ZIMBABWE: Hunting the Omay For Elephant & Leopard With Dalton & York Safaris

rinehart0050

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Hunting Elephant and Leopard with Dalton and York Safaris in the Omay, Zimbabwe...

We just got back from a little over 3 weeks of travel, with time spent in Zimbabwe and Dubai. I'll do this report in installments by animal/event rather than chronologically, as many parts overlap.

I cannot over emphasize enough how great this safari went. Hands down our best hunting and travel experience to date, made possible by the exceptional efforts and support of our Professional Hunter, Dalton Tink; our outfitter, Dalton and York Safaris; our agent, Michelle Buchanan of Buchanan Hunts; and our videographer, Andy Buchanan of This Is Africa/Africa Five! If you're looking for a hard hunt in truly wild Africa with a professional team and great friends, look no further. These are the people you need to contact and they will make the safari of your dreams a reality.

Also, don't wait to travel because of Covid! I'll cover this more in depth later, but covid presented only minor inconveniences during our trip. The reward though, was that we basically had Vic Falls all to ourselves, as well as other places we visited. Travel now, avoid the lines and crowds!

We hunted in Omay North, part of the Omay CAMPFIRE area. The Omay consists of 2 million acres of wild country, directly adjacent to the Matusadona National Park, along the banks of Lake Kariba. It is bordered by the Ume River to the east and Sengwa River to the west. This is wild country, ranging from mountains to flood plains, and from thick jesse to the fields of local villages. The area is rich with big game- Lake Kariba and the Ume River are home to giant crocodile and hippo; while even a stalk on plains game must be approached with caution as elephant, buffalo, and lion are plentiful in the bush. And leopard. There are leopard everywhere! Prior to our arrival, three leopards had been hitting lion baits and during our hunt we have five separate leopards on baits!

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The Omay is rough country that demands hard hunting, but rewards the effort with great trophies. I would not recommend the Omay if you suffer from reduced mobility, as you won't be shooting any trophies from the truck. Our PH, Dalton Tink, is a passionate hunter that never stops pushing to get you opportunities on the animals you're after. On some days, we exceed 20kms (12+ miles) of stalking with the darkness of a setting sun the only thing halting the pursuit. As the report will later show, Dalton is not one to compromise. He is only satisfied with the best and oldest trophy animals and wont have you shooting at some young bull just to cash in on a trophy fee.

Dalton and York Safaris just recently took over the entirety of the Omay and are investing heavily into conservation and community engagement in the area. However, they are not new to the Omay, both having extensively hunted the region with other outfitters over the past decade. They have extensive anti-poaching teams working non-stop, with clear positive results. The region was once plagued by elephant poaching, but that is no longer the case and the elephant population is extensive and healthy. Equally, the results of their work with the locals, ranging from digging bore holes to problem animal control to meat distribution, was apparent as we drove through villages and talked with the locals.

So, without further ado, on to the report...

Executive Summary:

Outfitter: Dalton and York Safaris (facebook/instagram)
Agent: Michelle Buchanan, Buchanan Hunts

Professional Hunter: Dalton Tink
Appie: Heath
Tracker: Tongai (Dewa)
Driver: Trymore
National Parks Ranger: Million
Council Game Scout: Time


Videographer/Truck Comedian: Andy Buchanan of This Is Africa (Pursuit Channel/Youtube) and Africa Five

Hunting Area: Omay North
Hunting Camp: Ume Camp
Other Areas visited: Harare, Victoria Falls, Dubai

Dip/Pack: Collettes Wildlife Artistry, Zimbabwe
Trophy Imports: Safari Specialty Importers
CITES/USFWS Permits: Conservation Force

Flights: Emirates, Fastjet
Other lodging: Amanzi Lodge (Harare), Old Drift Lodge (Vic Falls), Le Meridien (Dubai)

Rifles: Chapuis Brousse 470NE double rifle, Blaser R8 chambered in 375H&H and 300 Win Mag
Ammunition: Swift (A-Frames and Break-Away Solids)
Optics: Nightforce and Vortex

Animals hunted/fished: Elephant, Leopard, Hippo, Chobe Bushbuck, Spotted Hyena, Impala, Vundu Catfish
Other Animals seen: Cape Buffalo, Crocodile, Waterbuck, Kudu, Zebra, Klipspringer, Civet Cat, Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Serval Cat, Duiker
 

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Kevin Peacocke

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Keep it coming Rinehart, this is one I will print and bind. How did you get from Vic Falls to Omay - leave nothing out.
 

