Bill C Hunt
Date of Hunt: July 2005
Locations: Sapi Safari Area and the Save Conservancy, Zimbabwe
Animals Taken in Sapi: Elephant Bull (47x44lbs, Ivory 5.5 & 5 feet long measured around the curve, 16" at the lip); Warthog (13.5"); Grysbok, Buffalo Cow; Impala, Guinea Fowl & Franklin
Animals Taken in the Save Conservancy: Chobe Bushbuck (15.75/15.5"); Non-Trophy (broken horn/mgmt) Blue Wildebeest, Warthog & Impala
Animals Hunted But Not Shot (Sapi): Bushbuck; Hyena
PH/Outfitter: Buzz Charlton of Charlton & McCallum Safaris
Mobile Phone (from US): 011 263 4 91201487
Website: CM Safaris Website
Travel Agent: Kathi Klimes of Wild Travel
Telephone: 708 425 3552
PROFESSIONAL HUNTER & TEAM
I booked the hunt with Professional Hunter and friend, Buzz Charlton, of Charlton & McCallum Safaris. Buzz coordinated and negotiated the hunt on my behalf with Chifuti Safaris. I hunted with Buzz in April 2004 for two tuskless elephant cows in the neighboring concession (Chewore North), and had a fantastic early-season hunt. Having done my "scouting", I felt very comfortable with the area, Buzz's elephant hunting skills, and his ability to provide my sons, Brett aged 14 and Bill Jr. aged 16, with a real, old-Africa type of experience.
Before selecting the Sapi area, we looked at numerous concessions in Zimbabwe, but finally decided that Sapi offered the type of "adventure" that I was looking for, combined with an excellent opportunity on a quality bull elephant crossing the boarder from Mana Pools National Park.
As with my previous hunt, Buzz was a tireless and enthusiastic hunter as well as an excellent host and companion for me and the boys. Buzz, his driver Royal, and his trackers Cryton and Tino make you feel part of "the team" and an active participant in the hunt. Buzz took the time to point out spoor, plants, birds, interesting facts, etc. which kept us involved and entertained during the hours of tracking. And there is nobody better to have at your side when in/around a herd of elephant. I have and will continue to highly-recommend Buzz to anyone looking for an energetic, professional and most capable professional hunter. I just cannot imagine anybody having anything but a terrific experience with Buzz.
Professional Hunter and good friend Buzz Charlton with Brett (left) & Bill Jr. (right).
Buzz in the company car on the way to Sapi in the Zambezi
Valley. Top left – Royal, Buzz’s driver, spotter, chief mechanic, right-hand man
& all-around great guy. My boys took a suitcase of goodies for his cool kids,
Kumbu (5yrs) & Lucia (7yrs), who stay on Buzz’s property with their Mother. I
regret forgetting to take pictures of them.
Cryton - elephant tracker extraordinaire…pleasant
personality, hard-working, sharp-minded, clean-living…and quite photogenic.
SAPI CONCESSION & TERRAIN
The Sapi Safari area is located along the Zambezi River, bordering Mana Pools to the west and south-west, and Chewore North and Chewore South to the east and south-east. Like Nyakasanga (located on other side of Mana Pools), Sapi is an auction area, meaning that the hunts are put out to auction each March by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Proceeds from the auction are to be directly used by Parks to support anti-poaching activities and to finance some of the authority's various projects. The area is currently operated by Chifuti Safaris (Andrew Dawson & Paul Smith), who purchased and paid for all “bag hunts” in Sapi for 2005.
The concession is relatively flat and the walking is not difficult in the mostly sandy soil, but the thick blocks of jesse bush along the Zambezi River can be a real challenge. There are areas with Mopane trees and scrub, interlaced with ancient baobab trees where visibility is quite good. There are numerous water pans throughout the concession, however, 2005 has been another very dry year and these pans were empty. In wetter years, and/or earlier in the season, one can expect considerable movement of game across the Mana Pools boarder.
There is not a tremendous number of roads (dirt tracks) through the concession, and one should be prepared to walk quite a bit on most hunts, which was part of the attraction for us. There are perimeter roads where tracks can be picked up, including a ~2.5hr stretch along Mana to the west and south, and the Chewore River bed to the east, which was dry when we were there.
The Sapi Safari Area is located between Mana Pools & Chewore North, along the Zambezi River separating Zimbabwe from Zambia. Humani is in the southern part of the country, known as the “lowveld”.
