ZAMBIA: 2018 Luangwa To Livingstone With Strang Middleton

MikeNC

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Planning the Trip

" We are going to The Valley.” Those were the words that Charles Reedy (@cpr0312) said to me when he called and confirmed that it was indeed happening. We had made a verbal commitment to Strang Middleton to hold the dates and a deposit would be on the way. Those words meant the dream was coming true. The dream I had held for years of hunting Africa was not only going to be a reality, but I was heading to Zambia and the Luangwa Valley, my top choice.


When Charles and I spoke for the first time on the phone, I expressed to him my desire to hunt Africa, and specifically The Valley. I had first become enthralled with the idea of hunting the Luangwa Valley when I read Death in the Long Grass by Peter Capstick, a book and name that I am sure are well known to those who dream of hunting Africa. I had first become acquainted with Peter Capstick years earlier in high school when a VHS copy of "Hunting the Cape Buffalo" was included in a bundle of hunting videos given to me as a Christmas gift. As I read DITLG, I knew that I wanted to travel to Zambia for my first safari. I wanted a chance to hunt wild remote Africa and a chance at a good buffalo. In my research, I found that The Valley had significant buffalo numbers, and I had a chance to take other plains game that was on my list. It had taken about a year of planning and research, and I have to thank Charles for all the effort he put into making this trip a reality. Once the dates were held and the deposit paid, it was time to start seriously training and preparing for the adventure that lay ahead.




I spent the night of July 17th at Charles's house and he helped me go through my gear one last time and dump a few items that he, an experienced traveler, thought I could do without. He then showed me his mounts from previous safaris and recounted some stories until it was time to get some sleep for our long day of travel ahead.


Travel Day

Today held a lot of firsts for me. This was my first international trip and my first time flying with guns. We arrived at the Charlotte Airport early and expected it not to be crowded at 5 am, but it looked like rush hour. I was a bit apprehensive on dealing with the guns, but it could not have gone any smoother than it did. The guy who checked my guns was a shooter himself, so dealing with someone who was pro-gun possibly made the process even smoother. Once the guns were checked it was time to wait on our flight to JFK.


The flight to JFK was uneventful and upon arrival, we had plenty of time to make our connection to Johannesburg on South African Airlines. We grabbed something to eat and waited. As the time grew closer to departure, we moved down to the gate and saw that this was going to be a very full flight to “Joburg”. This is a memorable moment as I learned a valuable lesson in the importance of confirmation emails. We approached the ticket booth and received our tickets. After checking the seats, we noticed we were sitting a good distance from each other. Keep in mind that a few days after we booked our tickets on SAA, we selected our seats so that we would be sitting together. This being my first flight to Africa and knowing how long the flight would be, I wanted to sit next to Charles to talk and pick his brain on the upcoming hunt. The lady at the ticket counter said that she had no record of my seat being bought next to his and that the flight was full. Basically, there was nothing she could do, so I left the gate, grabbed a seat, and scanned my email. We had bought our tickets at the same time, and I had chosen the window seat giving Charles the aisle. I saw where I had received an email from SAA, but I had not checked the email assuming it was just a typical confirmation email. One should never assume, since it was actually an email saying they were having trouble processing my request and I should contact them again if a confirmation was not received within 24 hours. Well, I never did, and now I was stuck with a random seat. I was little perturbed, but life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Regardless, no matter where my seat was on that plane, it was going to Africa and that was the only thing that really mattered.


I had read all the stories about the long flight to Joburg. My advice for anyone planning a trip to Africa is that the flight is long , but if you have the right mindset it is nothing that should stop you from the hunting trip of a lifetime. I slept, walked, drank plenty of water, watched the animation of the plane flying over the ocean, and concentrated on the countdown till we landed in South Africa.


