. Due to this angle, the head and horns were sometimes blocking a clear shot to the shoulder/chest area. I waited until he lifted his head and squeezed.

A few steps, going no more than 10 meters, not even trying to run anymore and he was down. My first African animal, with heart and lung shot from about 80m. We found the bullet on the opposite shoulder just under the skin and I asked to get it out, starting the tradition on this trip to recuperate all the bullets or fragments I could. Smiling from ear to ear, I could not stop thanking Litchi, shaking hands with him, Corona be damned. This was just the first step in fulfilling a life long dream.


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The author’s first African animal, a blesbok

After the mandatory pictures, as it was still only 09:00 in the morning, we decided to leave the blesbok in the shade of some brush and continued our stalk to see what else could we found. We fell upon a group of blesbok some time later, saw vervet monkeys, warthog from afar and multiple nyala bull’s and females.

Returning to the lodge, we all shared a celebratory drink! My father had also taken an animal, an old impala female. We had another stalk in the afternoon, but no more success for me, apart from seeing large amounts of animals on the property. In the evening we had a leg of bushbuck carved up for us, a dryer, more dense meat. Bushbuck would prove quite elusive in the coming days.

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Bushbuck leg roast

Tuesday 8/06/2021​

For breakfast this morning we had the liver, kidney’s and heart of the blesbok I had shot the day before. Sautéed with onions and garlic, it was a very tasty and rich morning meal. Plenty of energy to start the day!

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The fields of aloë vera, omnipresent on the property.

The plan today was to go all four together, Peter, Litchi, my father and I, on a stalk to see if we could find a blesbok for my father. We had seen them sunning in the morning light on a field not far from where I had shot the blesbok. My father would be first shot. We came upon the herd of blesbok, and after some glassing Peter said there were only females to be seen. There was however a magnificent old black wildebeest bull with the herd of blesbok, so targets changed and my father made a perfect shot, dropping the black wildebeest in its tracks. While walking over the, the blesbok made a run for it, but one bull stayed behind just a bit too long, almost challenging us. After the blessing of Peter, my father also made short work of that one. In a span of only 15 minutes it was my dad’s turn to be grinning from ear to ear.

After taking the animals back to the lodge, we set out on the truck to go have a look at the other side of the property, where some warthog had been spotted in the morning sun. Together with Peter we went on a short stalk, trying to close the distance until we came upon a male warthog with a few females and piglets. The male was feeding on his front knees, just behind some light brush, so we had to wait until the shot was clear. It was not a huge warthog, but quite big for the region, so Peter told me.

Waiting on my sticks for the shot to become clear, I kept on being pushed by the wind, making an up and down movement with the rifle. Finally, the warthog moved a half a meter further and I could take the shot. My shot was higher than I wanted it to, and I spined the warthog, dropping him like a sack of bricks where he stood. The phrase as if struck by lightning came to mind. As far as not shooting perfectly, at least in this case the results were more than sufficient. We took the pig with us on the bakkie, after having pulled it over the ground for over 300m in the blazing sun, towards terrain that the truck could reach.
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A nice warthog, not huge, but definitely an old fighter, with all those scars

For the last remaining hours of the day we set out for a 1hour drive all the way to the bottom of the valley and had a sit at a blind for a bushbuck, waterbuck or big nyala. We did see a big group of impalas again, as well as two black impala ram’s that paraded from left to right, and then back in front of us. I knew that black impala was a species that my father was very much interested in, so we let them pass by in the hope that they would get into range of Peter and my father sitting in a blind a few hundred meters further. But it did not work out. We did hear kudu barking on the opposite hill side.

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Evenings were magical at Multana Safaris

For dinner we had a braai with T-bone steaks and a very tasty African dish consisting of beans, vegetables and pili pili.

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The barbecue getting a fire on for a “braai” of T-bone steaks

Wednesday 9/06/2021​

Litchi and I tried to mount two stalks on two different groups of impalas, but failed each time due to swirling winds and us getting scented. Each time the impala fled from the clearings where we had spotted them, into the African brush. And once inside the dense brush no way we could get closer anymore.

On the last stalk, just after we had seen two giraffes not 30m away, Litchi suddenly yelled “monkey”! Peter had made it very clear that the vervet monkeys were open season, as they were taking the eggs from all the bird nests around and sometimes eating the young too, which had collapsed the number of birds on the domain. There were around 70 in each gang and any you could take would hardly make a dent anyway.

In any case, a vervet monkey was sitting on the top of a tree, looking at us, from about 150m away. I quickly put the rifle on the sticks and did not wait too long to shoot, because these critters quickly disappear when they sense danger. I aimed for the top of the shoulders as I thought this necessary for the distance. This nearly decapitated the monkey, blowing out the back of the lower jaw and head. There was not much left for a picture. But my father and I did notice the bright blue balls of this animal, a very strange sight.

