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Cape Buffalo here we come…

If you haven’t been following along on this journey, please start with this post and move forward……

SO……on Wednesday morning, we did it all again!!  Today we took the BV even further onto the flood plain and within an hour of driving, the trackers had spotted the buffs.  While they figured out which way to go, I enjoyed the scenery….especially the white-barked “Fever Tree”.

The are was also populated with many Palm-type trees…..

I managed to get one shot of the fruit as we rolled past…..

When I was off of the truck and taking photos, Julian commented that he heard a leopard call (called a “saw”) and suspected that there was one in the brush just ahead of us!!!……YIKES

It was interesting to see the tracks that the BV left on the soft ground…..

Julian and Dolish would look for the highest point so that they could see further over the plain.  Julian used the BV cab as his ladder……

…..while Dolish preferred a HUGE termite hill…..

The trackers would also listen for the buffalo.  When they heard Oxpeckers (a bird that sits on the buffalo), it caused them to turn and go in a different direction!

We walked/slogged on their path for about an hour and then came upon the herd.  Now it was a waiting game!!  Julian had to find a bull that was appropriate for a “community meat buffalo”.  It couldn’t be a huge trophy but also shouldn’t be a young bull.  Once he had found the proper one, he now had to make sure that Michael knew which one he was looking at!! 

There were two possible bad outcomes….the first is that Michael shot the wrong buffalo and second was that he would wound it rather than making an outright kill.

The trackers took a seat while this process was going on and I joined them on the ground as it was much easier than sitting on my knees!!

We heard the distant sound of a helicopter and all of us prayed that it wasn’t coming our way because it would definitely scare the buffalo away!!  Fortunately, it stayed closer to the camp, so we didn’t need to worry.

After an interminable time, Michael was able to take the shot.  Buffalo are hardy, thick-skinned animals and are not easy to take down.  When the buff didn’t go down immediately, Michael worried that he had made a bad shot, but Julian told him to just wait a bit and see what happened.  The buff ran a few yards and then fell.

Now we had to wait until the other buffalo wandered away!!   I expected them to all flee once the gun sounded but they just kept on grazing around us, apparently unconcerned with their fallen comrade.

By now we were all standing up and I was surprised to see a bull about 50 yards away…..just looking at us.  Needless to say, we did not make ANY visible movement and after a few minutes, he simply wandered away.

When we got to the now-deceased buffalo, they worked hard to push the 1500-pound animal onto his chest so that we could do some photography…

If you want to see the photo, please click HERE.

Francisco was dispatched to bring the BV and we enjoyed looking around the plain……

….although there wasn’t much to see!!

The next part of the day wasn’t pretty but was necessary for us to transport the buffalo back to camp. We watched as the trackers skinned and quartered the big guy.

They stopped often to sharpen their knives and I was intrigued with the sharpener…..

It was so simple in design but was extremely effective!!!

Julian and I enjoyed a laugh while we were waiting….

….and the vultures wondered why it was taking so long!!

They attacked the leftovers as soon as we pulled away….

Francisco had worked hard this morning and took a well-deserved nap as we headed back to the road…..

The ride back to camp was victorious and lunch was eaten with a light heart, knowing that we had conquered the “dangerous game” and, more importantly, that a village was going to be fed!!

Come back tomorrow for the meat delivery….it was a blast!!!

Continuing the search….

Before you read this post, please read part one……

When I left you, I was following in the wake of the guide, hunter and trackers…..

I had to work hard to keep up with them, but I would still find time to stop and take a quick photo of a flower, spider web or something else that caught my eye.

Now we reached the part that I had been dreading the most….slogging thru the wetlands!!  My first steps were tentative, and I found that I was trying to pull my pant legs up so that they wouldn’t get wet.   I quickly realized that was a futile action and just started concentrating on walking and, most importantly, staying upright!!!

After that first water crossing, I was more comfortable with the process.  It was fun, however, to listen to the squelching of the 5 people in front of me!!

At this point, I had no idea where these mythical buffalo were.   I would just do whatever the trackers did…..if they walked, I walked….

 If they stopped, I halted…… 

When they squatted down, I followed suit…. 

I don’t know what would have happened if they had broken out into a run….I assume that I would have RUN too!!

Julian explained that we had to move behind the herd, making sure that the wind was blowing into our faces rather than past us and on to the buffs.   When they would hear or smell us, they would turn and face us meaning that it was impossible to move closer.

During this entire escapade, I never SAW a single buff.   I heard them snorting several times but never laid eyes on them.  Julian promised me that I WOULD see them next time!!