This sign look familiar to anybody? You know you are
getting close when you see it!
A dry river bed (the Sapi River, I believe); note how high the water gets in the rainy season beginning typically in November
Some of Sapi’s jesse bush. Can you spot the elephant?
Buffalo hunting anyone??? You will earn your buffalo in Sapi.
Per my request, Chifuti setup a tented fly camp for us, located about two miles up river from their main tented camp. This proved ideal, as it gave us the seclusion and "bush feel" that I wanted my sons to experience, while still being close enough to the main camp for skinning, restocking supplies, laundry, petrol, etc. In camp, besides my sons and Buzz, there was a cook (Jimmy), waiter (Two Boys) and two helpers which we did not see until the end of the trip. The camp manager / caterer, Caroline, stopped by from time to time and is very friendly and most capable.
The fly camp was well laid out, located along a flood plane adjacent to a small island with the Zambezi River on the other side. I am sure this location was a favorite of the citizen hunters in previous years. Following our stay, the camp was to be dismantled to make way for some local hunters who purchased hunts from Chifuti.
Tented fly camp in Sapi (view from Zambezi).
View from camp looking out over flood plane and the Zambezi
Overlooking the Zambezi, this proved to be a fine place to ponder the meaning of life…
Your bath is ready sir…
We were not totally uncivilized!
Chifuti is in the process of building a lavish new
permanent fishing camp down river closer to Chewore, which is scheduled to be
completed sometime in September 2005. Personally, I like the bush camps, but
this should be very nice, and will also be used for hunting.
My oldest son (Bill Jr.) and I both kept detailed journals, and I hope that between the three of us, we can put together an article for publication somewhere. I think this would be a neat way to capture and remember the adventure. So I had better save some of the nitty-gritty, but as I owe AR so much, following is a brief description of the hunt highlights with some pictures (which is what we all want to see anyway!!!).
We followed quite a few mature bulls the first few days of the hunt. I'd like to say that we walked our butts off, but the fact of the matter is that there was little movement from Mana into Sapi due to the lack of water within the concession. We were able to get up on all bulls within a few hours, except for one pair who were apparently headed to Mozambique. We passed on several respectable elephant before deciding to shoot the one pictured below.
We followed this guy and his ~30lb'ish buddy for about two hours before catching them feeding. My bull was about 500 yards ahead and up wind, making it difficult to get a good look at him. Once we did, Buzz judged his tusks to be "at least 40lbs" and fully mature. Given how ideal the lead-up had been including catching him in the open, and considering the relative lack of bull movement, I decided that this was the one.
We approached him from behind, getting within 10-yards, hoping that he would whirl around and give me a frontal brain opportunity and a quick and humane kill. I shot both tuskless with frontal brain shots, and I was mentally prepared for this situation. However, one glance back was all it took, and he decided that he needed to be somewhere else and fast. He bolted to the right, and I recall thinking "Oh no you don't, we’ve come this far".
I do not remember taking the safety off or looking through the sights, it was instinctive point-and-shoot. I hit him slightly in front of the ear hole cover, a bit high, but obviously good enough as he crashed to the ground in mid stride, legs extended and straightening, eyes "vacant", telling of a successful brain shot.
Judging age is difficult, he was not on his last set of molars that we could tell, but his 23-inch feet were heavily cracked and worn smooth in areas, and he had very little hair on his tail. Clearly a mature bull, Buzz guesstimated he we was somewhere between 45-50 years old, or so I would at least like to believe. The taking of such a magnificent creature is not without remorse, but he was killed quickly and in an ethical manner, for whatever this is worth.
This is the actual footprint from the elephant that I shot, which we picked up early morning on the dirt track separating Sapi in the south from Mana Pools. I’m not sure why I took pictures of these footprints and no others, fate perhaps???
A baobab tree where the two bulls had recently fed. We have
more pictures of the various spoor…but I’ll save these for another day.
Our good luck fork-tailed drongo, which followed us most of
the way as we tracked, swooping down to eat any insect that we kicked up.
My sons Bill Jr (left) and Brett (right).
Professional Hunter Buzz Charlton (right, wearing his new
lucky WDSI company shirt!).
Another view of the tusks, with my Ruger .458 Lott which
has proven to be a great dangerous game gun. Although a handful on the bench,
there's no such thing as "recoil" in the bush.