We went back to the lodge and had an excellent lunch of carpaccio from warthog, ostrich, springbok and kudu. For the afternoon, Litchi and I decided to descend into another ravine, to get closer to the brush at the bottom, to try our luck again on bushbuck, waterbuck and nyala. During our decent, down more than 45° inclination, we got spotted by a group of baboons that went of running, screaming all the way.

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The view on the hillside, waiting for bushbuck to come out. Notice the strong inclination.

We stayed for about 4 hours, until 18:30 on a very steep incline and saw multiple bushbuck, but always in flashes, or more than 200 meters away. At one point I had the safety off, but this shot, which was straight down the hillside, 60-70° below us, I was just not comfortable with. I was not sufficiently stable on the sticks and the moment passed. It was only a 2m hole in the brush where we saw the bushbuck, a very dark one, and he did not stay long. Like Litchi says, there is always another day.

In the evening Linda prepared us a stew of springbok. Very taste indeed, with a gratin dauphinois.

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Springbok stew getting cooked in a cast iron pot
 
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Thursday 10/06/2021​

Peter had organized to visit a neighbouring farm, owned by gentleman who has this low fenced farm, with a few head of cattle and plenty of free ranging warthog and impala, as his hobby property. It is much flatter than Peter’s, with more open fields, interspersed with groupings of dense brush. We were going to hunt there for warthog and impala. As I had already taken a warthog, my father was up first. It did not take us long again to find a first group of warthogs on the horizon, so a first stalk was set up. Litchi and my father went out with my sticks, for the added stability, while Peter and I remained with the truck. However, after having set up for a shot a first time, and then having to manoeuvre to gain a better position, my father touched the trigger, the shot went nowhere and this stalk was over. They came back and spirits were a bit down. But we set off in the truck to find another group, while suddenly we saw a massive kudu bull in the distance. We all saw that he was limping, so Peter decided to give the owner a call, and see if we could turn this in a kudu hunt. Seeing the injured animal, it would always be better to make this a priority. A few long minutes later, and the okay was given. Knowing that my father would really like to get a big kudu, he went out on a stalk with Litchi again. They had only left the truck, and the kudu started to walk of on his way to disappear in the brush. We were following the stalk from a few hundred meters away and could follow the progression, and then its failure.

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The terrain was much flatter on the neighbouring property.

We regrouped, and together we came up with a strategy. My father and Litchi would cut on the left side of the brush, trying to cut of the Kudu on the next clearing. Peter and I would remain with the truck for 15 minutes as to not scare the kudu with the engine sounds and give full opportunity to my father and then circle around, to pick them up in case the second stalk was not successful. While waiting and passing the 15 minutes, Peter and I went on short walk to see if there was anything else in the neighbourhood, but we didn’t see a thing. We jumped back in the truck and starting driving to the pick-up point again, having heard no shot in the mean time either.

Getting close to the pick-up point, I suddenly slapped the cabin of he car. This massive kudu was staring straight at me at the end of the road, from behind some brushes. Peter hadn’t seen him, but when I had alerted him and he stopped the car, he confirmed that it was the same limping kudu.

My first thoughts were about how to get my father back in time, to get a second chance at this kudu. Where were they??? But Peter woke me up from my racing thoughts, directing me to get my butt out of the ruck and get ready. We only had the 3-legged shooting sticks, from which I had not shot one round from before (always trusting to have my own stable sticks with me, but I had given them to my father to increase his chances). We went only a few meters, in order to overlook a clearing on our right side, where Peter thought the Kudu would cross, to reach the heavy brush again. The kudu bull indeed came out, turning left and right, at a small trot, from 50 meters away, increasing his distance from us with every step. I never had an opportunity to make a clean shot. Other hunters might have taken the shot earlier, but I only want to shoot when I’m comfortable and reasonably sure of a clean kill.

Thankfully, only 5 meters away from a wall of seemingly impenetrable brush, the kudu bull decided to stop and look back at us. This was his mistake. Now or never, I took the shot. I immediately felt two things, I knew I had pulled the shot a little and it was a bit more back than I would have liked (courtesy of me not practicing with 3-legged shooting sticks), because the kudu bucked and kicked out its back legs. I also felt strangely confident about the shot, having heard a good crack anyway, so knowing I had not hit it in the belly either. After it kicked its back legs, the kudu jumped and ran the last 5 meters into the brush. Peter had also noticed that I had shot too far back, and was worried. He set off to go find the others, as Litchi is a good tracker. Peter had not walked for more than 40 meters, when I heard a load and distinct thump coming from the direction of where the kudu had disappeared. I immediately though it was the kudu keeling over. I tried to softly shout after Peter, but he was too far away and I did not dare to make too much noise. The next 20 minutes were spent anxiously looking at the black hole in the brush that had swallowed the kudu, I almost did not realize the noise of a kudu female that came on crashing through the brush on my left side. Upon seeing me she quickly turned her heels.

