Awesome Adventure - 2003
By Norma Draper

South Africa - WONDERFUL COUNTRY - May 2003 brought my husband (Walter) and I back to Vaalwater South Africa in the Limpopo Province and ready for our second hunting adventure in South Africa. We hunted again with In Africa Safaris that is owned and operated by Boer and Kan Coetzee. Kan was our guide.

In Africa Safaris is a fine hunting organization that has grown since our first visit in 1999. The main property is approximately 16,500 and they have a second property that has about 12,000 acres. They have built additional chalets (cabins) since we were there in 1999 and they continue to show their clients a quality adventure.

We left our home in Illinois on 5-16-03. Getting our luggage, especially the firearms, through Customs at the airport was not as difficult as I had anticipated. The security people inspected the firearms to make certain they were unloaded and looked over the ammunition to make sure it was packaged correctly and stored separately from the firearms. Going through the customs with our carry on luggage, they had to open it and look things over, but nothing I did not expect. After a LONG (14 ¾ hours) and uneventful flight we arrived in Johannesburg South Africa on 5-17-03. We were met at the airport in Johannesburg by Andries, who works as a guide, for In Africa Safaris. Luckily our luggage arrived with us and all was well. The previous time we went to South Africa, our luggage did not get there until midnight on day 2 so I was worried about it this time.

After a 2-½ hour trip by car, we arrived at the main lodge in Vaalwater. At that time there were 6 couples and the son of one of the couples in camp. This was a surprise to me since the last time we were there, there was only one other couple in camp and all the rest of the hunters were men. Looks like the women are finally learning what they were missing and getting out there and also hunting. It was fun meeting and getting acquainted with people from Alaska, Texas, New Mexico and another couple from Illinois. Hopefully, we made some new friends and will one day see some of them again.

In Africa Safaris provides a "full service" adventure. Their main business is hunting, but they do also have photo safaris during the non-hunting seasons. We stayed in a chalet with all the normal amenities. Meals consist mainly of game meat that has been hunted. Some of the dishes are quite unusual to people from other countries, but none-the-less good. Chalets are cleaned and laundry done daily. We women have to appreciate having someone else cook, clean and do laundry while we have a "real" vacation and we get to hunt too. What an ideal situation!!!!

In Africa Safaris has an outstanding staff of people working for them including cooks, kitchen staff, laundry and cleaning staff, skinners, taxidermy staff, wood carver and office staff. Doreen, one of the office staff, is the one I dealt with prior to our trip and she has a way of making each person feel like they are the most important person and, the only one she is helping and working with. The staff is professional, friendly and makes the experience exceptional for the guests.

Our first day of hunting was 5-18-03. We were supposed to be up and ready by 6:30 AM. We were both wide awake at 2:30 AM. I suppose that was part "jet lag" and part anxiety. Walter went out to site in the rifles and make certain that the plane trip had done no damage. Everything was fine, the guns and scopes were right on so, off we went looking for our first animal of this hunt.

Walter's MAIN objective was a Cape Buffalo and we started looking for the "perfect" one. We saw Impalas, Blesbok, Blue Wildebeest, Eland, Zebra, Giraffe, Warthogs, Waterbuck and Kudu. In South Africa you see so many different animals and can never be sure exactly what will be "right around the corner". We did not find anything we wanted that first morning and went back to the lodge for brunch and a nap.

When hunting in South Africa, you usually go back in to camp at about 11:00 AM, eat and have a nap or go in to town or just relax. The animals are not as active during the middle of the day so that time is utilized to do other things. Then you go back out in to the bush about 3:00 PM and hunt until dark.

On that first afternoon hunt, I got a nice Blesbok. I had not planned on taking a Blesbok, but Walter convinced me that I should. When you get an animal, the guide radios or calls someone to come and pick it up to take it back for skinning, etc. After taking photos and getting the Blesbok taken care of, we were off again looking for that Cape Buffalo. However, we were only a short distance away when we spotted a very nice Waterbuck and after following him for awhile, Walter got a good shot and he was down. We called to have him picked up and by the time photos were taken and he was picked up, it was getting late enough that we only had a short time left to hunt before the hunting day was over.