MMAL

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LivingTheDream

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So pumped for this report!!! Been waiting a while. Totally agree with your assessment of the Omay, it is brutal and beautiful and Dalton will walk every single inch if it meant getting you an animal.
 

rinehart0050

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Traveling during COVID...and the advantages of working with an Agent operating out of Zimbabwe

I would strongly encourage everyone to travel now and not hold off due to COVID! The pandemic did add some minor inconveniences and hiccups to the trip, but these were outweighed by all the benefits.

Our travel itinerary was as follows:

24 June - Travel from IAD - DXB on Emirates Business Class, Boeing 777-300ER
25 June - Travel from DXB - HRE on Emirates Business Class, Boeing 777-300ER, overnight at Amanzi Lodge in Harare
26 June - Travel to Kariba via A1 highway (good pavement the whole way), then boat ride across Lake Kariba into camp
27 June - 10 July - Hunting Days
11 July - Boat transfer to Kariba, drive to Harare, ***missed our flight to VIc Falls***, overnight at Amanzi Lodge
12 - 13 July - Flight to Vic Falls on FastJet, stay at the Old Drift Lodge
14 July - Flight to Harare on FastJet, Flight to Dubai on Emirates Business Class, Boeing 777-300ER
15 July - 20 hour layover in Dubai (room at Le Meridien provided by Emirates, used the day for sightseeing, more on this later)
16 July Travel from DXB - IAD on Emirates Business Class, Airbus A380!!!

Before the trip: Zimbabwe requires a PCR test within 48 hours of departure. We paid for a same day test result just to play it safe, but my parents just went with a normal testing site and got their results back in time too.

It was very easy going through both DXB and HRE was quick too. No issues on the overnight in Harare or drive to Kariba. There were some checkpoints on the road, but no issues or stops.

Now, to the drama...
While in hunting camp, there was an uptick in cases in Zim, which led to a 6pm to 6am curfew. As we prepared to leave camp, we hear that the boat driver tested positive for Covid.

No worries yet... the owner of the boat transfer company will come get us in the morning.

Departure morning, we arrive at the pick-up spot, no boat... Getting a little nervous, as we don't have a huge window to catch our afternoon flight to Vic Falls.

The boat shows up at 745... over an hour late. Wasn't able to leave until 0600 due to curfew. We're starting to run out of time. And the captain has bad news. He hit something on the way in and the engine is making concerning noises... oi vey.

The boat is still running, so we load up and head out into the lake, albeit much slower than we hoped. The boat company will have another boat meet us on the lake in case the issue gets worse. The window to catch our flight is getting smaller by the second...

We make it to Kariba and our transfer van is waiting. Transfer our luggage quick and we're on the road. We can still make it!

First checkpoint... instead of the usual wave through, it's a stop and long conversation with the guard. Then we're moving again. Next checkpoint, it's another stop. This time they want to inspect our trailer. They've found the videographer's case for his drone. I pretend ignorance and claim it's just a camcorder. This seems to satisfy and we're back on our way, having lost another 15 minutes... sigh.

We've got less than 15 minutes of spare time at this point to make it to the airport before they close check-in 40 minutes prior to our flight. Next checkpoint... we get waived over to the side of the road.

What now?? The guard can't understand why a tourist would possibly be coming from Kariba. He's demanding that we take covid tests. Do not proceed. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200... Andy goes and chats with the guard for a few minutes, comes back, and we're driving again. $10 seems to have cleared up the guard's confusion.

At this point, there's no way we will make it to the airport in time. Usually, this would be a high stress situation... trying to rebook our flights, trying to find lodging in locked down Harare, high stress indeed...