The others arrived, and I pointed out where we had last seen the kudu, before it disappeared into the brush. I could not even walk over to them in time, or they turned from the bush with big smiles on their faces. The kudu bull had not gone more than 15 meters into the brush before having to give up. A massive Eastern Cape kudu bull was lying in the brush. Peter had previously told us that getting a good kudu bull would be close to impossible, as the rut was already over, and the big bulls were just hiding in dense brush, not running around anymore. But there he was... A magnificent bull, I could not believe my eyes or contain my happiness, even more so as it was an injured animal that I could put a stop to its suffering to. Lady Fortuna was definitely on my side that day.
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The author’s Eastern Cape kudu bull, lady luck was on our side that day! Notice also the wall of brush behind

We had to open him up where he lay though, because this 240kg animal we could not move through the dense brush. Removing the stomach and intestines helped and we managed to drag it through the branches, vines, thorns and bushes back to the truck that had be backed up to the edge of the brush. As I had decided to make a shoulder mount out of this magnificent animal, we preferred to get back to the shed at once, in order to first cape it, so the hide would remain in excellent condition.

While Litchi and some others were busy caping, skinning and butchering the kudu, we had a detail look at his legs. His right front ankle was swollen and double the size of the right ankle. What it was exactly, a fracture that was not healing well, infection because of ticks or similar we did not know. But that the kudu was not in the best of shape was certain. Once this was done, we still had an hour left before lunch, so off we went for impala or warthog again.

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The swollen right front ankle/foot of the animal. You can clearly see the difference with the other leg.

We came upon a group of impalas with a few big rams. However, due to them constantly moving and unclear communication between Peter and Litchi, who each had another ram in sight, it was quite difficult to pick out the biggest one. Eventually my father took the one indicated by Litchi. We took it also back to the shed and had a quick lunch.

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Sometimes however, the terrain was not so open!

We set out again, to find an impala for me, as for warthog it was too late in the day by then. We found a group about 500 meters away, and one big ram was making a run for it to the right. Litchi and I jumped from the truck and the chase was on. We ran from one bush to the next, trying to gain on the impala while he could not see us. But the ram was sensing the danger and making short sprints away from us when our heads would poke out from behind the edge of some bush. After a few minutes of running after him like this, we started to gain sufficiently on him, to start contemplating a shot. Using a bush between the impala and ourselves we managed to get to within 200 meters of him and set up my 4Stable Sticks again. The ram was looking back at us, so it would be a full-frontal shot. A touch of the trigger, with my round breaking its left shoulder, going through the left lung and then raking the entire body on the inside. The impala ram ran for another 40 meters or so, before succumbing. What a day for me. I could not contain my grin. We left him behind in the shade of some brush and decided to press on to see what else could be found for my father.
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The author’s impala ram with PH Litchi

Not long after starting the hike, one of the local guys picked up baboon tracks, so we went on a chase. About 30 min later, having gone through some very dense brush, we came upon a group of baboons. Luckily, we came with the sun in our backs, from between the brush, so they had not seen us. My father took aim using the stable sticks and shot, but the animal moved at the last second. Crying hell and fury the troupe of baboons went off, but none were left behind. We started to track them back into the dense brush after we had found quite a lot of blood on the ground. But although it was a lot in the beginning, this became a trickle and then just a few drops after a while. This was while tracking in very dense brush, permanently bent over, on a steep hill side, being gripped by every plant after every step you take, being stung, scratched all over. After an hour and half of this we had to give up, as the blood spoor vanished in the heat.

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Trying to follow a spoor in this tangled mess.

We went back to the truck, to go pick up the impala I had shot before, and while on the way, we came upon a field where a big group of 80 or so vervet monkeys were running across into the brush. 2 shots later my father had two monkeys too. We called it a day after this, picked up my impala and went back to the shed, to dress my impala for a shoulder mount too.

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Getting back to the truck after the unsuccessful tracking of the baboon spoor.

A funny moment also happened in the afternoon, that I just have to share. At a certain point we came upon an aardvark hole, and Litchi was taking a look if it was still in use by aardvark or warthog. While looking down in the hole, the eyepiece of his binocular fell off right into the hole. The picture of him trying to retrieve it is too good not to share.

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Litchi trying to get his binocular eyepiece out of the hole.

When coming back home to Peter’s lodge, we celebrated with champagne, the fruits of our labour of that day, and then feasted on “Bobotie”, an excellent hunters’ food. This is a minced duiker meat with plenty of spices, covered with scrambled eggs and then cooked in the oven like you would prepare Shepherd’s Pie.

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Bobotie for dinner, made from duiker minced meat with a layer of scrambled eggs on top.