We landed the airport in Joburg, and I have to admit, I was impressed by how nice the airport was. There was quite a variety of shops and restaurants. When I saw the zebra rug hanging outside of a shop called “Out of Africa”, it started to actually sink in! I am in Africa! Because July 18th marked the 100th Birthday of Nelson Mandela, there were numerous displays commemorating this event on the plane and around the airport. Regardless of one’s opinion of him, these were very interesting to see.


We had some time to kill before the next flight to Lusaka, and it was good to stretch our legs and relax, but I was eager arrive in Zambia and start the trip to camp. I did not get to see anything when we flew into Joburg from where my seat in the plane, but as we started our descent into Lusaka, I will admit my heart sank a little because it was a sea of buildings. I knew Lusaka was the capital and it would look like a city, but this wasn’t the first image of Africa I had longed for. We landed in Lusaka and made our way to customs to get our visas. Charles was ahead of me and everything went smoothly. When my turn came to buy my visa, I handed him the $50 bill. I was informed that it would not be accepted, because it was not new enough. Thankfully, everywhere takes debit, so I was able to pay with my card.


I collected my bags and my gun case, and we met with the officials to clear the guns. We had a representative there to help with the process of clearing the guns and ammunition. Unfortunately, the cost to bring my ammo into the country was much higher than what I had been quoted. The dollar per round quickly increased to more than $200 to bring in the 80 rounds. Luckily, I had some emergency cash to take care of that problem.


We ate lunch and waited for the flight to board for Mfuwe. When we started our descent into Mfuwe, I got my first look at the wild Africa I had dreamed of for so many years. Seeing the rivers, the wide-open landscapes, and the villages, my mind raced thinking of the adventures that lay before us. We touched down at Mfuwe and made our way to the terminal where our guide, Strang, was waiting for us. He helped us get our bags while the local police looked over our gun paperwork. Once everything was clear, we made our way out to Strang's truck and introduced ourselves to one of his trackers named Obvious. We loaded our gear and climbed into the cab for the long ride to camp.


Upon leaving the airport, my head was on a swivel and I was taking in all the sights. There were people walking and riding bicycles and women carrying goods on their heads just like the images I had seen of Africa on TV, except now it was playing out in person before me. We soon turned off the blacktop onto a dirt road and into the heart of wilds of Zambia. As we traveled down the road and the sun sank and night crept in all around us, Strang mentioned to us that while it was cold, he needed to have his window down to listen for elephants. I saw my first African animal very shortly into the trip as a small antelope species darted across the road in front of us. It had taken us over thirty hours to get to this point in the trip, and while I was exhausted, I kept watching the road wondering what we might see on the way into camp. As we rounded a curve, Stang slammed on brakes as we hear an odd but familiar sound. Just ahead of us are four grey shapes that we soon see are a couple of cow elephants and their calves. The truck backed up and gave them plenty of room to move. After they pass, Strang puts the truck in gear, speeds ahead, and says, “Welcome to Luangwa!"


It was around 10:00 PM when we arrived in camp, and we were road tired, to say the least. It took us 36 hours of travel to finally get to the Luangwa Valley, but we were in camp, unloaded and were shown to our chalets. I purposely did not want to know what camp would be like; I wanted it to be a surprise. When I opened the door to the chalet, it was everything I had hoped for a remote African camp, rustic and comfortable. Once we settled in, it was lights out as we needed to prepare for our first full day in Africa.
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I’ll work on getting the rest posted and I hope this first part of the report isn’t to long!
 

MMAL

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If it is as detailed as the trip over I can’t wait for it. Happy new year everyone!
 

BRICKBURN

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Looking forward to reading the rest.

Think i am going to read DITLG again its been awhile.
 

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@MikeNC ,

I enjoyed the whole planning process and of course the hunt itself, and look forward to reading your account on the adventure!!
 

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Ever since Charles posted his half of this I have been waiting for yours! I’m looking forward to your report!
 

