As a scribe I am useless. Fortunately my Safari Partner, Doug is a talented scribe and put together the first part of this daily Blog of our Safari Trip. Doug left before the trip was over so I pieced together the rest of the blog. This Blog is in Accordion Style. Click on the Title and the detail will open up along with a few pictures and an Interactive Google Map of the area we were in on that day.

Africa Safari, Day 1, Doug's Journey - July 11/12, 2007

The beginning of the 2007 Safari adventure started at 5:00 am on Thursday when he got up and started the final packing. He found the electric tips for the Radio Shack Juicer so he could power most of Bob’s things. He took Willie to the Kennel at 8:00 am. He thought they wondered at the Kennel why he ever had a dog. Marsha decided to leave for Hampton, SC directly after dropping him off at the airport but he was not aware of this schedule. When it was time for him to leave, they were not ready. So leaving was tense and a most unhappy experience. It was a great way to start on the grand vacation.

There were some issues checking in but he had a first class seat to Atlanta. He went to the Delta Crown Room in Terminal E and set up shop for three hours. Doug raided the ATM for all the cash he thought he could get. Altogether he had 1750 US$ to carry with him. He also paid some bills by internet banking so everything would be covered while he was gone. Marsha and Katie in the meantime were making great time to Hampton. They are still mad at him for the departure issues.

The flight boarded and Doug had an aisle seat on the two seat side. A young girl of 15 or so was in the window seat. He thought she was Italian because her mother came by periodically to talk to her. The flight was about 5000 miles to Dakar, Senegal. That’s correct – Dakar, Senegal. Doug did not know the flight was not direct to Johannesburg until he saw he had three boarding passes in Memphis. Doug read most of the time. The book was “Clive Cussler’s The Navigator”.

We arrived in Senegal at 4:15 am: We were not allowed off the plane - we did not even see a building. The girl next to me left the window down both on landing and take off at 5:25 A.M. They came on the plane and checked passports and the carryon bags for the proper owners. They then smogged the cabin with pesticide – yuk! We took off and only 20 people had gotten off and maybe 10 got back on in the transaction. It was another 4,000 miles and 8 hours and 15 minutes to get to Joberg. We arrived a little late but OK (about 4:00 P.M). The South African kick boxing team in their green suit suits was happy to get home.

Doug got his bag then stood for 40 minutes trying to get 300 dollars changed to 6.7 rand per dollar (South African currency). Then he caught a taxi to the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Joberg. Doug could not use his cell phone so after one false stop and after being told that Bob did not exist in the hotel registry, the front desk clerk called Bob’s cell phone and we found that Bob was in room 1023. The room was registered under the Doug’s last name. We ate dinner at a name brand steakhouse in the mall which is a shopping area similar to rodeo drive in Beverly Hills. We retired early since we both seemed a little jet lagged from the trip. Neither of us were yet relaxed so we was hoping for something better tomorrow.

Dakar, Senegal Airport

Africa Safari, Day 1, Bob's Journey - July 12/13, 2007

Bob had a long day of travel ahead of him.... He started his day in Shanghai Airport with a flight that left at just after Midnight bound for Singapore’s Changi airport. He arrived in Singapore at about 6:00am and needless to say there wasn’t much going on at the airport at that time of the morning. He managed to get into the lounge and grab some coffee and snacks to await his 9:50am flight to Johannesburg. The flights were uneventful (the best kind) and he landed in Joberg a few hours before Doug did. Bob left the airport and took a Taxi to the downtown Intercontinental hotel. He was listening to the radio station the taxi driver had on and every commercial break there would be an ad for Carjacking alarms and/or High Voltage fencing for the house perimeter.... Not the best first impression, especially when every residence we passed had high voltage barbed wire around it.

Unfortunately there are 2 Intercontinental Hotels downtown and his taxi driver finally ended up at the right one after some looking at my reservation and a phone call. He headed for the room and awaited Doug’s arrival (catching a little rest). Doug finally made it (after searching for Bob for a while) and we went to have Dinner at the mall next to the Hotel. It was nice and we had a good dinner. We hit the hay right after that though as we were beat from the travel....