The Team - Front left to right: Tino (Tracker); Shakyton
(Game Scout); Cryton (Tracker). Rear left to right: Royal; Bill Jr.; Brett; Bill
Sr. (me). Please know that no disrespect is intended to the animal in this
“traditional” picture, which was taken prior to recovery. As there are no people
living in Sapi, we did not get to experience the mêlée that accompanies a
village butchering. However, all meat will be consumed, nothing goes to waste in
The symbolic “cutting of the tail” to advise others that
may happen by that this elephant has “an owner”.
The well-worn pads of an old elephant bull.
Picture taken 5-days later once the tusks could be removed
from the skull. Note the “working tusk” on the right; although shorter by
6-inches, it weighed only 3lbs less as they tend to be denser. They measured 5.5
and 5 feet, and 16 inches around at the lip. Weight was 47.2 & 44.2, which is
what I was hoping for, and good for a Zambezi Valley bull.
Link to VIDEO CLIP from my
April-2004 tuskless cow hunt ("scouting mission") in Chewore North with Buzz.
Note the thick, early-season jesse thorn bush. The shot was at 12-yards with a
.416 Rem using hand-loaded .400gr Barnes Solids. I decided after this hunt to
upgrade to the Lott. --->
Video Clip #1
Second tuskless shot in a more open area at 10-yards (Buzz's cameraman, Sean, was well behind us). Note that I removed the scope, which even at 1.5x, I found to be a hindrance shooting in such tight quarters, and when carrying the rifle. Looking back, I don't miss the extra weight around the beltline either! At the end of the clip, we were charged by a cow elephant from the herd, which stopped before we had to shoot. ---> Video Clip #2
It was as "classic" of a buffalo hunt as one could ask for, only that it was for an old cow and not a bull. We followed one herd for the better part of a morning, finally realizing that there was a pride of lion with the same idea, and that the buffalo had no intentions of slowing down. The next morning we spotted a herd of ~75 buffalo and took a few pictures of them before they ran off.
Later that afternoon, we went back and picked up the spoor, following them for about an hour until we caught them slowly walking and feeding in the thick Sapi jesse. After another half hour of crawling, sneaking and trying to get a clear shot, just before sundown, Brett was able to make a perfect ~40-yard heart/lung shot. It was every bit as exciting as any buffalo bull hunt I have done, and then some. I do not know who was more excited or proud, but I suspect it was I.
Brett's old buffalo cow.
I'm going to save this story for my son to tell, as it is a good one.
As Valley warthogs go, this old boy was a brute. Too bad he ate like shoe leather!
A real "sod" (Zim-slang for big pig I think...).
Brett with his excellent Grysbok, and Tino (Buzz's fun-loving Tracker) who spotted the little guy.
OTHER ACTIVITIES & GAME VIEWING (SAPI)
When Buzz and I put this trip together, with the help and suggestions of a number of forum members (Thanks Again Guys!), we wanted to make sure that there was enough diversity and "adventure" to keep two teenage boys – plus two big kids - engaged and inspired for the 16 days that we had allocated for hunting. This would have been a challenge had the elephant hunting dragged on, which is something we were mentally prepared for. However, with the elephant down - in a perfect world perhaps we would have hunted longer, but I am trying not to second-guess this - we had time to enjoy the other activities that Africa has to offer.
Bird shooting in Africa is something that I have always wanted to do, but never had the chance. Unfortunately, shotgun shells were unattainable in Zim, so we relied on a trusty .22 for entertainment. And it was great fun indeed, as whenever things got dull or after a long fruitless walk, there would sure to be a group of guinea fowl or a francolin to make things interesting. And don't let anybody tell you that shooting at a running guinea fowl with a .22 and a cheap 4x power scope at 50 yards is not sporting!
While I'm proud to say that all the big game animals I hit were one shot kills, most dropping in their tracks (except a warthog in Save at 150 yards which I clean missed but scared the shi*t out of), I didn't do so well with the birds. But who cares – I have two new duck and dove hunting buddies! Look out Argentina, here we come! The trackers enjoyed everything we shot, and nothing went to waste. I guarantee that you never saw a guy run through the jesse as fast as Tino (the tracker) did, chasing a mortally wounded yet still quite speedy guinea fowl. God that was funny.