Friday 11/06/2021​

On Friday we went out looking together again to find something special for my father, but apart from some nyala females there was nothing to be seen. After a lunch of duiker burgers, we would try the blind on the hillside again for bushbuck, waterbuck or big nyala. No luck again on this hillside blind, despite me staying standing behind my Stable Sticks for the full 4hrs, in order to be in a better position if something would come up. We did see 4 bushbuck and 3 females though, they were just too far way, over 250 meters, for me to even try.

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Waiting for bushbuck on the hillside again.
 
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I’m really glad you are a 4 stable stick fan now too. I look forward to the rest of your report. Glad to see you had a great time.
 
I’m really glad you are a 4 stable stick fan now too. I look forward to the rest of your report. Glad to see you had a great time.

Indeed, I loved them. Thanks a lot for having recommended them @375Fox ! They were probably the most important gear item I brought. Unfortunately while taking my sticks back home, the forward rest cracked off during transport, so I’ll have to buy a new one. I’m thinking of sending them a mail with some product improvement suggestions.

And no worries more is coming. Everything is written out, just a question of finding good pictures to go with.

V.
 
Nice write up so far keep em coming.
 
Vertigo... Outstanding sir! Well written. Having just returned from my own first (also in the Grahamstown area), your excitement is reminding me of mine; thank you for that. LOVE your photos! Congratulations on your success. I look forward to reading more.
 

Saturday 12/06/2021​

Litchi and I went in the morning on the hillside again, but still no luck. We did see some bushbuck but again each time too far away to make a clean shot. Litchi and I are starting to get annoyed at our bad luck with the bushbuck, so we decided to switch things up. For the afternoon we would descend all the way down to the bottom of the valley, on top of a rock formation, instead of remaining halfway on the hillside. We would lose our overview and see much less, but at the very least what we would see would be in range for me. On our way down, about half way down the hill side, we saw a group of baboons enjoying the evening sun on the opposite cliff. Litchi and I were debating for a few minutes what to do. I did want a baboon, but not at the risk of scaring everything else away for the rest of the afternoon. We didn’t want to endanger spooking a bushbuck! But Litchi argued that we should have enough time left for things to calm down, and an opportunity on a baboon should not be left unused. And in any case, if we continued with our decent to the rocks at the bottom, we would be spotted by the baboons after a while and they would make a ruckus anyway. After a few minutes of back and forth on this, all the while observing the baboons picking the fleas out of their neighbours, we decided to go for it. Setting up the 4Stable Sticks again, I took aim at a big one, about 200 meters from us said the range finder, and managed to fully miss my shot. Very strange situation, (that was going to be repeated once more on this trip) where I was stable and comfortable, had plenty of time, but still missed. Due to the distance I had again aimed at the neck, which should have put the bullet between the shoulder blades. The baboon sitting on his haunches, facing away from us. Very strange, I must have pulled the shot slightly right or high, missing him by a hair. On the white rocks we could not spot any blood, and the baboon together with the rest of the gang sprinted up screaming hell and fury.

We continued on with the decent, a bit bummed that my shot had not worked out and spent a few hours on the rocks trying to see something, but nothing that warranted taking the safety off. We did see a female bushbuck come out to our far right, so Litchi was right that it had sufficiently calmed down after the shot to have the animals coming back.

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Coming back to the lodge late in the evening, under supervision of a giraffe.

Sunday 13/06/2021​

Having seen that we had had no luck on the hillside or on the rocks, Peter and my father told us they were going to show the young ones how to hunt bushbuck. We would be taking their place in a blind in the middle of the valley, where they had not seen much bushbuck the previous few days. So in the morning, bright and early, we sat there for an hour or two, not seeing much apart from nyala females. As sitting still for hours on end was not to our taste so early in the day, we decided to go further down the valley and turn left, Peter and my father being further to our right, where the valley turns almost into a ravine. Once arriving at the bottom of the valley, doing a slow walk from bush to bush, we tried to look back on the hillside we just came from. After about 500 meters of slowly going through the bottom of the valley, Litchi suddenly shouted of excitement. A massive and very wide waterbuck was looking down on us from the hillside we came from. We ranged him at 250 meters, pretty much facing us, about 80 meters higher than we were and Litchi did not want me to take the shot. (likely remembering the baboon from the day before…) The waterbuck was listening for the cries of alarm of a bird next to us in the brush, without actually seeing us. As Litchi had said it was too dangerous to try a frontal shot from 250m on such a strong animal as a waterbuck, we circled around and started a hasty walk back up the hillside we came from. Sweat was pouring in my eyes by the end.

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A view of the valley that we descended and climbed a few times that day.

