Back to Africa Chapter 1


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Roebuck
August 7, 2007, 03:31 PM
It doesn’t seem like a year since I was sitting down to write up my 2006 Plains Game Hunt, in the Eastern Cape area of RSA, but it is. How time flies. There hardly seems enough time to get all the hunting that I would wish to get done, done, and I do hate having to pass up on any hunting opportunity. Now it is time to write up the 2007 Hunt.

For those of you who took the time to read Out of Africa Chapters 1 and 2, (2006 Hunt), posted on a number of the forums I enjoy being part of, you might remember that I took a dose of bronchitis on the hunt with me, which kind of soured the whole trip. I only got to shoot a warthog, blue wildebeest and a bush buck and had to get my two hunting buddies to shoot the kudu, gemsbok and a further warthog for me. Being the selfless guys they are, they made no complaint and just got on with the extra work! However, I digress.

In 2006, we decided that we would hunt with Andrew Renton, owner of Kei River Hunting Safaris, who is based near to the town of Komga; about forty-five minutes drive to the North West of East London, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Andrew had promised us the hunt of a lifetime and true to his word, we had it. Even through a pretty severe illness, I managed to enjoy a lot of the time and I could not have had better nursing in the East London Hospital. But that is just the kind of folks the Rentons are. Kindness and hospitality is their game.

It was no surprise therefore, that when Iain, Paul and I started to discuss our 2007 hunt (over several months, several pints of Guinness and one or two bottles of Iain’s finest Macallan 18 Year Old Malt Whisky), Kei River was top of our list. However, ever being the canny Scot, having defined the hunt packages that each of us required, I contacted every safari operator that either attends our local Game Fairs or advertises in our shooting press and requested a price and details of their hunting outfitter set up. Now I have to say, many offered excellent facilities and I am sure that their hunting would also have been good but we are on a budget and when Kei River appeared in the best three offers, the vote was unanimous. Kei River it was.

Kei River Hunting Safaris takes a booth each year at one of our biggest Game Fairs, held at the Weston Park Estate, near to where Paul and I live, so we took the opportunity to visit with Andrew and advise him that we would like to return and hunt with him in 2007. Iain even travelled down from Aberdeen to be with us, so there resulted a bit of a social gathering at the show. Andrew was, of course, too busy extolling the virtues of Kei River, (after all, that is what he had paid good money to do), to take time off to come and enjoy a glass of cider with us. However, Andrew’s wife Sharyn selflessly donned the mantel of Kei River P.R. Director and did, so we drank to our 2007 hunt, scheduled for early June. (Several times, as I recall!!)

Because I had not been able to hunt my full package the previous year, I had a bit of catch up to do, so I opted to hunt a trophy package consisting of a kudu, nyala, gemsbok (oryx), common reedbuck, impala, bush buck and the obligatory warthog. (There are three types of package available to hunt. The most inexpensive is the Management Package. This will consist of young males and female animals. Next is the Representative Package, these animals will be around 75% of the way towards being an SCI minimum trophy score and is a bit more expensive. The third is the Trophy Package, where all animals shot will be guaranteed to make the minimum SCI trophy score and again, is a bit more expensive.)

I had also expressed a wish to shoot a baboon and Andrew kindly said that if we came across one, I was welcome to take the opportunity gratis. (As it happened I did get an opportunity but I will give the detail of that later on in the story.)

Paul had decided to bring his wife Max and thirteen year old son Tom along. Max has sometimes busted clays with us but has never to date, shot a rifle with us but young Tom is passionate about his shooting and never misses an opportunity to be out with his Dad, whether shooting or just doing chores around the pheasant shoot that we are involved with. Since Kei River welcomes wives, families, girlfriends, etc., we had no doubt that Max and Tom would thoroughly enjoy the trip to the beautiful country that is RSA in general and to Kei River in particular.

For his hunt package, Paul had chosen an eland, gemsbok, impala, warthog, common reedbuck, bush buck and if the opportunity presented itself, a baboon. (Paul had shot a good baboon the previous year, here is a picture)

Paul’s baboon. Paul was proud of this one. The first shot hit but didn’t bring it down. His second did. On the move at almost two hundred yards.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/PaulSafariBaboonFront22006006.jpg

Iain had a wish to hunt a caracal (lynx), so that was number one on his list, followed by a common reedbuck, gemsbok, eland and being a keen bird hunter, some wing shooting.