Each evening after the hunt everyone gathers in the Boma (or Lapa) which is a large, structure with no roof and a fire built inside it. It is in the shape of a circle. This particular one has a room off to the side that is a bar. Everyone gets a chair and gathers around the fire and talks over the happenings of the day while waiting for dinner. Then after dinner everyone gathers there again and sometimes Kan entertains by playing his guitar and singing. He also tells stories, a lot of stories (some clean and true and others not so clean and no way they are true).

Day 2 (5-19-03) of our hunt we spent looking for the Cape Buffalo. Did not find him, but we did see Impala, Blesbok, Blue Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Zebra, Giraffe, Kudu. No matter how often I see all the different animals, I am still amazed and thrilled every time I see each one of them.

Day 3 (5-20-03) we were off again looking for the elusive Cape Buffalo. There were four of them on the property, but they did not hang out together and seemed to be very good at hiding. After a couple hours, we went back to the main lodge. Kan had arranged for a helicopter to fly over the property to see if he could spot where the Cape Buffalo were hiding. The helicopter would fly around and we would try to follow in the truck. We saw a lot of different animals, but no Cape Buffalo. After several hours without luck, the helicopter came back and we went in for lunch.

The after noon hunt started off much the same and we saw the same assortment of animals. Suddenly, we saw a very good Kudu. That was the only animal I really wanted to get during this hunting adventure. Kan told me he was a good one and that I should take the shot. At first I could not see him or find him in the scope, but finally there he was and I took the shot. Missed the first time, but got him with the second shot. He has a 52" horn on one side and 50" inch horn on the other. The shorter horn had been broomed off a little or he would have been at least 52" on that side also. I got my Kudu and was very happy. Funny thing happened. When I ejected the shell from the gun, it fell right into my pocket. I wonder what that meant. After the photos were taken and the animal picked up, we were off again looking for that Cape Buffalo. However, another day came to an end with no Cape Buffalo.

Day 4 (5-21-03) came and went without the luck of finding the Cape Buffalo. We saw numerous other animals including a Kudu that was bigger then the one I had gotten. Walter asked me if I wanted him too and I said no, but after we left that area, I regret I did not get him too. I decided that if I saw him again, I would have another Kudu. Of course, I never saw him again.

In the afternoon on day 4, we went to another property, owned by someone else. He had 3 Cape Buffalo that Kan wanted Walter to look at. This property had some different animals and we got to see Roan Antelope, Tsessebe and Klipspringer. He also had Gemsbok and a Rhinoceros. We found the Cape

Buffalo and they walked right up to us. I took quite a lot of video of them as we discussed whether they were the quality Walter wanted. It was decided they were not and also that they seemed to be tame like regular cows so we left. Back to the main lodge and dinner and an evening of entertainment around the Boma.

Day 5 (5-22-03) found us out again looking for the Cape Buffalo. After about an hour we went back to the lodge. Kan and Boer left on horseback to see if they could fine the Cape Buffalo that way. We followed as we could in the truck. We found a place to stop and wait and after a little while Kan and Boer came back and said they had found the Buffalo. They un-saddled the horses and let them go (they would go right back to the lodge). Walter, Kan and Boer left on foot to go after him. Reiner (the driver) and I waited and waited. Finally Kan radioed and told us where to meet them. They had seen the Buffalo, but he was on the run. We drove to a different spot and they got out again and walked. This time Renier and I went to a spot pre-designated by Kan and we waited. Renier and I saw the Buffalo run across the road at a quick pace. When Walter and Kan got there we told them. We drove to another location and Walter and Kan got out to go again on foot and Renier and I drove to another pre-designated location to wait. Again, we saw the Buffalo run across a clearing but Walter and Kan did not. During all of this excitement, both Walter and I were smacked in the ear by the trees there having chunks torn out of our ears. Mine seemed to be worse and hurt for several days. Anyway, we ended the day with no Cape Buffalo, both of us having injured ears, I had a terrible headache from being hit in the head by the tree branch and even though it was Winter in South Africa, I had a terrible sun burn, BUT, we were having a GREAT time!!!!