When we had started the circle around and climbing the hill again, the waterbuck had left its place with a small trot, so we did not try to get back to the place where it originally stood, but rather went higher up on the hill, to perhaps find it back looking back down. At a certain point the waterbuck had crossed a group of impalas that we had not seen, and upon us arriving on the scene, the impala started snorting and running all over with a lot of ruckus. Our chances were dwindling to find it back. But suddenly Litchi started sniffing the air, there was a heavy musk smell floating around, meaning the waterbuck was not far. Then we heard it crashing through the brush, we tried to sprint after it, to then stop and listen if we heard it again. At a certain point we even threw rocks some distance from us, to illicit a reaction from the waterbuck. He was that close to us, but due to the brush we just could not see him. Both the waterbuck and ourselves had to be at a clearing in the brush to be able to see each other. He clearly had the advantage on us. So it is no surprise that even after 2 hours of tracking, sniffing, listening and trying to catch up, we had to admit defeat. We had lost him.

Off we went to the lodge for lunch, but before that Litchi wanted to go for another quick tour with the truck to see if there were any big nyala around. I could feel the tension in him, after so many days of trying our luck, we never really had a real opportunity apart from today and we had lost him in the brush, despite being well on its spoor. He too was getting frustrated a bit.

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Less than 24hr old leopard track we encountered during the walk back, not 200meters from the lodge

After a bit of rest, Litchi proposed to go to another point mid-way of the valley, overlooking a part of the valley where he believed the waterbuck had fled to. So, after a steep descent into the valley we just about arrived at the overwatch position or we saw the same waterbuck, with a few females and a calf this time, sprinting into an island of brush in the middle of the valley. Most likely because they had heard Peter and my father making their own descent on another hillside to go sit at the rocks.

Once the group of waterbuck had fled into the island of brush in the middle of the valley, we knew we were going to see it again. There was only one way they could get out of that brush without us noticing us, and that would be to come exactly from the location they had just sprinted from. As it would be very unnatural for them to go back to where they had just fled from, we were quite confident. I set up the 4Stable Sticks again and the wait began. Luckily, we had a few nyala females on the far side of the brush we kept stopping to eat to look up at all these smelly visitors, so we had an idea of where they were. Litchi thought they were going to come out on the far side, but instead of that I suddenly spotted them coming out through the middle of the brush closest to us. This was about 175m from us, about 60 meters lower than where we were. I started to take aim. But had to put the safety back on, as it was standing just being a little bit of brush that could deflect the bullet. The vital triangle that is. Then it took a few steps and came out from behind the small bush, but was now quartering towards us, so remembering the words of Litchi of this morning I again kept my finger off the trigger. A few more seconds passed and finally it came nice and broadside. A gentle squeeze later and I knew it was a good shot. The impact, the emotion just after the shot and Litchi putting his thumbs up. It did run however, back into the brush it came from, so was immediately out of our view. We let things calm a bit before descending the slopes, while we observed the waterbuck females standing around, not knowing where the danger had come from and seeing the calf running away to the other side of the valley.

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The “island” of brush in the middle of the valley.

We started the descent, to arrive a half an hour later at the bottom, looking to find blood on the location I had shot the waterbuck. I was still using the same .300 WinMag lead soft tips, which only make a small hole going in and then mostly break up inside the animal, with often no exit wound. The tension was rising, with us trying to breach the brush a bit to try to look inside the twisted mess of vines, thorns, branches and leaves and I started fearing the worst. Then suddenly Litchi looked back at me and moved his index finger across his throat. I could not see it lying, but it was down! We actually had to circle around the brush to approach from a different side and there it was, stone dead, almost posing for a trophy picture. I was ecstatic and so was Litchi. We had hunted this animal since this morning and finally our efforts had paid off!

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This is exactly how we found the waterbuck waiting for us.

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The author with a very wide waterbuck, absolutely ecstatic. Due to his extra wide horns a good thing to take him, as he might have injured other waterbuck bulls.

After the obligatory pictures, we decided to leave it there. Well technically we had no choice. We had to climb back up to go get the truck which was still at the lodge. As there was still plenty of daylight left, we went on another slow walk down the bottom of the valley. Not 200 meters further, behind a corner of brush we came upon a mature nyala bull. While it was looking at us, unmoving, Litchi and I were discussing if it was good to shoot or not. Litchi thought there were better bulls, with nicer horns to be found on the property. As I do not really care about a “perfect” set of horns, only that it is fully mature, it was okay for me. It was the first mature bull I had seen in 6 days, seeing dozens of younger bulls which already had massive horns in my mind. We were debating this for a full 2 minutes, with the bull looking at us from 60 meters away, not understanding what was in the balance. Finally, Litchi caved and I loaded the rifle and set up, but by then the Nyala bull probably felt how this might end and had started running away. I let it go.

We continued our walk, going back up on the hillside and then Litchi saw a bushbuck. A quick sprint later, so we could await it coming out in the next clearing in the brush, I was setup. By then it was already past 17:00 and light was fading fast. We did see it come out and stop for all of 2 seconds before disappearing in the brush again. With the sticks in loose sand, light failing and a distance of 220 meters I was just not comfortable for a shot like this. We went back home to the lodge to await the return of Peter and my father.