Having taken care of the hunt package and dates, the next Item was to book some flights and because we were ready to make the airline booking in October, 2006, we managed to get flights from U.K. to Cape Town return for £420 (about $840 at current exchange rate).

In previous years when we have hunted in the Eastern Cape, we always flew into Johannesburg and then caught a domestic flight to East London the next morning. This means a short overnight stop in Johannesburg and a very early flight out to East London the following morning. By way of a change and to enable us to see another South African city and different parts of the country, we elected to fly to Cape Town, hire a car and drive along the South coast (known as the Garden Route), stopping of at Plettenberg Bay on one night and Kenton on Sea on the second night, making the short drive from Kenton to East London on the third day, to meet up with the Kei River guys. We also booked a flight from East London back to Cape Town, for after the hunt, so we could take a couple of days in Cape Town, before returning to U.K.

That done, we just had to sit back and wait for June 2007 and to make our own little bits of preparation.

Both Paul and I (having developed a bit of an interest in shooting at longer ranges) decided that we would buy a new scope, better suited to longer ranges. We settled on the Swarovski PV-S 6 – 24 x 50 with a TDS4 Reticle and Parallax Adjustment. So, pooling our buying power, we went off to a local gun shop and placed the order. This scope has the reticle in the second focal plane so the reticle dot does not get bigger as the magnification is increased. It also has a number of stadia bars so one can work out from the ballistics of the round being used, the distances that each stadia bar corresponds to. This system works well but still requires a little bit of “Kentucky Windage” to be applied. We had great fun setting the scopes up and were able to shoot litre bottles of water off a fence at 450 yards using the requisite stadia bar. Since we were unlikely to take any shots further than that, (if that), we were quite convinced that nothing would get away. Subsequent to all the fun as described in the last paragraph, Paul had a change of heart, (influenced by a friend of ours who is one of the U.K.’s top bench rest shooters), and bought a Night Force scope and added Kenton Industries turrets, custom made for his scope and chosen round which is 7mm Remington Magnum, with a 140gn Nosler Partition Bullet. This system worked so well for him that on my return, I took a second mortgage on the house (please do not tell my wife) and bought one myself. However, at time of writing, I have not had the opportunity to collect the ballistic data I need to order the Kenton Industries turrets. That can be my next project.

Shooting magazines and gun shop advertisements were scrutinised, of course, to make sure that we had every little bit of kit that we might just need for our hunt and which we would regret taking, when we would be hit for excess baggage by the airline on the way back. (It didn’t happen this year.)

I limited my purchases to a new pair of boots (well broken in before I left for the hunt) and a pair of Hush Puppies, which in U.K. are comfortable shoes and not these delightful tasting little rissole type things you get served up with catfish in the U.S.!! Just before leaving though, my wife (bless her) presented me with a Leica CRF 1200 Rangefinder. This is a lovely and efficient bit of kit, which can be tucked away comfortably in the breast pocket of one’s shirt. I was glad to have it with me.

In fact, the days seemed to whiz by and before we knew it, it was time to load up the ammunition we would need for our hunt and for a last minute sighting in and practise session. I used a Winchester Model 70 Ultimate Shadow in .300WSM with the Swarovski scope as described previously. The rifle is fitted with a BR Reflex T8 sound moderator. This not only drops the decibels to that of a .22 Magnum Rimfire, but takes out most of the recoil, to a level of about the .243 Winchester and makes it much easier to shoot accurately. Paul used his Remington Sendero in 7mm Magnum and Iain, who usually favours his Dumoulin .30-06, decided this year to borrow Andrew Renton’s .375 H&H Magnum, just to see what it was like.

The Eastern Cape area of RSA is malaria free and lots of inoculations are not required. It is wise to get shots for Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Polio and Typhus. Just in case. It is really up to the individual but I take every shot that is going. I did in the military, carried on though my life travelling in the oil and gas industry and still keep them up to date. I have not come across any real nasties there and even the snakes are sleeping at the time of year we went. The worst thing we came across were ticks and then only in certain types of terrain.