Johannesburg Airport

Africa Safari, Day 2, Hermanus South Africa - July 14, 2007

July 14th…. We got up early and went to breakfast. It was good with an omelet and chicory coffee. We headed for the airport a little early since Bob had to pick up the housing for the underwater video camera that was stored at the airport. We boarded for the 11:15am flight and Doug fell asleep as normal. We arrived and got our luggage without incident.

Doug reserved a car in advance from Avis. We ended up with a Mercedes 180 instead of a Passat VW for some reason. At the last minute Doug (based on a suggested from Bob) got a Garmin GPS (Helga…Hilda’s sister) system to direct our sail. It was a good idea for sure. Since it is right hand drive Doug had to concentrate more. There were a lot of shanty towns near the airport.

We drove to the Pebble Beach B&B in Hermanus. We sat around the fire for awhile then went to dinner at the “Mediterranean” where Doug had Springbok Souvlaki and Bob had Tuna. We smoked cigars and told stories on the back deck overlooking a half finished golf course.
We watched “Bad Santa” with Billy Bob Thornton and Lauren Graham before falling asleep. Bob had never seen it.

Pebble Beach B&B, Hermanus

Africa Safari, Day 3, White Shark Diving - July 15, 2007

We had set the clocks for 6:00am wake up but Bob’s clock went off at 5:00am and he popped up like a “Jack in the Box”. After about 25 minutes we realized that his clock was off an hour. But we were ready! We took a box breakfast and ventured off on the left (wrong) side of the road towards Hermanus. We left at 6:50am for the White Shark Diving Company.

Helga (Hilda’s GPS sister) got us as far as the town itself and then 4 stop lights later we turned right. We arrived as the first guests at 7:30am. We introduced ourselves and had some coffee.

Bob’s new deep sea case for the camera was deemed to be too large for a regular visit but they suggested that after the rest of the group was done, he could give it a try. We paid the bill, got an introduction to shark diving and the cage, and then the 12 of us walked down
to the boat.

The boat had an observation deck and a forward cabin. The cage was on the back. We rode for about 20 minutes and the sea was rough with 3 meter swells. Bob was taking video from on the top deck. The first group put on their wet suits (5). Doug put on his wet suit and it was cold. Doug said that if you don’t have and worries about getting dressed in mixed company then this is for you. On the other hand………

Doug was going up the ladder to take pictures when Skipper said “you are next”. The viewing was excellent so he was anxious to get us all through the cage for at least one sighting. Doug put on a hood and pulled on the goggles. The skipper put a weight belt on Doug and he sat on the edge and dropped in the cage. Bob says the water was 18 degrees Celsius and it took Doug’s breath away immediately. A shark came by and the skipper yelled down left, down right, down deep. So Doug was gasping for air from the cold and sank down until his head was 6 inches under. But he could only hold his breath for 10 seconds at most. He saw a 2 to 2.5 meter shark. It took a good 10 minutes before he could hold his breath but he did see lots of sharks.

As the man on the far right hand side got out of the cage, everyone else moved one position to the right allowing for one new person to get in the cage on the far left. Doug’s dive belt kept slipping off over his hips and he was constantly pulling it up with one hand. He got out of the cage when it was his turn and Bob got in. When the next slot opened up, Doug was going up the ladder to the top deck. However, no one wanted to get back in so Doug jumped in the slot next to Bob. Bob was struggling with the balaclava as it was too tight around his neck and he was having trouble breathing. He was also a little queasy because of the rolling boat and the smell of the diesel fumes. So Bob got out. I spent about 30 more minutes in the water and in the end there was just Doug and another woman in the cage. No one was getting in and the sightings had slowed dramatically. So they both got out.

Apparently there were a lot of people with stomach issues due to the 2-3 meter swells and Diesel fumes. They were laying down at the front of the boat. We changed clothes again as no one else wanted to get in the cage again. Doug put his wet underwear in his hat and went commando for the rest of the day. We all felt goofy going back to the dock as the diesel fumes were really bad. We went back to the bay and up to the lodge where we had bread and butter as well as some bean soup. We watched the video from the shark diving contracted video crew.

Bob’s video camera was a real professional model whereas the video crew had one that looked like it came from Best Buy! We bought copy of the tape as Bob planed to spice it into his own video.