Buzz and I made a trip to a local tackle shop in Harare before we left for some new fishing equipment, and I brought along a reel and some suitable Mepps lures and other assorted goodies as suggested in a past article in The African Hunter. While July is not the ideal time for tiger fishing, we did have a boat available to us at all times, and a two-tank ration of gas (or should I say "petrol") courtesy of Chifuti. Mostly we just enjoyed being out on the Zambezi, catching Nerf on the sandbars (did I mention we saw some big croc's), and savoring a cold Castle or two.
My oldest son was the official "documenter" of the expedition, and together we took 1150 digital pictures, albeit many were duplicates. Taking quality pictures of game animals in a hunting concession is quite frustrating, as just when you decide that the pretty whatever would make a great picture to demonstrate to your non-hunting wife and dear mother your love and compassion of everything wild, the damm things turns and walks away. Inevitably, I am always a tad disappointed when viewing the pictures at home, as they never quite match my vivid memory. However, we did accumulate a nice collection of animal ass-ends, which became a sport in and of itself. Here are just a few of the many pict’s...
Guinea fowl, which is said to be very good eating, although I wouldn't know as the trackers never relinquished them once in the back of the truck!
Egyptian goose on a rare July cloudy day in the Zambezi
Valley. Brett shot very well on this trip, and took this goose at about 100
yards with the .300. And no, we did not recover the .200gr TBBC!
Billy with one of the few tiger fish that we managed to
land. We used smaller fish (brim) for bait, while floating down the river in the
Catfish caught on elephant meat in front of camp, which was
eagerly accepted by the camp staff. Note our "speed boat" (NOT!)
Low-pressure morning walk along the flood planes looking for bushbuck.
Although Buzz is a hard-core elephant hunter, who each year
shoots with clients more elephant then any other PH in Zim and probably Africa,
he was terrific with my boys on the day-to-day stuff.
A hollowed-out baobab tree, which was full of bats and smelled something fierce.
Lunchtime in the dry Chewore River bed. This was a long ride from camp, and very close to the Chewore South boarder. There was a lot of cow elephant movement, but no big bulls.
An injured baboon that we befriended. With all the leopard in Sapi, this was probably his last meal. The boys got a kick out of this picture when we looked at it on the computer – three guesses why…
Catching football in the Zambezi on one of the many sand
banks we encountered while trying to navigate the river. We spotted a nice croc
off this sandbank a few days later!
A pangolin stumbled upon while tracking a herd of cow
elephants. Also called a "scaly anteater", the top of their head, limbs and
entire back and tail are completely scaled. A favorite meal of the village
chiefs, they are protected in Zim.
A young male lion that was hunting the same herd of buffalo
that Brett shot his cow out of.
A pack of seven painted dogs (wild dogs). We watched them for about 10 minutes before their ears perked up and they ran off, obviously in hot pursuit of a meal.
A tuskless elephant that I let walk (Sorry Buzz!!!).
A beautiful sunset enjoyed from the Zambezi River. Being
close to the Equator, you can watch the sun set behind the Zambian escarpment in
a matter of minutes.
CONCESSION & CAMP (HUMANI; SAVE CONSERVANCY)
Buzz had pre-arranged with Roger Whittall of Roger Whittall Safaris for a trip to the southern (“lowveld”) region of Zimbabwe, dependent upon how the elephant hunt transpired. As the elephant was shot early in the hunt, we made the decision to drive the ~9hrs from Sapi to Harare, overnight at Buzz's house, then drive ~5hrs to Roger's concession in the Save Conservancy.
Although fully booked for the season, fortunately for us the main camp was empty except for the first night when we stayed with a nice couple from the US on their 7th trip with Roger. This was Buzz's first trip to Roger's area, called Humani, and he wanted to scope it out for future clients. Given the relaxed “holiday” atmosphere, Buzz's girlfriend Nikki accompanied us. Having never been to the Save, I was not sure what to expect exactly, but anticipated and hoped the boys would see a lot of game, while offering us the opportunity to take some management animals.
Roger's camp is beautiful, located high atop and overlooking the scenic Turgwe River. Although there is no hippo to keep one company at night, we did hear troops of baboon being harassed by leopard, waterbuck and bushbuck crossing the river, and lots of bird life come morning. The sad situation is that 40,000 of Humani’s 140,000 acres, including the area outside Roger’s camp, has been turned over to the so-called "war vets" by the ruling Zanu-PF party. In my opinion, these are really just relocated people living mostly traditional lives, although they have seen more then the typical African villager. For me, having visited other parts of Africa such as the Luangwa Valley where people and hunting coexist, this was not a problem.
