Hello All, I’ve just returned from an 18 day combo trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe and would like to share with you guys. As you can imagine, I’m still buried with work after being gone for that long, but will try to post some every day. Like my last few safaris, this trip was planned as something completely different than what it eventually turned into. The planning for this trip started in late February of 2018. I was on AH and saw a deal from Wayne @Nyamazana Safaris on a hyena/nocturnal animal hunt in Zim that really perked my interest…..especially because there was a chance(if still on quota), that I could also hunt leopard for just the trophy fee. After exchanging several emails with Wayne, I had pretty much decided this was the trip for me and we tentatively set a date for late October. Well, a few weeks went by and Wayne posted another great deal…..elephant…..I couldn’t pass this up! A few more emails to Wayne and it was changed to an elephant/hyena hunt. Sometime in April, a good friend and hunting/fishing buddy (Justin) called me and during our conversation, I told him about this trip. He said he was really interested in going along and said if there was another tag available and if we could move it to November; he would like to go as well. I was a little apprehensive about going in November because of rain, but decided to chance it. I emailed Wayne again and there was an additional tag and the new dates worked for him, so we booked it. Another few weeks went by and Justin called me again and asked if I knew of any good deals on lion hunts in SA. Well, I contacted a few people and was able to find him a great price. So, we decided to fly into SA a few days early for him to get a cat before heading to Zim. Then, Justin mentioned our trip to a mutual friend of ours (Wood) and now he wants to tag along and bring his daughter to hunt lion and possibly some animals in Zim. So, I contact the lion outfitter and Wayne and it was all set. After getting our firm dates figured out, I contacted Lori @Travel Express in mid-June and she got us some great prices on our flights. The one thing I wasn’t crazy about was that she had us flying through JFK(with guns), but she assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem. I forwarded that info to everyone to double check that the dates looked correct and got the okay to book. The next day, Lori booked everything and I sent the confirmations to all….this is where the problems started for Wood…… He had obviously never looked at a calendar when we sent him the dates….but his daughter did…after we booked. She pointed out that we were going to be gone over Thanksgiving and that would not work for them. So, he contacted Justin who contacted Lori to see what could be done. As I knew, the flights were not refundable, so they made a plan to shorten their stay and just do the SA portion of the trip with us and add on some plainsgame after the lion. The next few months flew by and before I knew it, it was time to fly out. Justin and I would be flying from Dallas and Wood and his daughter would be flying from Michigan and we’d meet up in New York and spend the night and all fly out the following day. We all arrived about the same time and grabbed an Uber to the hotel and got checked in to our rooms. This is when Wood’s bad luck showed up again….he had packed a bottle of vodka and tonic in his checked back and the tonic had busted and soaked everything in his bag…poor guy. Later that evening, we met a friend of ours for dinner in NY and then headed back to the hotel for a few hours’ sleep. We arrive at the airport around 7:30am the next morning and head to the SAA ticket counters. Justin and I are checking in at one counter and Wood and his daughter at the next. The SAA folks call the Port Authority to check our rifles and they show up pretty quick and the process was pretty painless. As we’re dealing with them, I was oblivious as to what was going on with Wood at the next counter……it was only after we dropped our rifles off at TSA that I heard what was happening. Apparently, he didn’t have any blank pages left in his passport and they told him that the only thing he could do was to go to Manhattan to the passport office to get a new one and fly out the next day. We met back up with him and discussed with him what he wanted to do. He seriously contemplated not going at all and catching a flight home, but finally decided that he would try to get his passport squared away and then fly out the next day. He asked if we’d keep an eye on his daughter, which we were happy to do, and off we went to catch our flight. The flight was uneventful but the planes that SAA use for this route could use some serious updating. My seat was extremely hard and uncomfortable for a 15 hour flight and my video screen only worked about half the time. However, the food and service was very good. We arrived in Jo’burg at 8:30am on Friday Nov 16th. After clearing customs, we were collecting our luggage and my checked bag never came out. I was getting pretty concerned and happen to glance to my left and saw it sitting on a luggage cart on top of mine and Justin’s rifle cases and there was an airport employee standing next to them. I walked over to see what was going on and he said he noticed that the bag had the same name on it as one of the rifle cases and decided to grab it for me…phew! Now, on every other trip to SA, my rifles have always gone directly to SAPS and I