Mr spots was on the move last night after a light drizzle - Leopard @ Balla-Balla Conservancy - South Africa
Early Season quest - Zambia - By Shawn Bird
As the 2016 season kicks off we follow Mike on the quest to bag a Kafue Lechwe and Crawshay Defassa Waterbuck, two unique species that only occur in Zambia. Mike is on the quest to complete his SCI Africa Diamond Award, so he has come to Balla-Balla to pursue these endemic Zambian antelope. Mike's good friend Craig hunted with us the previous season. Mike was suppose to join him on safari but for unfortunate reasons couldn't make it.
MIke with a Southern Impala
Mike contacted us late last season to book an early season hunt to link up with a Safari he had planned to Ethiopia. This would be an interesting journey. Late rains in Zambia just a week before Mike arrived made the already thick bushveld even tougher to navigate. The first day at Bird Estate we bumped into several nice younger Lechwe Rams, Lichtenstein Hartebeest, Sable and more but not what Mike was after.
Mike at Bird Estate
Day two our luck changed, as early morning we decided to check an area I've know to be good for Lechwe. Sneaking up through the thick brush into the open plain we spotted a group grazing. At first glance it was just younger bulls and females, then out stepped the ram we were after. Mike first spotted him, grazing away from us on the other side of the group, the old ram was putting up a good challenge. The old ram moved more into the open plains making it difficultly to approach especially with a group of weary Roan Antelope looking occasionally our way. After two attempts stalking from anthill to anthill we decided to back out and perform a loop-round approach from the other side where the old ram and group was heading. This paid off, as we approached unseen from behind an anthill and Mike maked an excellent shot.
Mike with his Kafue Lechwe
Day three after a discussion with Mike and Dene we decided to relocate to Dendro Park for the Crawshay Defassa Waterbuck. This we knew would be a risky attempt as the passed week had seen massive rains in the area. We were unlucky as the rains continued as we approached closer to Dendro. Just 30kms away we ran into our first obstacle, a swollen river. Stopping to inspect the flooded area we got stuck just where we had stopped. With some assistance from the local people, we unpacked the land cruiser to lighten the weight. Digging and packing logs under the wheels a hour later we managed to get free.
lunch time break under the African sky
Mike with the local children
Unpacking the Land Cruiser to lighten the load
packing tree branches under the wheels
Talking to the local people they suggested we try another way around. So we followed them but to no avail. While Charles went to inspect the swollen river and possibly try arrange an ox cart to take us the last remaining 30km's we were invited to rest under the shelter the close by village. Hospitality was great as they even picked some fresh mealies to cook on the open fire for us. After some discussion around the fire we decided to turn around and head back to Bird Estate. This we thought would be the best decision as the rain didn't seem as though it would stop anytime soon and word from the locals that the area in front was even more flooded making it unpassable. With all smiles and a relaxed feeling we turned around.
charles checking the flooded river
Relaxing under the shelter by the close village
Now starting to get dark, roads flooded, constant raining and different roads to our normal route was making our return journey very interesting. Taking the wrong fork in the road, Dene mistakenly drove straight into a wet swampy area. Bogged now right down to all four wheels we were in real trouble. After a good laugh we were looking for a place to set camp for the night. Charles went to see if any of the local people could help. Some minutes later a guy appeared from the bush greeting us and inspecting the stuck vehicle. Saying " No problem we will be out soon" and started to dig under the wheels. Just then arriving back with four real big oxen, Charles and a couple more guys hooked up the oxen to the rear of the vehicle. Within minutes we were out, the oxen power really amazed us all. We would have definitively been camping if not for the generous help from the local people. After thanking them for the help we were on our way again.
second time stuck within a few hours
Day four we headed to a closer area in search of the Waterbuck. This was not our first choice area as the numbers are not as plentiful as Dendro Park but with no way of getting out there as we discovered the previous day we decided to give it a go. Bumping into several females in the morning we eventually spotted a real nice old bull. This bull was a non typical trophy as his left horn was misshaped and had a very unique curl to it. This didn't phase Mike as he had several non typical trophies. Not thinking twice as he was an old good trophy Mike made a great shot. This would bring us to the end of an exciting early season hunt in Zambia.
Mike with his crawshay defassa waterbuck
We did attempt to try get Mike a Civet cat but with no luck, this was due to the thick green bush and constant rain. Day five Mike decided to spend a relaxing night over in Livingstone at the Royal Livingstone hotel and view the world famous Victoria Falls before heading out to Ethiopia.
Royal Livingstone Hotel - Victoria Falls
We would like to congratulate Mike on successfully completing his SCI Africa Diamond Award as successfully harvested two gazelles in Ethiopia and a Genet cat in South Africa a few days later.
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