Day 6 (5-23-03) was another day when we looked all over for the Cape Buffalo and did not find him. We saw the same variety of animals I am STILL always thrilled to see them. On our afternoon break this day, we went in to Vaalwater and visited the two curio shops and picked up a few momentos.

During the afternoon, we used pushers/walkers who walked the bush looking for the Cape Buffalo, but again no luck.

Day 7 (5-24-03) using 7 pushers/walkers and with Walter and Kan walking the bush and still no Cape Buffalo was found. We were still enjoying ourselves even though the Cape Buffalo were managing to stay hidden from us. We were on the go most of the time, but it seemed relaxing somehow. It is such a different pace of life there. We heard no news, no radio and no television. It was great!!

Day 8 (5-25-03) and we were still hoping to find that Cape Buffalo. On this day Kan found out that one of his work crews who were out cutting wood the day before had seen a Cape Buffalo. In fact, they had seen him all day long. He was bedded down about 50 yards away from them and he would get up and eat and lay back down. Basically, he watched them and they watched him all day. They did not know that we were looking for a Cape Buffalo so had no reason to notify anyone. So, on this day, we got about 9 members of that work crew and they took us back to where the Cape Buffalo was seen and the workers, Kan and Walter walked through the bush hoping to find the Cape Buffalo in that same spot again. NO such luck!!!!! This day again passed without us finding the Cape Buffalo.

There was a film crew at the lodge to film a bow hunt for the Outdoor Channel. It was rather interesting meeting them and seeing what they do and how they do it. Later in the day, they had wounded a Blesbok and he ran off. They could not get close enough to him for another shot and none of them had a gun so, we went to help them out. Kan used Walter's gun to shoot the wounded Blesbok.

Day 9 (5-26-03) - Kan had a plan to use pushers/walkers to walk the bush and he said we "would" find the Cape Buffalo. So, about 60 walkers piled on a truck and off we went. At least one of them was an experienced professional tracker. Kan got us to a position and he told the walkers to get off the truck about every 20 yards and he would give them instructions where to walk. Now, I have to say that I have no idea how anyone knows where they are out there. We were all over that property and I spent most of the time wondering where we were. Kan would tell them where to walk and then we would go to that place and wait. Sure enough after a while, here they would all come. We repositioned several times
and the walkers walked the bush. FINALLY, one of the men (Jerry - the foreman) radioed Kan and said that the Cape Buffalo had been spotted. We quickly went to a spot near there and met up with Jerry. Walter, Kan and Jerry took off in to the bush and I waited in the truck with Tokkie (another driver/guide). After what seemed like an eternity, we heard a shot. Then more time passed and we heard Bang, Bang, Bang and another wait and finally one last shot and then Kan radioed Tokkie and told us where to come to. We drove near there and could see the crowd of people. The Cape Buffalo was down!!!!!!!!!! The walkers as well as several of the guides and drivers had all gathered there to look over the Cape Buffalo. It was about 1:30 PM on Day 9 and Walter had his Cape Buffalo. The Cape Buffalo is huge. We took many, many photos and then another truck came to pick him up. It took a winch and about 20 people to get him loaded in to the truck. What a relief to have that Cape Buffalo and what an exciting 9 days we had, had and we still had more days to spend enjoying ourselves.

While spending the afternoon sitting on the porch of our chalet and just relaxing, I was marveling at the fact that they were watering the grass even though it was Winter in South Africa. It was so incredibly peaceful sitting on the porch and watching the activity around the lodge and just relaxing.

Day 10 (5-27-03) we spent looking for warthog in the morning and also traveled the short distance to Boer's farm (we in the United States would call it a ranch, but they are called farms in South Africa. We saw Black Wildebeest, Nyala, Gemsbok and Reedbuck, but the only Warthogs we saw were small. Boer's farm is on very different terrain than the main lodge. It was more open and flat and had a pretty river running through it.

In the afternoon, we went back to Boer's farm in hopes of finding a Warthog or maybe seeing the Reedbuck again, but no luck. We did see a sick young Black Wildebeest. Kan and Renier caught him and we took him back to the main lodge to give him some medication and hopefully make him well. While they were putting him in a pen, we got to see the pigs that Boer raises. There were several pens of different types of pigs and one pen with a mother potbelly pig and her three babies. They were so cute that I had to take several photos of them.