I travelled out with Paul and his family (I live only 400 yards from him) and he picked me up at around 0300hrs to make the one hour drive to Manchester and caught the early flight to Schipol Airport, Amsterdam, where we picked up the flight to Cape Town. Iain had travelled out a week previously, to look up an old friend before they left RSA to live in Australia. We would meet up with Iain in Plettenberg Bay, the evening after we arrived.

The flight lasted for eleven hours and we were pretty glad to get off the plane. The Immigration process in RSA is painless and having retrieved our baggage from the carrousel, we made our way to the security office to pick up our rifles. We and the rifles, led by a security man, were taken to the police office in the arrivals hall. We presented our paperwork to the officer on duty and within thirty minutes, were issued with our temporary RSA firearm pass. No problems there. Paperwork right equals easy and stress free.

When I opened my gun case to let the police officer check the serial number, I noticed that the baggage handlers had managed to break one of the polypropylene catches on my Pelican gun case. Now, Pelican say that their cases are unbreakable and though the airline was responsible for paying for the repair, Pelican refused to take payment. They just sent me a new catch and pin saying that when they say unbreakable, they mean it or they pay. It is good to see another company that stands by its warranty as Swarovski do.

Two hours later, we had checked in to the airport hotel (very reasonably priced for an airport hotel), placed ourselves outside of a six pack of Castle Beer (Max only had one can and Tom a Coke) and so to bed.

I had reserved a rental “people carrier” to be picked up at 1000hrs and after a mediocre breakfast, Paul and I went to pick it up and having done so, went back to the hotel for Max, Tom and the luggage and headed East on the N2 Motorway, leaving Cape Town and heading for Plettenberg Bay, where we would stop for a night and where Iain was waiting to meet us. He had arrived the day previous, in order to carry out a recce and ascertain the location of the best pub and restaurant. Roads were much quieter than the U.K. roads so the journey was very pleasant and the scenery interesting.

We arrived at Plettenberg Bay at around 1600hrs and found our accommodation, Bitou Lodge, a really first class chalet type bed and breakfast, located on the banks of a river. Bitou Lodge is situated in a nature conservation area and if you have an interest in bird watching, it is the place for you. There were canoes that residents could take and explore up and down the river and the proprietor advised us that using the canoes would be the best way to see the birdlife. However, we did not have enough time to avail ourselves of that particular facility.

Iain was already there and had thoughtfully filled up his fridge with a variety of beers and soft drinks, so over some Castle and Windhoek lager, we tried to make the decision as to which of Plettenberg Bay’s excellent restaurants we would go to for dinner. Being unable to achieve consensus before Iain’s fridge was empty, we repaired to a very nice pub, situated on the cliff top overlooking the bay. Our waitress told us that sometimes one could see whales cavorting in the bay, as one enjoyed one’s beer. Alas, the whales were cavorting somewhere else that evening. Decision made, we took off to a seafood and steak restaurant, where I overdosed on oysters (expensive and hard to get in U.K.) and we all enjoyed a selection of kudu, ostrich, steak and local fish, not to mention some excellent South African wine.

Next day, after a fantastic selection of breakfast foods, we were on the road to our second destination, Kenton on Sea, a little town just along to coast to the South of East London. We stopped off to look down into the gorge formed by the Storms River, from the Paul Sauer Bridge, very impressive, and deep!

On route and at Iain’s suggestion, we took a small detour and visited Addo Elephant Park. We spent some three hours, just driving around and looking at the animals. We only saw eighteen elephants but we did see lots of kudu. In fact, there were hundreds of them!! Warthogs, springboks, buffalo, zebra, blesbok, giraffe and impala were everywhere. Regrettably, the rifles had to stay locked in their cases.

This warthog had no fear.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/WarthogatAddo.jpg

Neither did this buffalo (I did though!!)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/BuffaloatAddo.jpg

A disinterested zebra.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/100_0067.jpg

Addo was an interesting place to visit and I would recommend it to anyone planning a safari in the Eastern Cape to set a day aside to visit there.

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