Unfortunately, the wind was swirling, and we ended up spooking them several times.  After the third such event, Julian said that they were too spooked and that we should come back tomorrow!!

It felt good to take off the camera harness and relax a bit in the sun before we started the trip back to camp…..

Come back tomorrow for more……

Cape Buffalo – part 1

Before I tell today’s story…..this post talks about big game hunting!!  Before you click off of the post, please check this one out first……

On Tuesday morning, we headed out to the Zambeze Delta flood plain for Cape Buffalo.  Michael is planning to shoot one of these animals and give the meat to the local villagers.  In the hunting world, this is called a “community buffalo”….no trophy is taken home and the joy comes in stalking the animal and providing meat for a village.

The buffalo reside on the flood plain and it takes a while to drive there so we had to make an EARLY start….5:00am for breakfast and a 5:30 start. 

We were both nervous about the morning….Michael was concerned with the thought of hunting a dangerous animal and I was concerned about whether or not I could keep up with the trackers in the swamp-like conditions.

We were wearing high-top tennis shoes for walking in the swamp and we both sported our clean, new shoes before we left. 

They were NOT this clean when we got back.

 It was freezing on the back of the truck, but I put my hat on to keep my head warm and pulled my jacket up over my ears. 

NOTE TO SELF…..when we come back next month, I am bringing a quick dry towel for my hair and a knit cap!!!

It took about 45 minutes to get to the drop-off point and here we picked up the BV, an All-terrain vehicle that will take us safely thru the swamp.

Getting in was interesting……

I am thankful for long legs!!!

….but it was fun to stand in the back and view the scenery from up high.

As we drove, there were herds of Water Buck……

…..Hartebeest……

….and one large herd of Zebra….SO much fun to see.

My favorite was a flock of Saddle-Back Storks……

I am thinking that my Africa quilt may have something to do with the magnificent bird!!!

The guide and trackers were always searching for herds of the large black beasts….

…..OR looking closely at the ground for their tracks……

At one point, they could see that the buffalo had headed in one direction, so we headed that way as well.   After we wandered around for about an hour, they decided that the beasts had returned to the path that we were originally on!!

The BV was an amazing machine, often moving through water that was 6 feet deep!!  After one of our forays into the water, Michael found this cute little frog sitting on his sleeve…..

The trackers spotted another herd of buffalo and this time we got out of the BV and started to stalk on foot. 

Before we left, Julian loaded his BIG caliber rifle as a backup in case things got really scary….

It was comforting to see his relaxed attitude as we headed off…..

The head tracker (Francisco) led the group with Julian close behind.   Next was Michael (the hunter), two more trackers and then me!!

Enough for today….come back tomorrow for the end of this fruitless hunt!!!


Thinking in a different way

In the next series of posts, I am going to ask you to think about things in a different way.

You see, I am going to be talking about trophy hunting, and that is not a subject that a lot of people want to hear about.

Let me define that…. Trophy hunting is when a hunter pays for the privilege of stalking and killing an animal so that he can have the trophy to place on his wall and then to enjoy as we would a piece of art. Now I probably lost a bunch of you right here…..

PLEASE KEEP READING

My husband, Michael is currently writing a book about the idea that trophy hunters are the main reason that there is wild-game still around. This is the gist…..PLEASE read all the way through.


The African country of Mozambique endured a 15-year civil war, ending in 1992. During this time, the villagers were faced with no food or jobs. After the war ended, they had to depend on poaching and subsistence farming to feed their families.

Enter Mark Haldane of Zambeze Delta Safaris……

He met with the villagers and explained to them his vision to restore not only the villager’s lives but also the ecosystem within which they lived.

The first step was providing protein. This protein would come from wild animals, however, rather than indiscriminate poaching, international trophy hunters would be the source of the meat. The meat from this closely-regulated sport hunting would go to feed the local villagers and the hunters themselves. The goal was to provide 10 pounds of meat per week for each of the local families. The villagers were doubtful!!

However, as time went on, they found that Mark was true to his word. Not only was red meat provided each week, but fish protein was also available through a fishing program. He also developed a community agricultural field.

Now, children and their parents are well-fed and enjoy a much healthier life!!

Every one of these additions came from the money of passionate sport hunters.

The improvements did not stop with food. Zambeze Delta Safaris was joined by the Cabela Family Foundation and The Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance and together provided schools, housing for teachers, a clinic, a portable maize mill, and even a honey production program.

The next job was to find a way to curb the poaching that was still happening in the area. The answer was to establish an Anti-poaching team made up of the villagers who had once been poachers. Now they have fast-response teams that make use of motorbikes and even a helicopter. All of these were purchased with hunter dollars.