The shark dive including the Pebble Beach lodge was about 3040 SAR. We went back to town and ate under an umbrella on the patio of a restaurant. Doug had bean soup and a spargeln (white asparagus) crepe. Then we went back to the Pebble Beach B&B to shower and packed up the luggage. We drove along the coast highway to Cape Town rather than riding the freeway. Bob was still a little green. The coast line was beautiful and we took a lot of pictures including some of baboons along the side of the road. We made it to the Radisson on the waterfront in Cape Town and took some really spectacular pictures of the sunset. We decided to just eat downstairs so we had French onion soup, shrimp / chicken curry, ostrich and a bottle of Pinotage. Then we watched the iPod story on TV and went to bed.

White Shark Diving Company

Africa Safari, Day 4, Cape Town - July 16, 2007

We had a great breakfast on the sunny deck overlooking the ocean. This is a really tough life. Now Bob and Doug are calming down some. We took the hotel shuttle to the shopping area at the water front. Bob bought a stun gun and Doug looked at Tanzonite for Marsha but the prices were worse than for diamonds. For example, a simple 2+ carrot ring was 4000 US$. At a souvenir shop we both bought ostrich eggs that had been painted with the Big 5 Game Animals and a map of Africa. Doug also got a leopard dress for Marsha and a t-shirt for Kate. We also toured a bunch of other shops as it was a really beautiful setting.

Doug bought another T-shirt for Katie at the Sea Rescue booth. The Doug finally found a silver necklace and a bracelet for Marsha (His work was done). Bob bought a silver porcupine that holds toothpicks as it’s tail.

We had some ice coffee and walked around a bunch more before walking back to the hotel to deposit our packages. Our car was still parked in the circle in front of the hotel. It was all roped off because they were painting the front of the building. We just left it where it was. We listened to the Africa Music CD that Bob bought.

Dinner was at the waterfront again at Hildebrand’s which was Italian. Doug had a penne pasta and Bob had alfredo. We had a Muscat wine for desert. We then finished with a cigar on the deck and told manly man stories. Doug did not propose making waffles in the morning.

Radisson Hotel, Cape Town

Africa Safari, Day 5, Flying to Zimbabwe - July 17, 2007

Doug got up at 4:00am and took a shower. Bob got up at 4:15am. It is going to be a long day of traveling. We dressed and headed downstairs to check out. Doug tried to use his credit card but it did not work. He tried another one and it did not work either. Both had enough space for the hotel transaction but he could not make his work either. Some local guy to South Africa was able to check out and so we came to the conclusion that the communication lines to the USA were somehow disabled. The hotel said they would process the bill when the communication lines came back up. The bill was 4288 rand at the Radisson for the two nights.

We drank coffee and ate some scones on the way to the airport. Doug tried to drive properly and somehow get out of driving “British Style” unscathed. We did not gas up the car even though it was only half full. As luck would have it, the computers at Avis were down as well,
so Doug left the keys and the GPS and left without a receipt. We got in the Premier line at the South Africa airlines ticket counter since Bob is a Star Alliance Gold member in good standing. We were able to check our bags the whole way through to Harare. Bob’s diving box was 34 kg and he needed to get it down to 32 kg to check for free so he moved some things to Doug’s bag. Included was a souvenir wine bottle cork screw which was promptly confiscated at the X-Ray machine.

We drank a cup of Nescafe Gold at the Business Class lounge then headed for the flight to Johannesburg. We were in the very last row of the plane. Our flight was late arriving into Joberg. We zoomed with the luggage carts from the domestic terminal back to the International terminal. The guy at the X-Ray machine made Doug wait until he could hand check his carryon bag. He found nothing but you cannot believe the people that had water, big tubes of gel, liquids, hairspray and they all look so surprised when told they have to leave it. These people must live in a cave most of the time.

Doug called Marsha from the immigration line even though we could not use phones there. This was his last chance to call her and we were going to have to run for the plane. Bob was way ahead of Doug in his line but all of a sudden, the agent disappeared for 10 minutes and
left them all hanging. Doug went to the VAT recovery and got that done and hit the currency exchange to get my money. Bob had 200 rand to turn in and Doug had 150 besides the 246 rand from the VAT recovery. Doug got 70 US$ while the flight was boarding. We caught the last bus for the plane but it was not full and there was a lot of overhead bin space.