would pick them up there. However, the airport employee told us this time they would need to verify our serial numbers first and then he would take us and our rifles to SAPS to get our permits?? Maybe this is because we arrived on SAA instead of another carrier?? I’m not sure, but they took us to a small room opposite the baggage carousel to inspect the guns. As we got outside, the outfitter was there to meet us and we got our rifle permits and were on the road by 9:30 to the NW Province. We also explained Wood’s situation to the outfitter and he said he would have someone pick him up at the airport on Saturday morning and bring him to camp. After a few stops for fuel and lunch, we arrived in camp around 5:00pm. We got our stuff unpacked and ran to the range to shoot in the rifles. After that, we had dinner and then had a few drinks around the fire before going to bed. The next morning, we were up by 5:00 and hunting by 5:30. It was decided that Wood’s daughter would tag along with us on the hunt and she would hunt her lion after her dad arrived the next day. We drove around for about an hour before we found some fresh tracks and we drove the block to make sure the lion was still there and then got on the tracks. We started the stalk at about 7:00 and it was already getting pretty hot. We figured that the cat would be looking for cover from the heat and shouldn’t be too far away. The tracker was out front, followed by the PH, Justin, Wood’s daughter, me and then the videographer. We slowly made our way and would glass every bush ahead of us before continuing on. About 45 minutes in, the tracker and PH are following the tracks when the videographer signals me that he’s spotted the cat under a bush about 50 yards to our right! I signal Justin who then signals the PH and we all freeze and wait to see what the cat is going to do. He’s not happy that we’re there at all….he’s crouched down and growling at us, but doesn’t seem to want to move from the bush he’s under. We slowly approach a little closer with guns ready. We get to about 30 yards and have no clear shot. So, we move around to the right to try to get a better angle but as we moved, he would turn with us, so we still couldn’t get a clear shot. We backed off a little and made a new plan….we would approach him again and then Justin and the PH would slowly ease around to the right and hope the cat stayed focused on the rest of us. The plan worked and he was able to get a clear shot. The cat jumped and flipped and was biting at his side where the bullet hit. As he was doing this, Justin was able to get a second shot in which ended it. I’ll tell you, even though I was just a backup shooter/spectator on this hunt, it was just as exciting as my cat hunt last year and well worth the price of admission. After the photo session, we returned to camp for breakfast and a nap. We also got word that Wood had been picked up at the airport and was in route to camp. About 1:00, we decided to head back out so Wood’s daughter could try to get some plainsgame. She had been to SA once before when she was younger and had only shot a few animals, so pretty much anything we came across was huntable. We drove for about an hour and spotted a heard of springbok that had a few good rams in it. They bailed off the truck and headed after them. I opted to stay in the truck under a shade tree since it was blistering hot! About 30 minutes later, we hear a shot but it doesn’t sound like a hit. We get a call on the radio that she had missed and a location to pick them up. She was pretty bummed when she got back to the truck, be we assured her that it happens to everyone and she’d get another chance. We continue to drive around for the next few hours not seeing much because of the heat. Finally around 5:00 it started cooling down a bit and we spotted a lone gemsbok that was huge. Again, they got off the truck and I stayed in the shade. They were gone about an hour and called us on the radio to pick them up. When we got to them, they tell us that the gemsbok had given them the slip, but they had bumped into 3 big eland bulls and had been chasing them but could never get a shot before they vanished. Again, she was pretty bummed. After a few bottles of water, it’s almost dark so we decide to head back to camp. We don’t get 100 yards down the road before we get a rapid tap on the roof of the truck and we slow down so they can jump off. Me and the driver continue down the road for about 30 seconds and then hear a shot. You can definitely tell that this one was a hit. We reverse back to where they were standing and everyone was excited at what she had shot….me and the driver still had no clue as to what it was. I get out and follow them about 60 yards into the bush and see a huge eland lying on its side. This is the first time I’ve been this close to a mature eland. It’s hard to comprehend how big they really are until you see them in person! As we’re taking pics, we get a call from the driver that had picked Wood up. He was supposed to be in a 4x4 truck, but for some reason he had brought a small car instead and they were stuck in the sand somewhere between the tar road and camp (which is about 80km). He just can't catch a break!! So, we call back to camp to send another truck to pick up me, the tracker and the eland up and the rest of the crew head out to rescue Wood and his driver. They arrive back at camp around 8:00 and we have a late dinner, a few drinks and then off to bed. To be continued.