Driving down to where I had shot the waterbuck took us about an hour, so by then it was fully night. Just like with the kudu, we had to open the animal where he lay, to remove stomach and intestines, to make him a bit lighter. With 5 total we managed to lift it into the back of the truck.

Upon returning, we celebrated with champagne and tasted Linda’s famous creamy chicken and pasta. Absolutely delicious!

Monday 14/06/2021​

On Monday morning, after all the successes I had had, we all went to a neighbouring property, which had a Sable. My father shot a 42inch bull. In the afternoon we came back to Peter’s property. Litchi and I had a nice and calm walk along the ridge line, observing the animals, while Peter and my father went out to find him a black impala ram. They found one, but in the last few minutes of daylight a shot was made and the animal not found. They did find it early the next morning, only 10 meters from where it had been shot.

Tuesday 15/06/2021​

Peter had already on Monday organised with the other property owner to come back on Tuesday, to see if we could find some blue wildebeest on his property. We left around 7:00 in the morning, with the worst weather so far. Grey, windy, almost just not raining a bit, with everything being wet. Although this property was located on a plateau and thus was very flat with few brush, I had made it clear to Peter and Litchi that I wanted to stalk the animal. Not shoot from the truck. At first, we tried to find one of the groups of blue on the property, but could only see a group of black wildebeest at the top of a very flat hill.

We looked around for an hour or so, driving to various corners of the property and in the end we did find them, but they were on a hill inaccessible by truck (to pick the animal up afterwards). After a coffee and a call to the owner, we asked permission to go after a black wildebeest instead. The ones we had seen standing in the wide open. They could easily see over 700 meters in any direction, with not a brush higher than your knees for us to hide behind. Once we received the ok, off we went.

Staying behind a ridgeline, in a small gully, we managed to get within 400 meters or so of the black wildebeest group relatively unseen. Although they were attentive that something was going on. No other choice but to continue on hands and knees for the remaining 200 meters. With Litchi in front and me just behind, crawling through the knee-length brush on all fours… It actually worked better than we thought. I’m sure they could see us moving, but probably did not understand what it was moving through the undergrowth. Eventually we got to about 190 meters, just behind a single leafless tree, with Litchi trying to pick out the most mature of the bulls. Then very gently getting the rifle from my back, standing up and getting into position behind the sticks. I placed the rifle, took aim and fired. We could not wait for them to react to our sudden standing up. I felt again quite good about the shot and was nice and stable, but no impact sound. Rather we heard a high whistling sound and saw a streak of dust behind the animal.

Litchi was convinced I had missed. I still do not know what had happened on that shot. After they ran off, they only went about 400 meters further and started looking back. Peter came back with the truck to pick us up and the next hour were spent glassing them from all sides, trying to see if Litchi was right and I missed, or if I had wounded one. Finally, when all were convinced that I had completely missed, we decided to go for a second stalk on the same group. Each time we had approached them, they only ran a few hundred meters away at a time. And as they encountered more and more brush towards the bottom of the hill, they started to circle more instead of going straight away from the hill top. It seemed that they did not want to leave their overlook position on the hill top to far behind them and that they would circle back to it.

Litchi and I tried to set up an ambush in a cluster of higher brush, on what would be their expected route back. However, this was also buffalo country! Over the course of the morning we had seen over fifty of them in various smaller groups, usually hiding within these patches of brush we now tried to set our ambush in. At some point Peter, who was still with the truck, had fully lost track of us for about 30 minutes, while we stalked from brush to brush, in order to find a new spot each time the black wildebeest changed direction on their way back to the hill top. Having seen too much buffalo in that brush, and too little of Litchi and I, he called it and drove up to meet us. The two of us, with just one .300 WinMag rifle between us, stalking in between unseen groups of buffalo is something he could allow no longer. No more adventuring by us in the brush, we had to stay closer to the truck. And as it then also become clear that we would not be able to stalk sufficiently close to the black wildebeest, or continuously had to change the location of our ambush, we thought to leave them behind and take a second look at the blue. Perhaps they had moved to a more reachable location.

Not 5 minutes after we had turned the truck to go look for the blue wildebeest, we see the black wildebeest group galloping like only wildebeest can, straight past us back to the top of the hill. There they stood about 300 meters from the truck almost taunting us. They did not run anymore, although the path was bringing the truck nearer to them. As it seemed they really wanted to play another round of catch-me-if-you-can with us, we happily obliged. We shut of the engine. Still no movement. I jumped off with Litchi, grabbing rifle and sticks on the way out and without really being convinced this would work, just started walking straight for them, with the truck right behind me. Perhaps they could not see me well as the truck was behind me, breaking my silhouette. Peter, who had followed the two of us, softly said “second from the left”. 230 meters said the range finder. Down came the rifle on the sticks and I touched of the rifle for a second time that day. We all heard the satisfying loud crack of a good chest hit, so we were not worried when the black wildebeest ran. He ran for another 100 meters or so, falling over every few dozens of meters and getting back up each time. Never long enough, and by then also too far way, for me to send a second lead pill. Once we reached it we could see clearly that it was a perfect double lung shot, the black wildebeest just had not gotten the news yet.

