On my previous trip with John X Safaris, I traveled to Mozambique. It was full of adventure and excitement.
While I have been to South Africa many times, the adventure and excitement never stops.
On my last trip, once again, we went fishing in the Indian Ocean. Our party got into yellow tail tuna. That fish fights like no other I have hooked. No, they were not the largest tuna ever caught, but they were the first for me. I was able to share this adventure with my PH, Carl van Zyl, his close friend, Jose H. Gomez, from Mexico, Rick, Carl’s father and a couple other new friends.
We fought and landed a boat load of tuna. Most were given to friends or locals. That evening, Carl, Jose, and Rick prepared a meal of sushi, ceveche, and barbequed blackened tuna. As I write this story, my mouth is watering thinking of that fantastic dinner. Thanks, guys.
Waking each morning to the sound of Lions near our camp was only one of the many treats at John X Safaris.
Traveling is always more interesting when you meet new people. This trip was no exception.
On the first evening, at dinner, I met a couple from Franschoek, a small town north of Cape Town. They were Paul and Anne, along with their three children, daughters Georgia Anne and Shannon and their son, Zack. The five of them were staying at Lalibela with their friend, Carla, a young lady who is an exchange student, from Saint Andrews, in Boca, Florida. They, along with our game ranger, David, made the next few days at Lalibela a delight.
We were able to view African animals up close and truthfully, they were beyond description. David was knowledgeable and answered all questions without talking down to the young people. David had spent time living with the San people, the bushman’s tribe of Namibia. For three months, his personal teacher was an 89-year-old member of that tribe. I missed seeing them on their last day of game drives, as I went to Grahamstown for the annual Art Festival. I have always enjoyed the local art and exciting street food. While sitting at a food court, I glanced up and there were my new friends. We were able to talk and promise each other that we would keep in touch. I look forward to seeing them on a future trip. Actually, Anna told me that she would like to try hunting. Maybe we will be able to meet on my next trip.
While in camp, I also had the pleasure of meeting Stephen and Karen Bassett. Stephen is an award-winning author and artist. He is internationally renowned for his research into the cave paintings of southern Africa. His research into the methods and techniques used by the early cave painters is regarded by academics as some of the best in the modern world. Karen, also an artist, works with Mzamomhle Home Care Centre a charity that assists locals to raise their standard of living. Disadvantaged women and their children seeking to improve their status in society and their African culture receive assistance from this group.
One evening, Carl, Jose, and I were invited to a dinner prepared by Lee, Carl’s sister, and her husband, Gary. We enjoyed a meal of wild game, local lamb, chicken, and side dishes. A great evening passed with food, fine wines, and conversation.
As the days of relaxing and visiting at Lalibela, attending the local galleries, and dining in restaurants in Grahamstown were coming to an end, I was ready to start my hunt. Carl had been away in Johannesburg, attending a meeting of PHASA (Professional Hunters Association of South Africa). Carl serves as a member of PHASA’s Executive Board of Directors, a group dedicated to the high standards of professional hunters in South Africa.
My hunt in South Africa.
Arriving back at camp, Carl informed me we’ll try an evening hunt on a ranch next door. Eight years ago, the ranch was purchased by a reserve, and has yet to be incorporated as a fully fledged wildlife area. It takes many years for a new purchase to reach its maturity; hunting plays a vital role in the development costs. We went out after dark to hunt for Duiker. After many hours, we returned to the lodge without taking a shot. I had hunted for Common Duiker several times and have never had the luck necessary to harvest one. I hope that this trip does not continue my streak of bad luck.
Up early the next morning, after a light snack, we are off to the Karoo. Actually, we are going to Graaf-Reinet, a beautiful old community, and then on to our destination, Glen Harry. After settling in our rooms, we meet Hennie, the manager, and Harry, the camp manager. Discussing what we are looking for over a traditional English breakfast, Carl and Harry set out a plan. In our rooms, we arrange our things and then back to the dining area to leave on my hunt.
Carl wants to try for Klipspringer. The Klipspringer is a small mountain antelope that my 73-year-old knees may not be up to the challenge of taking. Of all the tiny ten, the Klipspringer is one trophy that may be beyond my ability. Driving around the ranch, we spot several and decide on one that may be within my ability. The males are always with their ladies, so we have more than one pair of eyes with which to contend. With Carl and Zwayi in front and Jose and Harry and me following, I find the walk is not as hard as I thought and after a short time I think that taking a Klipspringer might be within my capabilities. Two long stalks and many ridges later, I watch the rear ends of the small antelopes disappear over a ridge for the third time. Not as easy as I thought. Back at the truck, Carl suggests we try for a rock Hyrax, a small critter I have wanted for several hunts.
Driving in search of Hyrax, we spot two klipspringers, a male and a companion, his mate. Carl continues to drive down the road some two hundred yards and pulls off. He tells me that he has seen this male before and if it’s the same one, it’s a very good one. We need to stalk back under the cover of the trees that line the road to get into a spot where I can take a clean shot. Carl and Jose grab the shooting sticks and the glasses and I grab the W-70 in .243 and head back, hoping to see the antelope still in the open. Clearing the trees from across the area where we saw the Klipspringer, I look up the hillside. I am unable to see anything until Carl hands me his field glasses.
Following his guidance, I spot the antelope. He is behind a small brush. I place the cross hairs of the scope on the brush and wait for him to come out. As the antelope clears the brush, Carl says, “Ron, you need to take him now.” Squeezing the trigger, the animal jumps and runs down the hill nearer to us, then turns to our right, and runs back up the hill. This time Carl confirms; “You’ve hit him way too low. Take him when he stops.” The antelope stops on a large boulder. I settle the cross hairs on its shoulder, and squeeze the trigger. With the assistance of my friend and PH, Carl, I have done what I had thought impossible. I had my Klipspringer—old knees and all.