Day 11 (5-28-03). This day and the next one were days we chose to take a "side trip". For our side trip, we chose to go see Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Kan's Brother Brandt accompanied us. When you hunt with In Africa Safaris, and you want to take a side trip to see other things, they always make certain that someone from there goes with you.

We flew to Victoria Falls. It was a short flight and interesting. When we crossed in to Zimbabwe, you could almost tell it. The terrain suddenly got very red and very, very dry and desolate looking. When we landed in Zimbabwe at the Victoria Falls Airport it took a long time to clear through customs. They seem to have a different and difficult method of clearing people into the country.

We were picked up by a bus from the Kingdom Hotel Resort, which is where we were going to stay and made the short trip to the hotel. The Kingdom Hotel Resort is fairly new to the area and a very nice place. It has a huge open-air restaurant, a smaller bar/restaurant, curio shops, and a casino. It seems to be a perfect place for tourists to relax and "get away" from "real" life. It has several swimming pools (wading pool for kids, a pool for people a little bigger and then the regular pool for people who wanted to swim). It was a beautiful place to sit by the pool, drink something cool and just relax. We got settled in our rooms and then Walter, Brandt and I were off to see Victoria Falls. We found a taxi driver who took us where we needed to go and would look out for us. Brandt would "barter" with him over the price of the taxi ride.

We rented rain slickers because the mist from the falls is so bad that is seems like it is raining and even with them, we still got wet. While walking to where we could see the falls the first time, we came across some cute monkeys playing in the trees and on the ground. Finally, we got our first view of Victoria Falls and there is no way to describe them except to say AWESOME and SPECTACULAR. We walked, took photos and video and were just in awe over the falls. We had seen Niagara Falls (from the Canadian side) a number of years ago, but they do not compare to Victoria Falls. I was not able to walk the entire falls and had to turn back, but Walter and Brandt continued on to the end. At the end, there is a bridge that goes between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

When we left the falls area, we were surrounded (and basically bombarded or mobbed) by people trying to sell their curios. They would circle completely around us and each one is shoving some curio into our faces saying buy from me and spouting a price. There was a security person there who had to come along with his nightstick and threaten them so that they would get away so we could get into the taxi. That experience was a bit frightening but very interesting.

Later that afternoon, we made arrangements to take an evening cruise on the Zambezi River. The Zambezi River is the 4th largest river in Africa after the Nile, the Zambia and the Congo and runs between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It was very calm and peaceful cruising up the river. While on the cruise, we saw two crocodiles, several strange looking birds and some HUGE Hippos. At the time of the turn to return, the sun was setting. There is almost no sunset that is as beautiful as a sunset in Africa.

It was about this time when I realized that in all the time we had been gone we had not seen any, television or newspapers and the only time we heard radio was on the trip to the airport. How peaceful and relaxing it is to NOT hear all the terrible things that are going on in the world.

We had dinner that night in the Kingdom Hotel. It was a buffet with so many different kinds of things to eat that we could easily have spent several hours there eating and still not had the same thing twice. Breakfast the next day was the same, a buffet with many different dishes as well as freshly cooked egg dishes that they would cook while you watched and to your liking.

Day 12 (5-29-03) found us going to the outdoor marketplace to shop for curios before taking the flight back to South Africa. This was another interesting experience. There were probably about 30 vendors set up under a tent like structure. Each different vendor had his area sectioned off from the others. As you would walk along and while you were in one particular vendor's area, he would constantly try and talk you in to buying something from him. When you would cross into the next vendor's area, the first one would stop and then next one would start trying to sell you one of his curios. When we finally saw something we wanted to buy, the vendor would quote some ridiculous price and then he and Walter would "barter" until an agreeable price was reached. If he would not come down to a price Walter felt was fair, we would start to walk off and he would suddenly change his mind. We bought several nice curios and headed back to the Kingdom Hotel.

We rested for a couple hours and then were taken to the airport and caught the plane to go back to South Africa and were picked up at the airport in Johannesburg. When we got back to the main lodge, we found they had held dinner for us so we ate and got ready for tomorrow's adventure.