But not for us. This is where having a agent from the country you're hunting in is key. Michelle of Buchanan Hunts has handled everything for us! She called the Amanzi Lodge (which was closed, with no guests) and got them to reopen the lodge and their restaurant just for us. Michelle has rebooked our FastJet flights for tomorrow morning! She's coordinated with the Old Drift Lodge in Vic Falls to alert them to our delayed arrival.

Rather than having to stress about all the "this is Africa" challenges, we were able to just relax and enjoy an extra night at Amanzi Lodge. This is the advantage of working with someone like Michelle rather than coordinating everything yourself or trying to have a travel agent work things from back in the USA.

So... with all that drama behind us, no issues traveling to Vic Falls. Old Drift Lodge arranged for a nurse to take our covid tests at the Lodge for $60 each. This seems to be the going rate across Zim for same day tests.

Leaving Zim, all goes well with our tests. Arriving in Dubai, they require that you recieve another test, but it's free, and you get it right as you get off the plane. So quick and easy. Supposedly you need to download a contact tracing app to enter Dubai. We did, but noone ever asked about it. We enjoyed our day touring Dubai (more on this later) and boarded our flight to the USA.

As always, I highly recommend signing up for Global Entry. This allows you to skip the lines at passport control entering the USA. Noone even asked for a covid test entering the USA. Quick and easy through customs. Took about 20 minutes to get our rifles from Customs. (Notes: we brought our supressor along on this trip as we have before. Again, no issues on either end)

So, overall, Covid adds a little bit of hassle, but not much. What really got us were the more rigorous checkpoints that accompanied the curfew and enhanced lock down in Zim. This is where having a contact in country that can help with hotel bookings and flight rescheduling is key. Michelle and her team did an amazing job and made what could have been a very stressful situation relatively painless.
 

Royal27

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Good update on the travel Tom. Thanks!
 

Chukar

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As all the others have stated, I am oh so looking forward to this!
 

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Looking forward to it,thanks for sharing the detailed start!
 

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Did FastJet allow you to take your firearms or did you leave them in Harare prior to the Victoria Falls flight and pick them up once in town?
 

rinehart0050

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Did FastJet allow you to take your firearms or did you leave them in Harare prior to the Victoria Falls flight and pick them up once in town?

We left our firearms and large luggage with Michelle in Harare. Just took carry-on to Vic Falls with FastJet. This is another reason working with local agents and operators is good- they can watch your heavy luggage while you're out on excursions!

Yes! Another elephant hunting report! I’m thrilled to hear about all the details! Keep it coming @rinehart0050 !

Will your safari also be posted on the This is Africa YouTube channel?

Please say yes!!!

I don't want to give too much away, but I suspect our hunt will feature in a couple of episodes. Andy's got some great footage coming for the next season of This Is Africa, as well as plans for a new show called Africa Five, which will follow 5 different PHs throughout their seasons. Exciting new content coming soon!
 

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Awesome keep it coming
 

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We left our firearms and large luggage with Michelle in Harare. Just took carry-on to Vic Falls with FastJet. This is another reason working with local agents and operators is good- they can watch your heavy luggage while you're out on excursions!





I don't want to give too much away, but I suspect our hunt will feature in a couple of episodes. Andy's got some great footage coming for the next season of This Is Africa, as well as plans for a new show called Africa Five, which will follow 5 different PHs throughout their seasons. Exciting new content coming soon!

Awesome! This will be great viewing I’m sure!
 

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We left our firearms and large luggage with Michelle in Harare. Just took carry-on to Vic Falls with FastJet. This is another reason working with local agents and operators is good- they can watch your heavy luggage while you're out on excursions!





I don't want to give too much away, but I suspect our hunt will feature in a couple of episodes. Andy's got some great footage coming for the next season of This Is Africa, as well as plans for a new show called Africa Five, which will follow 5 different PHs throughout their seasons. Exciting new content coming soon!
I think your new avatar should carry a "spoiler" warning! :unsure: ;)

Looking forward to reading about this bruiser.
 

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