Last May I was attending a CCA banquet in Austin and looking over the auction items when one caught my eye. An African hunt with Quagga Safari’s in the Limpopo region of South Africa. The hunt was for two hunters and six animals; gemsbuck, blesbuck, wildebeest, impala and two warthogs. An African safari has always been on my list. I quickly read a couple of reviews online and I told my buddy, “if I can get a good bid on that”, I’m gonna do it.
Later that night, when the package came up and I was ready. To my shock, the bidding stalled out much earlier than I was expecting! I put my hand up and a few seconds later I was the winner and on my way to Africa.
If Quagga Safaris was anything like the awesome reviews, this was going to be a “trip of a Lifetime.”
I came home from the auction fired up and told my wife I wanted her to go along. We would also invite another couple that are close friends. She was apprehensive but agreed. My wife isn’t much of an adventurer, but she couldn’t resist the opportunity. In the end, our friends were unable to join us and we ended up going alone.
Fortunately, some of our friends had won a similar trip a year earlier and they helped us figure out an itinerary based on their past experiences.
On their recommendation, we started the first part of our trip in Cape Town.
After several helpful emails back and forth with Quagga’s owner Erik Visser, we booked our travel and a private Kruger Photo Safari with one of his guides.
The travel seemed intimidating, but it went very smoothly. We flew Delta and left San Diego for Atlanta. There we had some lunch and boarded a direct flight to Johannesburg followed by a short hop to Cape Town on a local carrier. The longest leg was 16 hours, but we slept for more than half that time so it wasn’t bad at all.
We spent two days checking out the waterfront and the Cape of Good Hope. Our first impression was to notice how friendly the locals were towards us. I can’t say enough about the hospitality of South Africa. Everyone we met was helpful and the service was top notch.
The exchange rate was another plus because our dollar spends like two right now in South Africa. For example, a complete 5-star meal with wine, appetizers, main course, etc. was about $75 with tip!
After a couple busy days checking out the Cape (I would recommend three full days), we hopped on the short flight back to Johannesburg. Here we were met by our Professional Hunter (PH) Robert Marie. Robert is a thirty-one-year-old career hunting guide. He was very knowledgeable about South Africa in general and his knowledge of local game animals was incredible.
Before going to the lodge to hunt, we had arraigned for a personal tour of Kruger National Park with Robert as our guide. Kruger is one of the largest national parks in the world with over 7,500 square miles of protected habitat and animals.
This was a highlight of the trip and well worth the money.
It was cool and overcast the day we arrived to tour Kruger. This was a huge advantage as anyone that hunts knows; big animals don’t like to move during the heat of the day. Instead of being bedded down, we found animals moving around and in plain sight.
Again, I can’t stress what an advantage it was to have a hunting guide as your tour guide in Kruger. While other tourists drove the park in the back of a safari truck with 12 other people, we rode around with just the three of us. Robert’s hunting instinct made it easy for him to spot the animals we were looking for. He knew where particular animals would be at a given time of day or where they like to hang out in the park. It was also valuable to get an education from a hunter’s perspective before the moment of truth.
The park maintains “camps” scattered within the boundaries that offer food, lodging and gift shops. Our safari itinerary had us staying in the park for two nights. The accommodations were old brick huts with grass roofs and small outdoor kitchens. The bungalows had all been updated with AC and hot water and were clean. We really enjoyed staying in them.
They say if you see the “Big 5” in three days at Kruger you’ve done well. The “Big 5” consists of elephant, Cape buffalo, lion, jaguar and rhino. We were fortunate enough to see them all three different times in our two day visit.
As much as I love to hunt, Kruger was the highlight of the trip for me. Seeing that many animals in such close proximity was just amazing. For two days we were surrounded by not only the “Big 5”, but countless other species like impala, kudu, water buck, bush buck, nyala, hippos, crocodiles, and more.
It was a lifetime experience I will never forget.
After a couple of great days in Kruger we made the five hour drive to the Limpopo Provence where most of the hunting in South Africa takes place. We rolled up to the lodge just in time for lunch. Quagga Safaris Lodge blew away our expectations. We knew the operation was top notch, but they have taken comfort and service to a new level. Our room was a huge suite with a king bed, stocked fridge, giant shower (with real water pressure) and plenty of room for all my gear.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with cold cocktails and shown to our room. We unpacked and headed to the lodge for lunch. To say the food was great is an understatement. The resident chef “Lucky”, was about the happiest guy you’ll ever meet and for six days he prepared some of the most amazing meals we had ever tasted.