Day 13 (5-30-03) and we were to be off to the Orange Free State for the three varieties of Springbok. However, Boer and Kan asked Walter if he would like to "dart" two White Rhinos that they had purchased and needed to move from the Orange Free State to the Limpopo Province and the main lodge
for In Africa Safaris. Naturally Walter said YES so, we were off. The ride to the Orange Free State is about 6 or 7 hours so we did not get there until the afternoon of 5-30-03. On the way, we met up with
veterinarians (Alex and Uta) who were going with us. Alex was responsible for setting up the darts with the proper tranquilizers and antidotes and Uta was there to assist him. We also met up with a flatbed truck carrying two huge empty crates for the Rhinos. These crates are huge metal crates, much like boxcars on the railroad. They open at one end so the animal can go in and also open at the top so that you can look in to check on the animal.

When we got to the property, we rode out and looked over the Rhinos. There were 4 Rhinos total, a bull, a cow and two calves. The calves were approximately one and one-half years and four years old. Alex looked them over in order to judge their condition and the amount of tranquilizer that would be needed.

It was now time for Walter to learn how to shoot the dart gun. Alex and Uta set up targets and Walter learned how the dart guns work. After several practice shots we were ready.

We drove out to where we had seen the Rhinos a little earlier and they were NOT there so we set out searching for them. It took some time to find them and I was seriously wondering how animals that large could move so far so fast and then appear to have disappeared. While looking for the Rhinos, we saw Eland, Red Hartebeest and Gemsbok.

Finally, we found them and it was decided that Walter would dart the bull first. We followed the Rhinos for a while attempting to get close enough for the dart shot. When darting a Rhino, it is done from about 40 yards and preferably the animal should be "broadside" so that the dart can be placed in the place that will do the most good. After following the Rhinos for a little while and gradually getting closer, Walter was in the perfect position to take a shot. The dart hit in a perfect place, in his shoulder, on the first shot. At this time, we just started watching the Rhino. It takes several minutes and then you see the Rhino start to walk funny - - - looks like he has had too much to drink. He starts lifting his feet strangely and wobbles. When it was obvious that he is about to go down, we got closer and Alex grabbed some rope and got behind the Rhino and when one of his back feet was up to take a step, Alex slipped a noose in the rope over his foot and pulled tight. Then Kan and a number of other people came running up and attempted to hold the Rhino in one place. As he started to go down with everyone pulling on the rope, Alex ran up and stuffed rags into his ears and put a blindfold on him. This was so that he could not see or hear and therefore was not as afraid. Finally, he went down and Alex immediately started to administer antidotes for the tranquilizer. He also gave the Rhino shots of vitamins and took blood so that blood work could be done. Kan took measurements of his horn, the Rhino was pushed and pulled into an upright position where Walter and Kan got in there for the photos. Many people had arrived and there were cameras and videos going like crazy. A rope was also put on his horn to assist in leading him into the crate.

During the time we were waiting for the Rhino to go down, the truck carrying the crate to load the Rhino into was pulling in to position and off loading the crate. The doors on the crate were opened to await the Rhino.

After the Rhino was down for a very few minutes, it was time to get him up again. Alex got a cattle prod out and began zapping him with that. After only a couple moments, he started to get up. At this time

one person takes the end of the rope that was on his horn and went into the crate and up out the opening in the top and gradually pulled the rope. The other men around helped to guide and push the Rhino in to the crate where he was secured for the trip. All doors were closed and the crate was loaded back on to the flatbed truck and the truck went to trade crates as we were then going to dart the cow Rhino.

Obviously, she was a little leery because she had observed what had just happened with the bull Rhino. Also, she had the two younger Rhinos with her so we had to wait for a shot that would not involve them.

We followed her for awhile getting closer and closer. Finally, the time was right and Walter shot. The dart hit her in the shoulder and appeared to be a perfect shot. However, although she did act a little woozy, she did not go down. After a little while, it was decided that another shot was needed so again Walter followed her getting closer and closer until in the perfect position and he shot again. This time the dart went right into her rear hip. According to Alex, a "perfect" shot. As with the bull, after a few minutes, she got wobbly and in a short time she was getting ready to go down. Again Alex put the rope on her leg and everyone started pulling on the rope. She went down in a small gully and it looked like it would be a problem getting her out, but that was not the case. After antidotes and vitamins were administered, blood taken, measurements and photos taken, she was zapped with the prod and she got up and was led into the waiting crate (the truck had come back with an empty crate and gotten into position as soon as she was going down). The loading went without a hitch and everyone got on the road.