As Roger will be the first to say, they are poaching all game within "their" area. Other farms in the Save have been completely taken over. Those farms with foreign investors have been spared, as the party does not know what trade agreements and such are in place. There are efforts being made to relocate the people elsewhere, as there is no good reason for them to be in what was previously "cattle country" and therefore not suited to farming. With organizations like the WWF present, and the Trans-Frontier Park which is to stretch from Kruger to the southeast lowveld (which Save is part of) to Mozambique, hopefully the problems will be resolved. Others are welcome to disagree, but I continue in my belief that the hunting community should support the outfitters still operating in Zimbabwe. Feel free to debate this, but please do so on the general African Hunting Forum.
Concerning the hunting, there are LOTS of animals in Humani in the remaining ~100,000 acres, and one should have no problem taking good trophy kudu, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck, bushbuck, warthog, impala, leopard (said to be very good) and eland (especially later in the year). Buffalo are there and can be hunted, as can cow elephant on a limited basis.
Although the kudu were hit by anthrax in the Conservancy, they seem to have fared okay in Humani, as we saw numerous 50" plus and many young bulls. The gentleman in camp the first day was unable to connect with one that his PH (William, a neat guy with a lot of experience and stories to tell) judged to be “about 60 inches". It is surprising how the different areas can vary within the Conservancy. For example, Buzz said on a recent hunt they saw very few warthog, whereas right next door they were everywhere. There was one field where they were digging where literally we saw over 100 warthogs!
The cow ele's are very aggressive in the Save, having been initially relocated from Gonarezhou National Park where the elephants have quite a reputation. One cow in particular always charges on sight. Our Cruiser was charged once, but we sort of asked for it…got a good picture though. We saw several bulls, which are considerably larger in body size then those from the Valley. We took pictures of a cheetah on an impala kill, giraffe including some old boys, and a group of sable including an awesome ~44" bull, and a majestic ~30" Nyala. We tracked down and took pictures of a black rhino, and saw tracks of white rhino, but never got on one. Lion are present although we did not hear or see them in our limited stay.
Roger Whittall’s main camp in Humani (Save Conservancy).
One of the guest huts. Note how open it is, which is really
wonderful at night. Even in July (winter), temperatures were quite comfortable.
View of the now low Turgwe River, from the dining area.
Buzz was a fierce competitor…but I think his record was something like 8 & 26. It is easy to see who was "taking stress" on this match.
Crossing the suspension bridge to Billy's hut, which was
fun at night!
Broken-horned impala, spotted from the truck and shot off
Bushbuck, taken in the reeds. There were two in there which
we didn't realize, and I shot the larger one trying to sneak out.
This old broken-tusked warthog was dropped on a ~30 yard
shot (scope 4x) in the bush along the river after a nice walk.
There are a lot of wildebeest in Humani. Many lone bulls
just stand and look at you, but we put a nice stalk on this one. He went down
with a single heart-shot from the .300 Mag. Note the beautiful Camel Thorn
Acacias in the background.
A gruesome site, this female impala had been caught in a
cruel wire snare, escaped and survived.
Cheetah kill, note the female impala carcass under the bush
to the left. The cheetah had eaten well, and our mere presence chased her off.
When we returned some 2hrs later, the carcass had been totally devoured by the
vultures. Nothing but bones and a small patch of hair, as if the whole thing
happened days or weeks ago, quite eerie actually.
We picked up fresh spoor of this black rhino and followed
him for about 20 minutes before catching him. He was walking with the wind at
his back, and in this picture had obviously picked up our sent. I was armed only
with my camera, so I was hoping he wouldn’t charge our way to "sort us out”. I
half-jokingly asked Buzz afterwards if he knew where to shoot a charging
rhino…he just grinned.
A bluff charge of the Cruiser from an angry cow elephant.
Although Buzz was in the process of executing a hasty retreat, I stayed with the
A typical scene in the lowveld region of Zimbabwe.
A very friendly & proud village woman with her sleeping
mat. All the men in the village had all died from AIDS. The boys got a big kick
out of her and her goatee. I promised to make her famous.
