My original lion hunt, scheduled for June 2013 in Mozambique, was cancelled a week before my departure because of unrest and security issues in the Tete area where we were supposed to hunt. Soon after the cancellation, I saw an ad for another lion hunt opening in the Niassa area with Johan Calitz Safaris, so I quickly called Barbara Crown and with her help booked the hunt for September.
The hunt was in the concession called Block L2, Luatise management unit, Niassa National Reserve in northern Mozambique. It is 418,000 hectares (more than a million acres) and has about 600 km of bush tracks throughout the concession, though I am sure there are places there where no human being has set foot before.
The camp is managed by Edwin Young, a most knowledgeable and experienced PH, who has spent most of his life in wilderness, including studying lions in Kruger Park. He has an “all positive” and “all smile” attitude, and is also currently busy with his Masters Degree in Environmental Management.
The first day started good with a successful hunt for waterbuck, and continued the next day for Livingstone eland, reedbuck and so on. We hunted very hard every morning from 5 a.m. until between 10 and 11 p.m. On one occasion we got up at 4:30 a.m. and came back at 4:30 a.m. of the next day. Each evening, the hot shower behind the tent was very welcoming, as were the delicious dishes prepared by Edwin’s wife, Nicole. We were seeing lion tracks, and over the whole trip saw about 18 lions and lionesses.
This area of Mozambique is rich with precious stones and there is some illegal mining going on. One day we caught some illegal miners and Edwin documented their activities and let them go away. There are around 25 to 30 employees patrolling the area 24/7 and chasing poachers away. Even with that much pressure that Edwin puts on poachers, the patrolling scouts come back with lots of collected poacher’s snares. In one case I saw about 50 to 60 snares that were confiscated by game scouts.
The nineteenth day started as usual — driving, looking for fresh lion tracks and signs, then the Land Rover’s rear axle broke. With some help from the front axle, front winch pulling and our manpower pushing, we made it back around 1 p.m. Luckily, Edwin had a spare axle. We were able to change it and were back hunting around 4 p.m., and decided to drive to one of the far parts of the concession where we had previously walked without seeing any lion tracks, but I had taken a beautiful, unique Bohm’s zebra. Per my PH, it was the second zebra taken in eight years in that block.
This was my second to last evening on this safari. While we were driving, a lioness suddenly came out of the brush in front of us and crossed to the other side of the trail. We had never seen a lioness in front of our truck, and Edwin quickly set up and started looking. In less than two minutes we found a huge male lion. After Edwin confirmed that it was an old lion and shootable, we set up for the shot. When I shot the big boy, he jumped for tall grass and I shot him again before he disappeared into the grass where we found him and I put an “insurance” shot in his neck to make sure the job was done. We also found a baby elephant the lions had killed and were feeding on.
When we brought the truck to load him, all four of us who had previously loaded such animals as eland and zebra, were not able to put the lion in the truck. Trackers Timotio and Younesio dug two holes the size of the truck’s tires, and backed the Land Rover into the holes in order to lower its bed about two feet so we could load the big lion.
Back at the camp, as all cat hunters know, there was celebration that went on for hours after midnight. With my forth leg of the “Big Five” in the bag, and only rhino left to complete this prestigious slam, I went to my comfortable bed and slept well while listening to all the crickets, frogs and the occasional splash of crocs in the river.