After three car rides, two plane flights, one 13 hours long, and an exhausting trip through South African customs where one of our rifles was left behind at the airport due to changes in paperwork we were not aware of, shooting our first antelope, an impala, in the thick brush made the journey there well worth it. Memories of this safari will last a lifetime and get us through many a slow day at work.
But we didn’t make these memories alone. Our whole family journeyed across the world to have an adventure together – big game and plains game hunting in the Limpopo province near Vaalwater in northern South Africa. Driving to a different location every day was special; the landscape was vast and beautiful, including deep woods, mountains, open plains, swamps, peanut farms and plenty of dusty roads.
And hunt we did! Two weeks in the brush yielded more than 19 trophies among the three of us hunters. My brother and I were successful in getting an impala, warthog, blue wildebeest, blesbok, and I tacked on a zebra and nyala. Little brother did well taking a nice kudu. Dad’s trophies included sable, waterbuck, eland, bushbuck, reedbuck (common and mountain), duiker, blesbok and klipspringer. Mom was there to pull the trigger–on a camera instead of a .30-’06–while we boys did the dirty work of crawling through mud and sprinting up hills to realize our dream of getting that perfect mount on the wall.
Mom was a trooper through and through. She experienced many bumpy roads in the truck while appreciating the beauty an African sunrise gave us as a shared experience unmatched by any typical resort or sunny island. For the first time she witnessed the whole process of stalking, tracking (seeing dad crawl through the bushes, too), trophy shot and didn’t shy away from watching the field dressing of each animal. One of the highlights dad and mom enjoyed was seeing a hippo cross the highway directly in front of their vehicle. Good thing they stopped in time.
Hunting was, of course, pure fun as our outfitter Joubert Pro Hunt. Owners Spyker and Ilse Joubert handled everything else. From the minute we stepped off the plane, our guides took care of the travel arrangements: cooking, cleaning, laundry, and our time in the field on game farms throughout the area.
Spyker and Clinton van Tonder, our Professional Hunters, always knew where and when to take us for the exact animal that we wanted to track and hunt. Mom had a more realistic view of a safari after hunting seven straight days. Her perception came from Hollywood movies where they show wide open country driving the herd to the vehicle and just point and shoot. Spyker gave her an education.
Our family didn’t bring home the Big Five, but we were astonished to learn about the diversity that a safari offered. There was a little something for each of us, like a dove hunt rivaling Argentina. We were never bored as there was always a unique day planned for us.
Coming back to the lodge at night after our usually successful day hunting, a three-course dinner was waiting for us, exotic and delicious, as prepared by our live-in Chef, Gerda Van Graan. These feasts, with fresh entrées often prepared from our own trophy animals (nothing is wasted–meat, organs, bones–everything is used), were accompanied with Ilse’s homemade hot sauce, plenty of award winning South African wine and the local’s favorite drink, brandy. Mom learned to appreciate the brandy when she needed to warm herself after the cold bush pig hunt. After dinner, our family mingled with our hosts in their comfortable home until we could no longer keep our eyes open.
An unforgettable experience, my first African Safari was made all the more meaningful by having my family alongside me. After you go on safari once, however, you will want to go back…we are already talking about another trip–Joel Hodgdon