The flight to Harare was pain free and dare I say almost enjoyable. We flew from Dulles (Washington DC) which is about a 3hr drive from my home via South African Airways straight to Johannesburg. Kathi Klimes was able to get us excellent seats on the second floor (bubble), and the boys and I enjoyed the entertainment system and extra space and better seat pitch as compared to the dreaded and soon to be reconfigured Airbus. I had arranged for Optima to meet us there and help insure that the bags and rifle case was transferred. This was likely not necessary, but relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of the trip (at first they wanted to charge us $50 each, but we settled on $50/gun case which is fair for the service provided). After a short ~3hr layover, we flew on SAA to Harare where we got our Visa's and breezed through customs and firearms registration.
The way home was more challenging thanks to the SAA strike. SAA arranged for us to fly the same day as we otherwise would have via Air Kenya to Nairobi Kenya, then on a big, comfortable Boeing 777 to Amsterdam, and finally Business Class to Washington via United Airways. Layovers in Nairobi and Amsterdam were significant, but we arrived home “only” nine hours later then we otherwise would have. Business Class was a real treat for us, and probably spoiled me forever. Hats of to those of you who can afford [justify] first class all the time; it makes a world of difference.
The only potential headache involves my rifles, which I was forced to leave behind in Harare with Buzz. KLM wanted "advance notice" to take them, and given the flight schedules, this would have delayed our departure another 2-3 days the best I can tell. So the decision was made to send the rifles via SAA Cargo. While I removed my Swarovski scope, and am prepared for the worst, I sincerely home that Buzz and Kathi Klimes are able to work this out and that SAA does what they should and delivers to guns to the closest airport customs office. I will update this report with the outcome, and my feelings at that time.
Based on my previous tuskless elephant hunt with Buzz, and anticipating many long days and grueling walks, I worked out hard in preparation for the safari, including weight lifting 5 times per week, and up to 150 miles per week on the road bike. I dropped about 25lbs for this trip, which did not go unnoticed by my wife. My sons also workout and are active in various school sports, and they did fine.
RIFLES, LOADS & OTHER EQUIPMENT
I used a Ruger Mark II in .458 Lott for the elephant, with hand-loaded Woodleigh 500 grain solids (83.5grns of IMR 4320, at/about 2350fps out of the Ruger's 24" barrel). I also took along some hand-loaded 450gr NorthFork's. The Ruger is basically stock except for a mercury recoil reducer in the stock, a 3/32 ivory front bead and a Decelerator pad. I used open sites.
For the plains game my son and I used my no-frills Winchester Model 70 .300 magnum fitted with a Swarovski 2.5-10x40 scope, a combination which has accompanied me on numerous hunts to Africa and 18-days in southern Alaska. I had hand-loaded 180gr NorthFork bullets, but after not spending enough time at the range and having some problems the week before we left (previously, the gun had shot everything I put in it at the same poi, and I got lazy), I reverted back to the factory Federal 200gr TBBC loads that I had used with great success before. I was suspicious of the "new" style TBBC bullets, and took some older ones along too, but I did not see any difference in performance.
To stay in touch with my wife and daughter, and the office, I rented an Iridium 9505 Satellite Phone from Outfitter Satellite. Many folks do not realize that it is easy to send short text messages via email to these phones, which is a great way to stay in touch without having to “phone home” all the time. I have to admit that in 21 days, I didn’t phone the office once!!!
Given the physical demands of elephant hunting, and the uncertainty surrounding the availability of food in Zimbabwe at the time, we supplemented our diet with a good multivitamin and quality "energy snacks" such as Clif bars (from rei.com), low fat peanut butter, and crushed walnuts and raisins for the morning "porridge" (mealy-meal or oats)…and of course some candy.