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The author with a black wildebeest. Notice the very open terrain that complicated the stalks.

Upon coming back to Peter’s property, we did not have enough hours of daylight left, to make our way back down the valley and go sit in a blind. We decided to just have a tour of the property, all four of us in the truck, and see if we could spot something and put a stalk on. The weather had gotten a lot better in the afternoon and we saw many groups of blesbok and impala sunning in the high grass fields on the more elevated part of the property. We also saw a nyala bull sleeping in the grass, who had not noticed us. We all though it was a small, young bull, so did not pay much more attention and drove on. But coming up on another side we saw him again and suddenly Peter and Litchi got very excited. It was a massive bull, with horns like a chalice. Then we did everything wrong. Stopping the vehicle, everyone trying to get a look with the binoculars, me kicking the shooting sticks around in the back of the truck and overall making too much noise and wasting time. By the time Litchi and I had jumped off the truck to start the stalk, the bull had come to an understanding and made a run for it.

We started a chase anyway, just the two of us, while Peter and my father would continue to elsewhere. But the bull was nowhere to be found, we looked high and low, even descended a bit into the valley, but to no avail. As it came up to 17:00, we decided to leave the bull in peace and return back to the lodge. During this walk back, we suddenly saw a group of vervet monkey’s popping up in the trees by the side of the path. Looking at us with suspicion. We contemplated it a little bit, but in the end I decided to leave them to their sleep too.

Not 10 meters further and we see the big nyala bull at 3 meters from us, standing on the side of the path, despite all the noise we had just made. Upon encountering us, he quickly jumped deeper into the brush where he was immediately lost from our view.

We quick walked around, to see if it perhaps would come out the other side and to try to pick him up. By then it was already 17:15 and light start fading fast. Suddenly movement, but this was a smaller nyala bull. Apparently, there were 2 of them in that small patch of brush. We waited the big one out, but at 17:30 I said enough and unloaded the rifle. There was not enough light left for a good shot. We would come back the next morning to try to find him back.

Arriving at the lodge, Linda awaited us with an excellent fillet of springbok for us to feast upon.

Wednesday 16/06/2021​

The next morning, starting at 8:00 Litchi and I, accompanied by Zwai, were going to try and get back on the nyala bull, while my father, Peter and Linda were going to Grahamstown for a visit.

We decided to drive around the hill, to come up on top, and then to continue on foot. That way we would also have a better view in front of us of any animals moving. Lo and behold, there was the monster nyala, together with a group of blesbok, feeding on the long grass. We put a stalk on, but the blesbok made things very complicated. They were about 30 or 40 of them and were much more alert and aware of us, than the old nyala bull, who did not seem to have a care in the world at first, just continuing to feed. But with the 60 plus eyes keeping track of our every move and snorting every time we came a bit too close, the stalking was “interesting” to say the least. Left we tried, right we tried, straight through the middle, sometimes getting into a position that I could put the rifle on the sticks, and flick the safety off, but then the nyala bull would just start trotting away, or was covered by too much strands of this long grass. I could not take an ethical shot. At least four times I had the bull in my sights, every time there was an issue of brush, the nyala bull quartering too much away, the blesbok in front or behind the nyala. The bull was also getting weary of our games and started to get agitated, noticing that something was off that morning.

The last attempt we made was too much for his nerves and he trotted off into the brush. Quick sprints from one bush to the next, with interspersed frantic seconds of holding our breath in order to hear where he might be moving off to. But it was fruitless, he had joined two smaller nyala bulls and two females, and had slipped further into the bush.

We did not want to stress the animal anymore and risk seeing it go down into the impenetrable brush of the valley. So after having played about 3 hours of this cat and mouse game, we gave up and went for a short break with some lunch, to pick things back up at 12:00.

This was the right decision, because over the lunch break, the big bull was spotted again high in the fields. Off we went, but this time by doing the stalks a bit more deliberate, without haste, we managed to get to within 100 meters of 2 nyala bulls. The monster however was nowhere to be seen. It was one younger bull and one fully mature one, but with a less impressive set of horns. The tips were not yet going open again. We decided to go for it anyway, so the cat-and-mouse game started anew between the hedgerows and patches of brush. Three more times we had to reposition with the rifle on the sticks, to a new location, until finally the younger one came out about 70 meters from in a clearing. The older one a few meters behind hot on his heels. Luckily for me, this time he stopped for a few second scratching and licking himself, just behind an opening in the brush, so I could see him. But I had to wait to take the shot until he had his head back up, as his skull and horns were blocking the vital triangle. After a few tense seconds that felt like hours, off went the shot, right where I wanted it. It jumped and ran, but did not make it more than 15 meters before it went down for good.