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Great new years gift to us. Looking forward to the rest.
Bruce
 

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Hunting Day : 1

A Hippo for Charles

I awoke around 6:45 am and lay there for a moment just taking in the fact that I was in Africa. After getting up and dressed, I finally got a good look at my chalet, opened the door, and looked out into Africa. I could see the Luangwa River across the way. Charles was already outside sitting on a log looking out at the river. It was cloudy and cool and had rained the previous two days. There was a chance of a small shower today also, but that did not matter; rain or shine, it was going to be a good day in Africa.

( Looking back toward our Chalets from the dinning hall )

We had a breakfast of eggs and American style bacon, which Charles told me was a real treat this far into the bush. We ate breakfast and gazed across the river. Strang sent a camp staff member to locate a parks/wildlife ranger to accompany us on the hunt, and while they are gone, Strang suggested we go sight in the rifles. We loaded up into the truck, drove it a bit away from camp, and set up the targets. I brought two rifles with me on this trip: a CZ 550 in .375 and a Remington 700 in 30.06. We sighted in the rifles and everything was dead on, which we were thankful for. We took a tour around the camp and saw some good heads in the skinning shed along with a great buffalo skull that had been found recently ! We sat around camp for awhile watching game across the river on a sandbar and then decided to hop in the truck and go look for the ranger so we can get the hunt moving. It gave us a chance to see the local villages, and for me, being a teacher by profession, it was interesting to see a school. It really drove home just how different things are in this part of the world. While we were looking for the ranger, a truck came up behind us and it was the camp staffer with the ranger. Our party was all assembled and the time has come for Charles to find his hippo!


( Buffalo skull at Camp )

We drove to a portion of the river where there are hippo congregated. There are three different pods totaling at least fifty-six hippos and one further down the river from us with about twenty-five in it. We parked a good distance from the river and started looking over the groups. Charles is ahead with Strang, and I am back with the trackers as we make our way up and down the river looking over the groups.






Strang picks out two in each of the pods, and we walk back and forth with the hippo grunting and blowing at us in the river. Hearing a hippo at that distance is an unbelievable experience. We set up on one pod, and they moved away from us so we went back to the other pod.





We settled in at a distance that does not disturb them too much, Charles readies Strang's .375 on the sticks, and the wait is on. I was a few steps behind them with the trackers, and we are all sitting in the sand about ten yards from the water’s edge. The hippos were in the water about fifty yards into the river. I had my cell phone prepped and ready to attempt to video Charles’s shot on the bull hippo. A few times I thought he was ready to make the shot and I hit record, but the shot was not clear, so he does not take it. It is a waiting game. I won't go into any more detail of Charles’s hippo hunt, but I will include the link to his report

ZAMBIA: 2018 Hunt With Strang Middleton In 2 Different Areas Of The Country

I will only say that it was incredibly exciting, especially what happened after the shot.





This was a great introduction to Africa and what hunting dangerous game could be like.

Thanks for all the kind words and Happy New Year!!! Working to finish the rest!!
 

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Been waiting on this, Mike! Can’t wait to read the rest!
 

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I posted a few videos with this section of the report and on my end on the app the icon shows empty, but they play fine once clicked on! I’ll work on getting it fixed!
 

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Great start, can't wait for the rest. The Luangwa valley is truly a special place to hunt.
 

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Hunting Day: 2

Kudu for Mike

Our second day in Africa was spent looking for some plains game for me and baiting crocs for Charles. We had breakfast around 6 am, and then set off to look for puku, kudu, warthog, and bushbuck. We did not encounter any animals that felt worth pursuing so it was time to set the first bait for crocs. The baiting of the crocs was a neat process, and it took about an hour for the first crocs to come in and then about another thirty minutes for the first ones to start feeding.


