The next morning, June 21, (the first day of winter in the southern hemisphere and my youngest son, Ivan’s, birthday) we awoke and took a four-hour drive to a concession closer to Kruger National Park. That evening we drove around the concession and saw many impala. The lodge we were staying at had one of the most beautiful backdrops with a large mountain range lingering over the property.
The following morning we began our two-day, one-night trip into Kruger National Park. Marupa offers several different photo safari packages to take before, during or after the hunt. Our group opted for a tour through Kruger, where we were able to stay in chalets in the park.
While in the park we were able to see four of the big five, including cape buffalo, elephants, a black rhino, and lions. We also saw herds of blue wildebeest and zebra along with hippos, crocodiles and some huge kudu bulls. I found it interesting when we arrived at different ranger stations they had maps of Kruger with markers to place on the map for sightings of each of the big five. However, they didn’t allow people to mark where the rhinos were sighted due to the possibility of poachers. We learned later that even in this National Park poaching is a problem and during our trip through Kruger witnessed anti-poaching planes flying overhead.
After our two-day trip to Kruger we were down to two more days of hunting. Lon decided if the opportunity presented itself he would go after a kudu bull, and Lance still wanted to get his warthog. The morning of the second to last hunting day we departed the lodge to head to a property known to hold warthog for Lance. Once we arrived, Dolf decided to take Lon to a different property known for its kudu. John accompanied Lance on his hunt, while Elijah and I road along with Lon.
After going our separate ways, we drove about thirty minutes to a new hunting location and were met by Nichols, a tracker on this property. This new property had several waterholes and a few mountains on it. Our plan was to drive around the property checking these waterholes in hopes of spotting a nice kudu bull. If one was spotted and Lon could get a shot from the truck so be it, if after being spotted Dolf needed to take Lon on a stalk that would work too.
We saw many animals as we drove around the property including impala, duiker, zebra, giraffe, waterbuck and a side-striped jackal. Lon and Dolf also got a quick glimpse at a kudu bull as we drove up the side of the small mountain on the property. This trail going up the mountain was a bit scary for someone sitting on the back of the truck and the turnaround at the top was even worse! We had to make a seven-point turn where the front of the truck was over the edge of the steep rock face several times.
On our drive around I lost my hat twice to the thorny trees on the property. Every piece of vegetation in South Africa seemed to have thorns and several times someone in the group through the course of a hunting day would either get caught up in a bush, get something like a hat or glove taken off by a bush or get a nice scratch along some surface of their body. All an extra added bonus which added to the experience of hunting in the South African bushveld.
After making several loops around the property looking over the waterholes, Nicholas pointed out a kudu bull on the ridge line of that mountain we drove up earlier. Up the side of the mountain we drove again. This time when we reached the top Dolf, Lon and Nicholas went for a walk along the mountain to see if they could locate the kudu bull. Elijah and I stayed back with the truck and enjoyed the view from the top and sounds of the South African bush.
An hour later the three of them returned. The temperatures were rising and they all needed some water before continuing our search. Along their path they came across four kudu bulls, and even though Lon wouldn’t have been able to get a clear shot at any of them Dolf was able to see them clearly enough to know there wasn’t any shooters in the group.
As we made our way back down the mountain we passed a group of kudu with two bulls. One was very young, but the other was a nice mature bull with deep curls. Dolf instructed Lon to shoot the big bull if he could get a shot. There was a small opening in the bush and the bull just walked into it. As Lon pulled up his rifle to make the shot a kudu cow stepped in front of the bull obstructing the shot. We waited what seemed like minutes, but were in fact seconds for something to happen. And it did, all the kudu walked off into the bush without offering a shot opportunity.
Dolf and Lon left the vehicle with the shooting sticks to try to catch up with the kudu as the wind was still in their favor. However after about ten minutes they returned because the wind shifted and the kudu caught their scent and left the area quickly. Although they were a little dejected by this failed attempt, we had seen our first shooter bull and it was still early.
We continued our pattern of driving, until we came around a corner and low and behold, a kudu cow and kudu bull were standing in the open in front of us. A nice kudu bull. When they saw us they ran into some thick bush, but it was open on two sides of it and we soon realized they would come out of this smaller thicket to reach one of the bigger ones. The kudu cow was in the lead and we could see her frozen on the left-hand side of the thicket. I used my binoculars and located a horn of the bull standing behind her.
Dolf instructed Lon to watch the kudu cow and be ready because the bull would followed her out. We waited patiently until the cow made her escape. She walked through the opening and was followed by the kudu bull. As soon as the bull was completely in the opening the rifle roared and the kudu dropped. I was so excited that I was slapping/hitting Lon in the shoulder repeatedly while continually saying “Nice shot!”
During the day Lance was able to help out the property owner of the place he was hunting by collecting two impala for meat as well as taking a very nice warthog sow.
The next day was our last full day. Lance and Lon were able to golf a round of nine holes with Dolf and Reinardt while John, Elijah and I went in search of curios for our families. It was a very warm and sunny day and we all got a little sunburned. It is amazing how hot it could get in the beginning/middle of the winter in this part of South Africa. Day time highs often exceeded 75 degrees with one or two days peaking above 80. We were told summertime highs could be in excess of 120 degrees.
This hunting experience was truly one of the best I’ve even had. To be able to bring my oldest son and three other first-timers to South Africa and witness their joy and amazement on their first African safari is something I will always cherish. Marupa was able to make this hunting and touring adventure enjoyable and memorable. I am sincerely grateful for all they did to make our experience a great one that we will look back on with fond memories the rest of our days.