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This picture shows that upon death, nyala bulls also have a crest of hair on their back that stands up. Just like with springbok.

Another magnificent trophy, one that Litchi and I had been working on for six days now, having left many younger bulls (with equally impressive trophies in my mind) behind us, because Litchi knew there was better to be found. Well the 49cm/22.2” nyala bull was definitely spectacular in my eyes.

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The author’s nyala bull

After getting the nyala back to the lodge, I tried to assist Litchi, Zwai and Monde skinning it. Upon the return of Peter, Linda and my father, we had a bit of a celebration and I must admit I also had a few too many. For dinner, Linda had prepared a typical African dish out of the stomach of the nyala, together with lots of onions and garlic. Very taste, but very heavy too. I was happy that night that my fiancée was not sleeping in the same room as me… she might have given me the ring back!

Thursday 17/06/2021​

On Thursday, with our departure on Saturday fast approaching now, we had to go to Port Elizabeth to get the PCR tests. In the morning Peter, my father and I went to Addo elephant park, to see a bit of the other wildlife of the region. During our drive through the park, we found ourselves from time to time almost surrounded by herds of elephants that were crossing the road. At one time an elephant bull started to get nervous, so we stayed back, with cars piling up behind us. Obviously, those tourists knew better, wanted a closer look and were not too happy that we had stopped far away, so they passed us, only to have to go into reverse gear again when it dawned on them they might not want to piss off a herd of multi ton animals.

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Elephants crossing the road, with calves in their midst.

The PCR test in the afternoon went without a hitch, so we drove back home. The next day would be our last day of hunting.

Friday 18/06/2021​

For the last day, neither my father nor I really were in need or want of trophy animals anymore, so Peter proposed to just see if we could find some old impala or kudu females, as meat for the camp. So that morning I donned my hunting clothes a last time and we went all four of us together to find some old female impala, kudu or blesbok.

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Owner and PH Peter Decroos glassing for anything interesting

After having gone some distance, without seeing much, all of a sudden, we saw a group of baboons sprinting on the next hill side and although we had no chance of on them, they did make a group of female kudus, which were closer to us, move out into the open. I took aim from the truck from 240meters and it was down, 10 meters from where it had stood. There had been no sound of an impact though and the female seemed to have walked away normally as if nothing had happened, so I had feared another miss. But this was unfounded. Another perfect heart-lung shot. My father continued on, after a lunch on nyala heart, liver and kidneys, to shoot an old impala female.

That evening we had another fillet of black wildebeest on the grill. Drinks flowed a bit more freely too, as it was our last evening there.

Saturday 19/06/2021​

Getting the luggage together, everything packed, then off we went to visit a souvenir market in Port Elizabeth, where I did not dare buy anything out of fear that my fiancée would not like it. She’ll have to come back with me, so she can choose herself what kind of decoration she would like. Peter and Linda were with us and then invited us to a very nice fish restaurant, overlooking the bay and the sea.

Epilogue​

And that was that. My first African safari and surely not my last. Over the course of 13 days of hunting I had fired my rifle 14 times:
  • A practice shot on the first day
  • Blesbok - 1 shot broadside – 80 meters
  • Warthog - 1 shot broadside – 100 meters
  • Vervet monkey 1 shot
  • Vervet monkey miss
  • Kudu bull - 1 shot slight quarter away – 80 meters
  • Impala ram - 1 shot frontal – 200 meters
  • Waterbuck - 1 shot broadside – 175 meters + 60 meters of elevation
  • Vervet monkey 1 shot
  • Baboon miss
  • Black wildebeest miss
  • Black wildebeest - 1 shot broadside – 230 meters
  • Nyala bull - 1 shot broadside – 70 meters
  • Kudu female - 1 shot broadside – 240 meters
Peter and Linda from Multana Safaris outdid themselves and I can highly recommend them. Especially for first time hunters. But I see myself going back in the future. First need to save a bit again and dream of Africa until the longing to go back grows too strong to bear any further.
 
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Enjoyed the report! Congrats and thanks for sharing!
 
Vertigo, thanks for a good write up.
Congratulations on your hard earned trophies, especially the Waterbuck and Nyala.
Sounds like a great first trip, and it makes me more excited for my own first trip.
 
Very nice! First safaris are always special.
 
Vertigo, thanks for a good write up.
Congratulations on your hard earned trophies, especially the Waterbuck and Nyala.
Sounds like a great first trip, and it makes me more excited for my own first trip.
Thanks @BourbonTrail ! Do you have one planned? ;)
 
Very well written story and great pictures!

Thanks for sharing with us and congratulations on your success! The food pics looked so good too, now I am hungry!!

Craig
 
Congrats for a great hunt and very nice trophies !
 
Enjoyed your report - Congrats!
 

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