It was found that the first dart had hit at an angle and the needle had bent and would not allow the tranquilizer to go in to the Rhino. That is why she did not go down and another shot was required.

During the time from when the second dart hit her until she was loaded in to the crate, a truck that was out there kept the two calves away by driving between them and the cow Rhino. After several tries to get closer to what was going on, they gave up and ran off in the other direction.

Alex and Uta were going to follow the truck with the crates all the way back to Vaalwater and the main lodge for In Africa Safaris where the Rhinos would now call home. During the trip back, they would all stop every 30 minutes so that Alex could check on the Rhinos to be certain they were coming out of the tranquilizer in the appropriate manner.

By this time it was dark and we had still not hunted for the three varieties of Springbok. Kan said we could all get a motel and hunt the next day for the Springbok or go back to Vaalwater and be there for the off-loading of the Rhinos. We decided that we would rather go back for the off-loading and possibly get one of the Springbok on the In Africa Safaris property. We followed the truck with the crates for awhile and then we went ahead and picked up food for everyone. We met up with the truck and with Alex and Uta, gave them their food and then we headed back. We knew they would get to Vaalwater very early in the morning and we could catch a couple hours sleep and then watch the off-loading.

During the drive back, Kan's cell phone rang and he got the HORRIBLE news that the truck had hit a bad place in the road and the flatbed with the crates had jumped way up in the air and come back down. The Rhinos were tossed around so hard that both of them had, had their horns knocked off. Everyone felt sick at that news. Boer and Kan had purchased the Rhinos for the purposes of dart hunts and breeding. Without the horns, they are of no value for dart hunting. However, there is a possibility that the cow is already pregnant and they would have the "beginning" of their Rhino herd.

We got back to the main lodge a little before 2:00 AM and went to catch a little sleep. Early the following morning (5-31-03 - Day 14) at about 5:30 AM, we were awakened and told the Rhinos were there and they were ready to go off-load them. We went out to watch and the off-loading went off
without a hitch. The Rhinos started walking around and "checking out" their new home. They looked to be in good condition except that they did not have their horns any longer.

After a little breakfast, we went to catch a nap and then we were going to look for the Warthog and Springbok. This was our LAST hunting day and I was feeling sad.

That afternoon we went out looking for the Warthog and all we saw was one who was too small. We did, however find a small herd of Springbok. We found the one Walter wanted and after spending some time following him around, Walter got a shot and a Springbok.

An usual thing happens to Springbok when they die. The hair on their backs stands up and bushes out. It is really pretty and white and looks soft and fluffy. Kan told us to hurry and get photos because that does not last very long. We got photos and Kan was right. After a short time, the hairs laid back down and looked just like what you always see when you see the Springbok.

After the Springbok was taken care of we went back to looking for the Warthog without any success. Looks like the next time we go back to South Africa we will have to have the Warthog high on the list of animals we will look for.

Day 15 (6-1-03) was our last day. Our plane was scheduled for 7:40 PM so we spent the day packing, taking care of paperwork and getting to the airport. Our flight from Johannesburg back to New York was longer. This time 17 and ½ hours. We did, however, land in Dakar for an hour, but were not allowed to get off the plane. Also, it was about 2:30AM so there would have been nothing to see. The flight back to New York was uneventful, just long. I caught a terrible cold on that flight so did not feel well when we spent our layover in New York. We arrived back in Chicago on 6-2-03 and back home at about 9:00PM.

Our wonderful adventure/vacation was over and we are now back in the real world and with our normal routines. But, we are already thinking about when and where the next adventure will take us.



Written By: Norma S. Draper - June 28, 2003
Sugar Grove, Illinois
Email: Wddnsd@aol.com


Steve Mahurin
25 North Heights
La Marque, Texas 77568
409-935-9673

Email: samahurin@comcast.net

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