You may wonder how sport hunting differs from poaching. In both cases, animals are killed by ‘hunters’. However, poaching uses snares and traps to catch whatever animal happens to walk past. It doesn’t matter if it is a female or a young antelope and the suffering endured by these snared animals is great.

On the other hand, sport hunting works under government supervision, and there are strict quotas as to the number of animals that can be taken, AND only OLDER males are taken, leaving the young males, females and calves to continue to grow and repopulate the herds.

The monies paid by the hunters (license fees, community fees, and daily rates) go straight back into the local community and into anti-poaching efforts.

The villagers are not the only ones who have profited. Numbers of game animals have grown with the regulated hunting of their populations providing the funds necessary to suppress poaching. There are now 3,000 Sable antelope in the delta where they once numbered only 30. Only 1200 Cape buffalo remained when the Safaris Operators began their work, now there are more than 25,000 of these animals roaming the landscape.

Without the intervention of sport hunters, there would still be starvation among the people and the animal populations would continue to dwindle, eventually leading to the extinction of entire species.

WITH sport hunting, this portion of Mozambique has experienced a resurrection of both people and nature.


Over the next two weeks, I will be writing about our wonderful trip to the Zambeze Delta and will be showing you not only the hunting, but also the amazing things that are happening for the villagers.

I promise that you wont be subjected to any dead-animal shots!!

If you will stick with me, I think that you might be encouraged with what you see and might just be able to think about sport hunting in a different way.

Thanks for reading!!!

Now….let’s head into the bush!!!!

The Bee Shepherd

This gentleman is  Zakarea……

…..and he serves as the community liaison between Zambeze Delta Safaris and the local village.  This position is one of great importance as, in many cases, he is the one who decides which families get what!!

He is 51 years old and says that he was born on January 1st, as were all sixteen of his children…apparently, it is the default date for all births.

He serves in many roles, but the most interesting is the work that he does as the “Bee shepherd”!!

The bee swarms are captured using these boxes that hang in the trees…..

They have something in them that attracts the wandering bees.  Once caught they are moved to the hives.

When I first saw these boxes, I asked Francisco what they were.   He made the motion of something flying and then acted as if he was touching his finger in something and then tasting it.   I got the idea!!

The hives currently in use are an “African Top-Bar” hive. 

Mark told us that it is an extremely basic form of bee keeping but works well in this situation.

They have recently started transitioning to a modern “Langstroth” hive.   Since the summer temperatures can reach 100 to 115, the wooden hives are very hot.    They are starting to build these hives from concrete, as they are much cooler and make for healthier and happier bees!!

Also, the weight of the concrete hives deters hive-rustlers!!!

They use wooden forms to mold the concrete…..

….. and use the metal from confiscated poacher’s snares to reinforce the slabs…..talk about using something bad to create something good!!!

They can build 3 concrete hives each week and there are a bunch ready to be deployed into the field!!

In a good season, they take between 16 and 20 kilos (36 – 44 pounds) of honey from each hive.

The strong point of the honey from this area is that there are no pesticides sprayed anywhere around.   Most of the pollen comes from the indigenous trees that grow prolifically!!

The flavor of the honey changes based on the time of year and on where the hive is situated.

The honey has a high moisture content and is sometimes sent elsewhere to dehydrate a bit.  Otherwise, it easily molds.

There are currently 350 hives, and the beekeepers are paid for their honey.  The initial market is to local hotels and resorts, but they hope to soon move into the Middle Eastern market.   The reason for this niche is because, since they don’t have indigenous bees in their countries, they don’t have to irradiate the honey as it enters the country.  If it was sent to America, it would be irradiated to protect the local bees, but would lose much of its goodness.

Because of the quality of the honey, it will bring top dollar.

They have a problem with ants invading the hives and have solved that by placing a metal plate on the pole and smearing it with engine oil.   Apparently, the ants cant traverse the gap!!

While we were looking at the new concrete hives that were being built, I found an interesting design in these wooden boxes filing several shelves…..

I found out that these were the frames that are used in the hives.   The metal wires are covered with wax and then dropped “file folder” style into the hive.

Zakarea was proud to show us his hive and we happily followed him to the back of his property…..

….As we walked, I managed to grab a quick photo of a gorgeous plant…..

I have been surprised to not see more flowers and, when I questioned Julian about this, he responded that I needed to remember that it was the middle of winter here!!!   DUH!!!

Thus ends the saga of the Bee-Shepherd…..a sweet saga indeed!!!