Day 1-2 South African Safari

Posted on August 8, 2015

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As this blog has first alluded to, then hinted at, and then outright mentioned, going to Africa to hunt has been a long-term goal of mine. I have spent a good portion of the last six months preparing for a Plains Game Safari I won at a charity benefit auction back in 2012. Acquisition of hardware, permits, tickets, ammo, and the practice to make sure it all worked together, consumed most of my weekends. Marita Du Plessis, the manager of the Wiets Ranch was my primary point of contact in South Africa. She connected me with riflepermits.com, which I highly recommend if you plan on bringing guns to South Africa. Ettiene Coetzee, my PH gave me several gear recommendations which I took into consideration when I prepped my hardware.

Our trip began with a 15 hour flight in Coach from JFK to Johannesburg on South African Airways. The flight got off to a rough start when I realized that my seat had neither in-flight entertainment nor a power outlet. My first reaction was, “I’ve made a huge mistake.
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In fairness, the flight wasn’t bad. We had bulkhead seats, which gave us ample legroom (for Coach). I ate a pretty decent dinner (why no South African cuisine on the South African Flag Carrier?), finished an assignment for work, and then went to sleep, waking up at about 6am JNB time. At JNB, we had to change planes to reach our final destination of Kimberley. This was complicated by the fact that I was bringing a Rifle to South Africa. Fortunately, “American bringing a hunting rifle to South Africa” is a fairly well-worn path, so after passing through customs I headed straight for the firearms office near the baggage claim.

This is where things got a bit strange. I go to the firearms office:

JNB firearms office

Nobody is there and the metal security gate is ajar.

I can see gun cases sitting in there, but no guards. So this is South African security? After about 10 minutes, a few more hunters arrive who clearly “know what’s going on.” So, I follow their lead and we wait another 15 minutes for my Pelican 1750 case to show up. I sign for it, acknowledging that it is 1) my case 2) still locked. Then we leave it in the firearms office and head outside the baggage claim with the rest of our bags. Our firearm permit expeditor meets us and escorts us to the South African Police Station inside the airport. The expeditor hands the Police Officer my paperwork. He brings my gun case, asks me to open it, compares the serial number on the paperwork, and I am good to go. Thankfully, they didn’t inspect my ammo as carefully as I have been told they might as I brought some “extra ammo” just in case I had to waste a case or two re-zeroing my spare scope.

After that minor hassle, we had to check-in for the domestic leg of our flight to Kimberley. After checking in, apparently without issue, we walked over to the firearms check-in office, which to my surprise was basically in the Men’s Restroom:
Check in

There, again, I showed the paperwork, rifle and ammo so that the rifle would be loaded onto the Kimberley flight. Strangely, the South African Express employee who checked us in came running into the firearm check-in office and told us that “we exceeded our baggage limit and would have to pay an excess luggage fee.” Why she didn’t tell us that as we were checking in was a bit fishy, but the fee was only about 200 ZAR, so I didn’t sweat it. Unfortunately, to pay it, we had to wait in an excess luggage fee payment line that took about 20 minutes because the agents kept allowing folks to pay cash for tickets, oh well.

Security went smoothly. While waiting for our flight I bought a Tab. Do they even make Tab anymore? Apparently in South Africa they do.

That is Tab

We settled down at our gate and met two other Americans, or rather Texans, who were headed to Kimberley to hunt. They were two friendly gentlemen in their mid-60’s who were eager to tell some tall tales to someone from New York City on his first African Safari. That said, hey had some pretty great stories. One of them whipped out his iPhone and showed me photos and videos of some of his best African and North American bowhunts. One of them earned a living doing something that I didn’t even know was a thing; he was a professional hog trapper. Homeowners, farmers and the like would call him after a pack of aggressive feral hogs tore up their lawns, gardens, etc. At this point he showed me photos of the destruction that could be unleashed by a single group of hogs in one night. Then he would come and erect a trap, basically a cage covered with natural vegetation to look like a large bush. When a sufficiently large pack of hogs was in the trap, the door closes and he sells the hogs to an abattoir for about $0.40-0.50 per pound live weight. Given that one trap could hold up to 20 hogs, this is pretty good money… Enough to allow the guy to come hunting in Africa every year!

Our 1 hr flight to Kimberley was on a Bombardier Q400 prop plane:

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Despite the short flight they still served us South African beer, which was good.

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After landing in Kimberley, we met our PH Ettiene Coetzee. He was easy to find as the Kimberley Airport is approximately the size of the Sioux City, Iowa airport. After picking us up, we drove about 30 min to the ranch, making a quick detour through Kimberley. The less said about Kimberley proper, the better.

After arriving on the ranch, we met Marita, the daughter of the founder of the ranch, Wiets Botes. She would be our kind and helpful hostess for the week. After unpacking our luggage, Ettiene and I went to the 100-yard bench to make sure the rifle was still zeroed:

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It was, so we returned back to the house for a nice dinner.

Then we settled around a nice fire pit, which took the edge off a cold South African winter. In the distance, we could hear their White Lions.

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Since we had a 5:30am wake up call and were jetlagged, we got to bed pretty early.

TheNouveauJäger

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Posted in: Hunting