Bob sat in first class while Doug sat in coach. Doug said it was OK as Bob was the “Leopard Hunter”. We arrived in Harare and headed for immigration. The new terminal is a lot more modern than the last trip we made here. Doug saw a man holding up a sign that said “Neves / Sober”. He helped us through immigration and the payment of the 30 US$ fee. It turned out that he was also the charter pilot. We got our bags and went through the customs line. We had to list everything that we were bringing in that we planned to take out. Bob had a lot of electrical gear as well as the camera tank. They looked at both of the ostrich eggs.

We found Sarah and gave her Bob’s underwater video case to keep in storage. No need to carry it on the plane to the camp. She seemed taller and her hair was more brown this time compared to 10 years ago. We each paid 10 dollars (Bob paid all) and headed for our bush plane. We were told not to take any pictures of the airport but Bob did anyway. We got in the single engine plane, loaded all of the stuff and headed north. We took off about 1:30pm. Doug was in the co-pilot seat and could hear the conversation with the people in the tower. The area below looked very dry and a lot of the swimming pools had no water in them. It did not look very prosperous.

We landed at a dirt airstrip next to the Zambezi River about 75 minutes later. A baboon ran across the runway as it was apparently the landing coordinator. Andy Hunter (no pun intended), our professional hunter (PH), met us and he really did not look much older than 10 years ago. We drove the short distance to the cabins and took our stuff to Cabin #6. We took a motor boat ride up the river to pick up the park service ranger that would be with us for the rest of the weeks. We then sat around the fire and drank beer until dinner was served. Dinner was a venison stew over rice and butternut squash. We headed for bed after dinner but Bob’s breathing apparatus blew up and was not functional. This put a damper on the end of a great day. There was no way to get a replacement and little chance to fix it. After all the time he had been using one, the chances of getting any normal and restful sleep was nil. He took a big sleeping pill and went to bed but Doug could tell he was not having a good night.

Camp Airstrip, Chewore Zimbabwe

Africa Safari, Day 6, Chewore Zimbabwe - July 18, 2007

We got up at 6:00am since we were having pretty much a preparation day. The objective was to sight in the rifle and to then find some leopard bait. We had some eggs and bacon for breakfast – something we would see a lot the rest of our days in camp. Bob went to the sight bench and set up a target at 80 yards. We were going to use Andy’s 30-06 rifle with 165 grain bullets. Bob took 5 shots and Doug did 2. We then went off at 7:45am in the Toyota Land Cruiser to look for some bait. At 8:15am they spotted an impala and Bob knocked it down with a single shot at 100 yards.

We took the impala to a spot where we hung in it a tree where there were some leopard tracks. The body was hung in the tree using wire and it was high enough that the hyenas and lions could not jump up and get it. Also tree branches were tied over the top so that the vultures and buzzards could not see it from the air. The bait was hung out far enough on the branch so the angle would be correct from the blind. The entrails were drug for a hundred yards in both directions and feces was flung on the trunk of the tree. If stink will bring a leopard, then this tree will have 10 over the course of the first night.

Andy stopped the truck and went to look over a cliff. He immediately dropped down and signaled to us that there was some sort of game below. Bob could not stand up to shoot initially but he and Andy worked their way around to a spot where Bob could use the sticks. Bob made a shot and although Doug could not see the klipspringer at all, it was hit and hiding in a large bush. Doug took a lot of video from the top of the cliff. Bob and Andy worked their way down to the bottom and Doug heard a second and third shot. The Klipspringer was a great trophy as the horns were 5 1/2“ long which is in the top 20% of all the recorded kills. Bob has now 2 of the “little five” with the klipspringer and the steenbok (from 10 years ago).

At 12:15pm we stopped by a small lake with a very large bird nest for lunch. We had kudu sausage and some lunch meat sandwiches as well as some salad. We took the game back to the camp and to the skinning shed. We went back out and Bob shot another impala not far from camp. This time he took two shots but based on how the game was standing, the first rump shot did not make any sense. We saw some elephants on the side of the hill and Bob took pictures with the big lens. We also saw kudu, more elephants, zebra and impala.

Back at camp Bob hacked into the breathing apparatus box and found a blown fuse on the circuit board. It was not a pretty nor neat job given the tools at his disposal. He jumpered the fuse and had it running for a short while but a second internal fuse also blew. He figured out what was going on and then jumpered across both the blown fuses. Before dinner he borrowed a soldering iron and made a permanent fix. He put the box back together with gaffers tape and breathing was again restored. Dinner was bush pig ribeyes and T-bones with an accompaniment of cauliflower and potatoes. We were in bed by 9:15pm.

