Hunting Buffalo in the Luangwa Valley

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The Luangwa Valley is a land of unspoiled beauty and plentiful wildlife. During my two year contract working in the Valley, I was overwhelmed with its wildlife and remoteness. Whilst guiding clients on photographic safaris in this paradise, I did not imagine that in a few short years I would hunt one of Africa’s most dangerous and formidable beasts in the same area.

After several discussions with a local professional hunter, concession owner and friend from my time in the Valley, I structured a two-on-one buffalo hunting safari for August 2007. After a few years of hunting together, John, Patrick and I had become close friends. The mission of this safari was simply to create an unforgettable hunting experience that would meet my friends’ wildest expectations.

It was dark and cold, a typical rainy winter morning in August as only Cape Town could produce. As I was boarding the plane for Johannesburg, I was struck by the thought that within a few short hours I would be in one of Africa’s best kept secrets, the Luangwa Valley.

By pre-arrangement I met John and PT at the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. We caught a flight to Lusaka, the capitol of Zambia. From Lusaka we flew to Mfuwe, the only airport in the Luangwa Valley. Upon our arrival, at around 4:00 PM on a slightly humid 32 degree Celsius afternoon, we first caught sight of the mystic Luangwa River, slowly making its way through green African forests . Carried on the breeze was a lush, still familiar smell that had been engraved in my soul five years ago, when I last set foot in the Valley.

At the airport we where met by the local guide and professional hunter and three members of the camp staff. Anxious to get into the bush, it didn’t take us long to load our luggage on the Landcruiser and be on our way. Our lighthearted conversations and jokes melted away into quiet appreciation as the lush African bush and the typical African villages around us worked their magic. I think that we all had a growing awareness of the exciting hunt that was about to begin.

Roughly an hour and a half later we arrived at our well equipped bush camp on the eastern banks of the Luangwa River. The camp is surrounded by cathedral like arches created by Mopane, African Ebony, Tamarind, Natal Mahogany and gigantic Figs. This particular hunting block in the Game Management Area is situated directly across the river from the famous South Luangwa National Park and directly south of the Nsefu National Park.

Our first night were filled with the sounds of Africa’s three tenors, the staccato huh-huh sounds of hippo’s as they left the water, the echoing laughter of spotted hyena and roar of lions that stunned the night with a primal awareness. What a trio they make! During the course of the night I could hear PT auditioning for a spot in the choir every now and again.

Our first early morning hunt brought a few surprises. Only three minutes out of camp we had to slow down for a group of elephant cows with their calves, which were feeding alongside the road. We watched them for a while as they tested the air with their flexible trunks to get our scent. Elephants’ vision is not that acute, so they rely mainly on scent to analyze whatever crosses their path. This was a highlight for PT, as it was his first time seeing elephants in the wild.

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