We were upriver from the camp on a bluff looking down at a piece of sandbar about forty yards away. I was sitting behind Strang while Charles was off to my left with a good solid rest to set up and watch crocs in hopes of getting a shooter. It was amazing to watch the crocs come into the bait slowly and methodically creeping closer. Strang told us that the first one makes the first splash then as soon as the first splash was made, you had others coming in rolling and splashing. It was surreal to be watching crocs feed in front of me when I had seen it so many times on TV. No croc came in that was a shooter, so we packed it up and headed back to camp for lunch about 1 pm. We looked for plains game on the way to camp but saw nothing that felt like pursuing.

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After lunch, we went out again looking for plains game. I had my first opportunity to get on the sticks when we came across a good puku ram with a couple of ewes. We made a good stalk, and I got on the sticks, steadied the crosshairs and squeezed. I wish I could report that I took my first African animal then, but I made a clean miss. The trackers were sent in to look for possible blood, but with the lack of a sign and the way the ram ran off, it was clear it was buck fever of the African variety. Because Puku was high on my list and this was a fine old ram, I was feeling pretty low about missing the opportunity. As anyone who hunts can understand, the feeling of missing an animal, especially one that you have traveled so far to hunt, was not a good one. Thankfully the miss was clean, and this was just the second day of the hunt. Later we headed to an area of the concession that is good for Kudu and possibly for buffalo signs, as there were a few old dagga boys that were frequenting that area. On the way into the area, I finally had the first opportunity to see my first Kudu bull when we jumped a young one.

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( Lots of Elephants in this area )

We wandered further into the area looking for tracks of buffalo and making a plan to possibly return here the next morning to look for them. As we were still scanning, some Kudu were spotted, and Strang points out a good bull. The kudu are on the move, and I only have a few moments to get into position and make a shot. In a few moments, they will have moved into a thicker area and will be gone. I steady my rifle, and Strang tells me which bull to aim for. I lower the crosshairs on him, make the shot, and he drops in his tracks. We hurried over to his location and move around in front of him. I put another Swift A-frame into him just to seal the deal, but it’s clear he is finished.


If you have read the Green Hills of Africa you know how hard Hemingway hunted for his Kudu and what a fit the "Grey Ghost " of Africa gave him. Now I was walking up to put my hands on my first African animal; an animal I had waited years to be able to hunt. As we looked over the bull, both Strang and Charles told me what a great bull I had taken. He was old, worn down with lion claw marks on his neck, and his horns and body showed lots of character.
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Charles, who has taken a couple nice kudu in his visits to Africa, told me he was jealous. This bull, while not the biggest kudu in length of horn, was full of character. Handshakes all around and congratulations went up before we loaded the bull up and hurried back to camp as the sun was starting to set.

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On the way to camp we were passing through a portion of the village we had not seen, and the trackers pointed out a compound with a satellite dish and razor wire that was the chief's house. We traveled down the road a few more minutes, and a white Toyota Land Cruiser was meeting us in the road, and we stop as they pulled up alongside. I noticed everyone starts removing their hats, and Strang gets out to talk to them. After a few moments of talking, he gets back in and we continue on to camp. The tracker told me that the chief was in the vehicle When we arrived back at camp, Strang told us that the President of Zambia was coming in for a visit and that the chief wanted to know if there was any fresh meat in camp as they were having a party to welcome him. A quarter of my Kudu was donated to feed the Zambian president I’ve got to admit that it was a pretty good feeling. I had a Mosi or two to celebrate and ate some fried hippo. It was still an early night to bed, because in the morning, it was time to go after Mbogo.
 

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What a great experience! The Luangwa valley is one of my favorite spots in Africa!
 

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Beautiful Kudu! You are smart to have taken some videos. I did not do enough of that on my two trips. Hope you attach more!
 

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What a great experience! The Luangwa valley is one of my favorite spots in Africa!

It’s a very special place!
 

MikeNC

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Beautiful Kudu! You are smart to have taken some videos. I did not do enough of that on my two trips. Hope you attach more!


Thank you! I wish I had taken more! My background is in videography and broadcasting , but I promised myself not to stay behind the camera on my first trip over!!
 

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