During June, right at the prime of our rut in the East Cape, I found myself sitting thousands of miles away on the banks of the Luangwa River. With me I had my old friend, Dave Kjelstrup, enjoying his first experience of Zambia and the beauty of the Luangwa Valley.
Having caught a charter flight out of Lusaka earlier in the day we had spotted so much just driving into camp from our rugged bush strip.
Elephant, Lion, Roan, Giraffe and the ever mischief Baboons… we would be in for a treat of a safari.
Further down south the rest of our crews were gearing up for a big month in the East Cape. John and Lynn Nowlin were back on their 11th hunt with John X Safaris while Mike and Janice Wald, as well as the Rasmussen family, would be joining us on safari for the very first time.
Catching up with old friends is always a treat, but when it comes to John and Lynn its a privilege after all these years. They’ve hunted just about everything the East Cape and for that matter a lot of what Southern Africa has to offer, but they return each year to join Professional Hunter, Ed Wilson, for a dose of adventure.
The Tiny 10 would be John’s focus and priority on this years hunt, but the main attraction unbeknown to any of us at first turned out to be a Black Rhino Vita-Dart Experience. The opportunity arose while the Nowlin’s were up in the Great Karoo and before they knew it they were chest deep in the tall grass on the trail of Black Rhino.
Observing these ill-tempered beasts from the safety of a vehicle is one thing, but getting into their zone on foot takes on an entirely new dimension, often leaving one with sweaty palms and measured actions the closer one gets to them.
It would be the first Vita-Darted Black Rhino at John X Safaris. The fact that John and Lynn would be the torch-bearers of such an amazing initiative made it all the more memorable for those involved. They have paved the way for what we hope will be an annual opportunity our hunters will choose to part-take in. We have secured one Black Rhino Vita-Dart Experience per annum for the next five years, giving those hunters who may be interested in the opportunity of a lifetime.
While travelling to Africa has become something of the norm for the Nowlin’s, on the other side of the spectrum was the Rasmussen’s. What fun it must have been seeing Africa through the eyes of your boys for the very first time…
For Wyatt and Colter Rasmussen it would be the adventure of a lifetime. These two young men literally just got after it! With keen observation from parents, Cory and Cami, and Professional Hunter, Lourense Lombard, they hunted from both our southern base Woodlands Safari Estate and our recent addition, Waterfall, up in the Great Karoo. Of course, no safari to Africa would be complete without a trip to Addo Elephant Park squeezed in between the hunting.
With the boys enjoying most of the time on the sticks, Cory and Cami took their chances with a few priorities of their own. A Common Springbuck and East Cape Kudu being at the top of the list for Mom and Dad.
Cami’s Springbuck was not only a beauty of a ram, but it allowed for some spectacular pictures while it’s “pronk”, the fan on its back, was still flared. The Bushmen who first inhabited the great expanses of the Karoo believed this phenomenon was the precise moment the animals’ spirit leaves the earth. Once the fan closes the spirit had left. It’s a beautiful sight and one the boys found interesting.
As for Cory, he worked hard hunting some big free-range country looking for the right Kudu. The team turned down a bunch of bulls before coming away with a fantastic bull on a blistering cold afternoon.
As a whole, the family came away with an experience second to none. The flight was long but so worth it in the end. Where else could one experience an uninterrupted week of family time taking on the East Cape from the sandy white beaches on the Indian Ocean to the breathtaking mountains of the north. It was the family vacation of a lifetime.
Mike and Janice Wald had arrived in camp at the same time as the Rasmussen’s. For Mike, it would be the lure of a Cape Buffalo that first saw him arrive at our booth in Dallas a couple of years ago. Mike wanted to hunt hard and experience what a Cape Buffalo hunt offered those who dared to take one on.
Our Buffalo hunts at Woodlands Safari Estate will leave even the most experienced hunter with pulses racing as one stalks the meandering herds and Daga Boys in the thickets at close quarters. Shots are very seldom further than 60-100 yards, and at times within 30 yards, making for difficult stalking conditions with swirling valley winds. Sometimes you can smell and hear them feeding ahead of you with a rising flock of Egrets being the only giveaway of their proximity. Mike would be in for a treat…
But before getting into the thick of things with a Cape Buffalo, PH, Greg Hayes, opted for a few days of Plains Game hunting ensuring all or any “jitters” would be out-of-the-way by the time Mike came face to face with Africa’s black death. A Red Hartebeest and Zebra for Mike, and a great old Blue Wildebeest for Janice proved to be the perfect start.
The hunters would start working the high ground glassing from first light each morning before taking a break over midday when the Buffalo was the least active. At times they found Buffalo in positions they were able to pursue, while at other times they sat in agony watching massive Dagga Boys no more than 300 yards away without the possibility of an approach.
Then during the late afternoon on day five, the hunters spotted a big bull feeding down a ridge towards a favoured waterhole. Up until this point the majority of Buff were pursued in the early hours of the day, here they now had a golden opportunity after the midday heat. The hunters moved swiftly making the most of this rare mistake by a weary old Dagga Boy.
It would be an opportunity they would not miss. Mike made a fantastic frontal quartering shot breaking the bull’s shoulder with the first from his 375 H&H before a couple quick follow-ups ensuring the bull was going nowhere. It proved to be a spectacular old bull with cracked up horns hard to the boss. The ultimate trophy matched by the ultimate experience.
With the dust settling on Mike’s Cape Buffalo hunt and many celebrations later the team packed up and moved camp north in pursuit of a few of the Wald’s remaining species.
Janice once again proved to be a superb shot bagging a beautiful Springbuck while Mike hunted a Cape Eland and a world-class Waterbuck breaking the 30″ mark. With time running out and having enjoyed a few days in the north the crew headed south once again to prepare for the journey home.
Mike would fittingly finish off their safari with a proper Nyala and in doing so bring their hunt to a close.
Upon their arrival home, while I was still up on my hunt in Zambia, I received a mail from Mike and Janice; ” Carl, we’d like to re-book for 2020.” It was the very best compliment our team could have received. A job well done by the crews in the south.
Dave and I were enjoying the views of the Luangwa River hunting for Hippo along the various stretches of the river.
I managed to guide a Puku, a first for me of this species, and a first for Dave too. Very much like the Lechwe we have down south, but slightly smaller and somewhat stockier with a proud way about them. They occur in small groups along the river’s edge and floodplains with lone rams dotted across medium-sized territories.
Hunting the river and seeing how the people live from it made for interesting days in pursuit of Hippo. We finally did connect with a massive bull and were treated to a recovery process like I’ve never witnessed before. The team literally swam the bull downstream to a landing area where the trusty Toyota Land Cruiser could get to with a winch for the final tug onto the bank. Just getting rid of the remaining pod of Hippo around the bull proved to be a daunting task on its own.
The first half of June provided numerous experiences combined with successes across various age groups from the banks of the mighty Luangwa to the meandering Great Fish in the south. Our season was at a halfway mark with much more to look forward to in the coming months.
If you’d like to get in touch with us for your next adventure to Africa, then drop us a mail on firstname.lastname@example.org for hunts like this and many more. For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and visit our Website.