Most of the meals were prepared using local game and I was afraid my wife wouldn’t like them. Turns out it wasn’t a problem, the food was so good, she tried and loved eating wildebeest, kudu, sable and many more.
After lunch, I put all my gear together and hit the shooting range.
Unfortunately, the baggage handlers must have mistaken my bow case for a trampoline and bent my sights out of whack. After some bending, shooting and adjustments we got the bow back on target and headed to the blind.
The bow hunting set up in South Africa is very similar to Texas style hunting. You sit in either a ground blind or an elevated box blind and hunt over water and food. South Africa is in the midst of a four-year drought and to keep the populations up, they have to supplement the animals with food and water.
On the first sit, an elan came in right away. This animal blew my mind. It’s in the antelope family, but it has the body of an ox and can weigh up to 3,000-pounds! In fact, the one thing that really impressed me was the sheer size of the animals. These plain’s game animals are much bigger than the deer we chase here at home. Most of the animals are equivalent in size to our elk.
After sitting for a couple hours of watching immature animals come and go, finally an old, mature wildebeest shows up.
Robert informs me that this animal is a shooter so we all went to work. The PH’s at Quagga will video your kill shots for you. This allows them to review the video to see where the animal was hit and also gives you some cool media to take home.
I came to full draw but had to hold it for a minute while waiting for the elan who was also feeding to get out of the way. Finally the elan moved and I put my pin on the crease in its side and let it fly. Perfect shot, I thought. Turns out the animal had moved his leg back and I hit him a couple inches back from where I wanted to be.
Robert knew this might be an issue and immediately called the tracking team. These local guys have an incredible talent for being able to track a single animal for miles just by it’s foot prints. They immediately jumped on the trail of the animal and we followed them. We tracked the animal for about 1.5 miles before finding that it had rejoined the herd. It was getting dark so we marked the last blood spot and headed for the lodge.
I was a mess all night and didn’t sleep a wink.
When morning came, Robert assured me that we would find the animal, but I didn’t believe him. After breakfast, we headed back to the last spot of contact. Immediately the guys were back on the trail and cutting through the bush. Not less than 15 minutes later we found my wildebeest! I was beyond stoked!
After a couple hundred photos, the trackers took the animal back to be processed and we quickly jumped in another blind. After about an hour, I noticed an animal had snuck into the watering hole just outside of our line of sight. It was an impala and a nice one at that.
Robert had advised me previously that if we got a chance at an impala, we would need to act fast as they only come in for a quick drink and then take off. Once again, the hunt was set into motion. Robert sets his position to film and I prepared for my shot. It was a tough angle because the impala was off to the side of the blind. I came to full draw and was about to shoot when my bow bumped into the blind. I had to back up and recollect myself. I moved in again to shoot, and my bow hit the blind again just as I was shooting resulting in a terrible shot; high and back.
Reviewing the video showed us that I still had a good chance of a kill shot fortunately.
Again, the trackers showed up and we went looking. I had lucked out. The animal went just 50-yards and piled up. I was so relieved!
The next 5 days would be more of the same.
Wake up, eat breakfast, hunt, eat lunch, hunt, eat dinner and repeat. Not a bad deal for a hunter eh?
The animals and scenery were just incredible.
All told I was able to harvest a wildebeest, impala, kudu and a warthog. I saw hundreds and hundreds of animals at less than 30-yards. I watched warthogs fight, sables ramming other animals, and giraffes walking within 20-yards of me.
There are several things I learned on this trip that I would also like to share. If you are coming with the wife or family, Cape Town is absolutely worth a visit. I would suggest spending three days exploring there. There are lots of great tour companies or you can arrange one with your hotel as we did.
Kruger National Park is AWESOME. Whether you come with the family or just your hunting buddies, put this on your list. I’d suggest using your PH as your park guide if possible. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the area and it’s game before you hunt.
As our trip wound down, we found ourselves not wanting to go home.
Erik’s family and his team at Quagga Safaris really make you feel like your part of the family. They could not have been more friendly, professional and accommodating. Each night they joined us for drinks, dinner and great stories. We can’t say enough about the operation and the hospitality we received.
If you’ve ever thought about hunting Africa I can’t recommend Quagga Safaris enough. The people, food and accommodations are nothing short of world class. You can be sure the entire family will have the trip of a lifetime.
I have been fortunate to travel to a lot of different places. In my mind, this was the best trip I have ever done. It’s truly a world away from ours and the people and wildlife you will encounter will absolutely blow you away.
If you haven’t yet, make sure to add Africa to your bucket list.