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Posts Tagged ‘Africa’s best Safaris’

Having started our season up in Cameroon during mid-February, we finally got going down south in the latter half of April. While it was somewhat later than usual, the building and renovating of our new camp at Woodlands had been our focus and priority up until that point.

The original colonial homestead on the property was first completed in 1898 with various building additions taking place over the past 119 years. We started by stripping most of the original buildings additions and then added an additional seven suites of our own in the same style as to keep with tradition of the era and of a colonial grandeur of yesteryear. Meticulous care and focus was dedicated to the original homestead as to restore and preserve every room to its original form. Where windows or fixtures were replaced with more modern materials and styles over the past century, we went back and replaced each of those with fittings from the original era, ensuring the manor rose from its neglected state, restored to its once grand past.

We present The Manor at Woodlands Safari Estate….

Further additions are taking place at the moment with a trophy room and bar being the main focus at present. Out buildings such as a skinning shed, butcher shop, salt shed, workshop and tool room have been completed too, ensuring our safaris are running at optimum levels.

With The Manors completion we were ready to start our season, and it was fitting that our old friend Brett Kettelhut would be our first ever hunter to Woodlands. Brett teamed up with Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, and tracker, Bless, for a second time. This time the safari started in the north.

Brett harvested some fantastic trophies up in the Great Karoo before heading down south to Woodlands. With a Sable and Lechwe being his priorities, the guys put in some serious effort to see Woodlands off to a flying start. The results of both the Lechwe and Sable were pretty mind-blowing.

First a Lechwe in the 28″ + class..

And then a Sable that will rank as one of Brett’s best trophies to date.

A monstrous bull in the 44″ class – Not your everyday kind of bull.

At the same time as Brett we welcomed first timers, Steve and Kathy Winkleman, who hunted with Professional Hunter, Ross “Stix” Hoole, and Thandu Xolo. Neither Steve or Kathy had ever been to Africa, with each having their personal priorities on this maiden African safari.

For Steve it would be a Kudu and the desire to see as much country side as possible. To take in the sights and sounds that make Africa the place it is. Luckily for them the rains had just started and Africa came out to bloom…

As for Kathy, she came hunting for the perfect tree, as to capture that perfect African sunset.

One could say she found the best trophy of all…

As for Professional Hunter, Carl van Zyl, the dream of Woodlands and the prospect of guiding a first ever hunter on the Estate was an exciting one to say the least. It would be fitting that he should host, South African Cricket legend, Quinton De Kock, on what would be the first of many to come.

Quinton brought along his bow going after any opportunity that may present itself. Our plan was to walk and stalk each morning, and then head into the blinds from midday. We got lucky on a great Blue Wildebeest stalked to within 31 yards and a sneaky Mountain Reedbuck at 46 yards. It was intense and exciting getting in that close to numerous species. From the hides Quinton took a Waterbuck and Warthog too, making for a succesful five days of bow hunting.

A Bushpig was a high priority on his hunt, but unfortunately the pigs only started feeding some days after he left.

We’ll have to plan a return hunt for a big old boar with the bow in the future.

During the course of the hunt Carl had shared his passion for his Gunwerks 7 mm LRM, and then right at the end of the hunt they headed out on the last afternoon to give Quiny a taste of some epic long-range shooting. It took a mere twenty minutes on the range for Quinton to get up to speed with the system, proving to be a natural not only with the bow, but behind a rifle too.

We headed up to the plains at Woodlands to enjoy a last bit of fun…

At 578 Yards Quiny put the hammer down on this beauty. His first shot with the Gunwerks system – his first long-range kill.

The start to our season has been another succesful one. The Karoo keeps on producing the goods year in and year out, with the rewards of a strict management policy coming through in trophy quality. Woodlands still remains an unknown, it’s a mystical 30 000 acres with numerous new hunting concessions in the area too. If I were a betting man I’d be confident in saying prepare to be amazed. The valleys and draws along the Great Fish River play home to an abundance of wildlife. From what we’ve been spotting while out on safari, tells us that if you’re hunting with John X Safaris during 2017, you’re going to be in for opportunities on some monsters. They’re out there!

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.

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There’s something profoundly exciting for even the most seasoned of African travelers when staring down at ones boarding pass for the day….Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg… A short lay over and then onto Libreville, Gabon, and finally onto Douala, Cameroon.

For Jeff Edland and Luther Dietrich, my friends from North Dakota, in the United States, it would take more than a day.  For them it would be Fargo to Minneapolis, then an international leg onto Paris, France, before catching the Air France connection to Douala to meet up with us.

Ahmadu, our driver, a tall man from the Fulbe tribe, and Simon our translator, were waiting for us upon arrival. Passport control and customs turned out to be another interesting take on a first world concept, practiced by locals in a third world country –  neither sure how or why they were required to perform the duties they were expected to perform. Let’s face it, a small booth in a large terminal manned by an individual staring at a blank screen pretending the computer’s power cord is somehow connected via blue tooth doesn’t instill the world of confidence in the system or concept. Maybe it’s job creation – who knows? Either way, there was no doubting, we had arrived in west Africa.