Other essential equipment for each of us included: Boyd Gators from Cabela’s; Zip-off pants and 5" inseam short-shorts from Cabela’s and Columbia; Duofold VariTEC "dryfit" shirts ($4-10/ea from campmor.com); broken-in light-hikers from Merrell and LL Bean; Smartwool socks; Westley Richards cartridge belt; my trusty albeit overkill Pentax 10x42 DCF WP binoculars w/Vero Vellini strap (I use them mostly for game viewing when in Africa); Petzl Headlamps (invaluable for the fly camp); and the standard safari apparel based on the time of the year (long sleeve cotton safari shirts, sweat shirts, baseball caps, warm knit hats & gloves for the back of the truck, etc). My oldest son, Bill Jr., wore a Fieldline camo backpack on the walks, which also served as our truck bag. A SureFire M6 flashlight was great for spotting hippo and waterbuck from camp at night along the river and floodplain. As usual, just in case I needed it - I brought along my Leatherman multifunction tool - which I actually used this trip! Well, once or twice…
DIGITAL CAMERA & RELATED
The digital camera used for all pictures was a 1.5 year old 4MB Olympus C-750 UltraZoom, with four memory cards totaling 1000MB (1GB) of storage and two sets of rechargeable 2500mAh batteries plus a DC charger that could be used in the Cruiser. Next time I will take a spare, more compact backup camera just in case, preferably a 5MP of the same brand that uses the same batteries and memory cards. Lacking the knowledge, patience and ability to use the camera to its fullest potential in manual mode, I took multiple pictures using the various automatic settings (auto, landscape, portrait, and the best one landscape plus portrait).
SETBACKS, SECURITY & RELATED SUGGESTIONS
No safari is without some problems and frustrations. Fortunately, thanks to good planning and a bit of luck, these were very, very minimal. On the third night in camp I got a fever, chills and stomach distress, which made hunting the next day challenging. This was unfortunately the day I shot the elephant bull, and I would have preferred to feel at my best. I had taken some doxycycline along just in case, and started taking these on the fifth day which knocked whatever it was out of me. Even though I took the Doxy in the evenings with my meal, I noticed a lot more sun burning then prior to taking them.
I suggest anybody who suffers from seasonal allergies to take along some appropriate medication like Claritin or Benadryl plus nasal decongestant tablets, along with the standard supply of OTC (per Terry’s Packing List) and any prescription meds.
Being July, there were some tsetse flies present but not many. We were swarmed one day near a dried pan, and harassed a few days along the Chewore River bed, but this just added to the adventure. The Avon Skin So Soft bug repellant/lotion w/SPF15 worked okay, but I don’t think anything can thwart a determined tsetse attack. When we were being swarmed, I globed the SSS on all exposed skin and if definitely repelled 80% of the little buggers (which then went after the others, sorry Billy and Brett!).
The only other problem was in regards to the SAA strike and the difficulty getting a flight home, as covered previously. But I think SAA, as well as KLM and UA, handled this as good as they possibly could have. What can you do, sh*t happens, if one is not prepared, stay home.
We had zero problems in regards to "security and safety", and never once felt threatened or at risk when traveling in/around Harare and to the various hunting areas. As of this writing (July 29, 2005), Zimbabwe is experiencing severe shortages of fuel, basic supplies and foods, so anybody heading to Zim in the short-term should be sure to communicate openly with your outfitter/PH in regards to the current situation. Ask if there is anything that you could provide to assist in the safari (such as Cliff or other energy bars or other high-quality snacks, batteries, OTC medicines, etc).
Things change rapidly in Africa, and the conditions might be a whole lot better or a whole lot worse when you read this report. As of right now and into the foreseeable future, I would go back to Zim in a heartbeat. Just select a reputable, quality outfitter (and agent if using their services) and work closely with them including in regards to the handling of your deposit - noting the same could be said for any destination in Africa or the World for that matter.
NEAT PEOPLE WE MET
Any of you who have read Ian Nyschens book “Months in the Sun” can appreciate what a privilege it was to meet and spend time with Ian. He lives in a very modest home in Harare, growing bananas, working on his next book (I had the opportunity to glance over his penned notes!)…and trying to avoid the cold weather. He is a living legend, and 100% what you would expect after reading his book. Still cannot eat anything made with wheat though…
I also had the pleasure to meet up with “Ganyana” (although we didn’t get to go to dinner as I had hoped), Buzz’s partner Myles McCallum and his fiancé, Paul Smith and Andrew Dawson (“He’s In The Tree” & “Tracks Across Africa” videos) of Chifuti Safaris, Roger Whittall and his wife Anne, and Craig Boddington and his daughter Brittany who was in Sapi hunting buffalo.
As I know Craig frequents this forum from time to time, and out of respect to he and his fine daughter, I won’t detail the fun Buzz and I had harassing my boys, and in particular my 16 year old son Billy. But let me say to Craig, if ever you want to team up for a hunt with the kids, give me a ring!
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org