The locals are friendly, smiles abound, with a French dialect adding a certain sense of exoticness to the destination when spoken by Africans. The atmosphere of a busy African city is electrifying set upon a humid and stuffy climate. Modern skyscrapers play neighbors to run down slums. Small market vendors line the sidewalks, while the infamous Marche de Fleur ( Flower Market) takes a traditional African market to the next level. Anything from exotic reptiles sourced in the tropics, to grave robbed masks, and century old stone figures, are combined with aggressively negotiating Africans, making for one crazy shopping experience. Don’t go if you’re not willing to batter, it’s an age-old African custom, one they consider essential in every purchase.

From Douala we caught the Camair flight to N’Gaoundare where we were met by an old friend and Professional Hunter, Mike Currie. Mike was the reason we were in west Africa. I had the privilege of sharing a couple of seasons with him when he joined us in the East Cape some years ago, and ever since had become great friends. He had first come to west Africa in 2005, starting with Club Faune in CAR, before moving to Cameroon after the rise and spike of activities by the Sudanese Ivory poachers had reached its climax in 2007. Like Mike says, it’s was no fun tracking Giant Eland to a chorus of AK47 rounds popping in the background. He moved just in time.

From Ngadoura we started our journey north, traveling via road, dropping off from the Adamaoa Plateau heading towards the Chadean border. A 7 + hour journey on something that resembled roads, going at no more than 40 miles/hour, proved to be an experience of its own. Our bearing was set for the Djibao hunting concession, neighboring the eastern boundary of the Bouba Njida National Park.

The area is made up of Terminalia Woodland, with either a rock base or clay surface that has been baked rock hard by the blistering sun or countless bush fires. Large earthworms push rounded mounds, very similar in size to a golf ball, which scatters the landscape, making for interesting walking. The Lord Derby or Giant Eland, together with Roan, Nigerian Bohor Reedbuck, Western Kob, Harnessed Bushbuck, Western Hartebeest, Oribi, North-West Buffalo, Warthog, Red-flanked Duiker and Western Bush Duiker call the area home.

Evenings are pleasant with cool mornings, before temperatures start spiking towards midday. Each day will see the gauge read 100+ Fahrenheit, with the only respite coming once the Harmaton from the Sahara desert settles in. The dust fills the air in a haze of white blocking out the sun, giving the place the atmosphere of a semi-lunar eclipse. One could be forgiven for thinking the moon was up instead of the sun, with only the  excruciating heat jolting one back to reality.

Millions of sweat bees follow both man and beast, attracted to anything with a slight glint to its surface. The irritation factor varies in scale from moderate to highly irritating on any given day. That combined with the heat, hazed dust cloud, and the burning breeze makes for one challenging setting. Never the less that is what makes everything worth while when spotting your first Giant Eland. The moment takes your breath away… it is truly a watershed one.

Nothing, not even the hundreds of pictures and limited available videos studied beforehand, could possibly prepare one for it. It is said that in life the journey is often far greater than the destination. That is most certainly true, but my fellow hunters, Luther and Jeff, will agree, that the destination is just as sweet when it came to our quest for Giant Eland.

This was no ordinary hunt. It is not for everyone, neither will anyone be able to take this hunt on successfully without being able to withstand serious heat, long days, and great distances on the feet each day. It has been our dream in the making for the past four years. Enjoy it… It has been one rewarding journey…

Special thanks must go out to Mike Currie, without Mike none of this would have been possible. I would also go as far as recommending that anyone foreign to west Africa should not take on a journey such as this without someone as experienced as Mike. Mike’s crew on the ground, consisting of our local PH, Churton Wright, who played a valuable role on this hunt, making for not only a good PH, but a highly entertaining one at that. Our driver, Jean-Benard, trackers, Amadu, Benjamin “Binoculars”, Bubba, and Basa. You gentleman take tracking to the next level. Thank you.

To Ozzy, the guy who arrived as a “green horn” cameraman a couple of years ago, to one of the best in the game today. Your filming and attitude to work, combined with your sense of adventure ensures there’s never a dull moment on the road. Thanks for your continued push to  getting the best shots on film time and again.

Last but not least, to three special friends, Brett Nelson, whom could not make it, then Luther Dietrich and Jeff Edland, you guys epitomize not giving up. When we reached 96 Kilometers of tracking after 13 days, with both Eland finally in the salt, we all knew how deep you had dug to achieve each of your goals. It has been a pleasure guiding you for the past ten years, and I’m privileged to know I’ll be guiding you for many more. Thank you for the trust. Thank you for the friendship. We did it.

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 .

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