Klipspringer Trophy Spot

Africa Safari, Day 7, First Leopard Blind - July 19, 2007

We were up at 5:00am after a good night of breathing and had breakfast at 5:30am. We left the camp at 6:05am. We stopped and built a blind for a leopard shot. The blind itself was made from tall grass on three sides. There were three peep holes put in for Andy, Bob and the camera to look through. The front was covered with some green branches. All of the sticks and leaves were taken out of the blind. The guys cleared a path the whole way out to the road and took down the branches over the path so that no noise would be made on our journey to the blind. They hung toilet paper in several tree branches for markers because we would be going in while it was dark. This blind is about 120 yards and downhill to the tree branch.

We had lunch at the camp and then took a nap until 2:30pm. We were off by 3:30pm, after a cup of coffee and in the blind at 4:00pm. The flies were bad and Doug’s right eye started to water either from a fly in it or from some rubbed in Bullfrog bug spray. So he sat with his right eye closed most of the time. Doug read a book on Herbs and Flowers of Botswana which was better reading than it sounds. At 6:05pm a cat appeared and went up the tree to nibble on the bait. It was able to work the bait from a fork in the tree so that it was difficult to get much of a look at it. Andy could not tell whether it was a male or female. When it was totally dark (we could shoot until 30 minutes after the sun went down) we took the 75 minute ride back to camp for dinner.

The owner of the camp had come in with his 4 million dollar helicopter. We had a tenderloin of something, mashed potatoes, carrots and beans.

First Leopard Blind

Africa Safari, Day 8, Grysbok - July 20, 2007

We got up at 4:00am and had breakfast at 4:20am. We were off in the Toyota Land Cruiser, a 4.6 liter diesel to the blind. We arrived about 5:45am and the cat arrived about 6:15am. The cub played like a kitten over the branch. As it was we could only see the head and the tail of the cub. We broke the blind watch at about 7:30am and headed back to the truck. We drove around a lot and eventually up a steep ”dangerous” trail, very rough with rocks, to the top of the mountain range. We stopped to have lunch consisting of roast beef sandwiches and cookies. We put some tomato based sauce on the meat to put a little moisture in it.

Bob was having some stomach issues but persevered today. We jumped off the truck to get a nice shot at a zebra but by the time Doug found it in the scope’s field of view, it had run off with two other stallions. We gave chase but eventually they crested a hill and we gave up. It would have been a good shot but Doug stated he just “messed it up”.

Back on the road for a short time when we came to a screeching halt. The guide was pointing and said “greysbok”. Bob got out and in the less than 10 seconds from a free hand rest, finished the job. The bullet entered in the chest and went the length of the animal eventually coming out its’ arse. It was a trophy size, measuring 5.5 inches and is another part of the little 5 trophy animals of Africa. Bob needs 2 more to have all 5.

Andy checked a couple more baits then stopped near the blind and we cleaned the grysbok while the flies attacked us. We finally went to the blind where the flies attacked us even more. No leopard this night so we finally left about 6:15pm.

Bob was still feeling sick and took more Immodium to stay away from the Commodium and more Cipro (stomach anti-bacterial). Dinner was late so Bob went to bed with no dinner. Doug ate dinner and went to bed later but in the middle of the night, he felt a little wet and jumped through the mosquito netting to get to the bathroom. Doug was afflicted as well. He fell asleep without any further incident although he could not find his Immodium collection.

Grysbok Trophy Location

Africa Safari, Day 9, Zebra Trophy Spot - July 21, 2007

Andy woke us up at 4:00am. That was the good part. Doug immediately hit the bathroom and as it neared time to go to the bush, it got worse. We went to breakfast but all Doug had was some dry toast and tea. Bob gave Doug two Immodiums from his stash. As we headed for the truck, Doug had another “episode” so he sent them off by themselves. The camp manager gave Doug 3 Cipro 500 mg tablets and said to take one each morning. Doug then went back to bed and slept until 7:15am. Bob and Andy came back at 8:15 and said they had had no luck at the blind that morning. Bob said he had missed an impala at 100 yards so no bait either.

Bob decided to rest and Doug decided to go with Andy downstream to check for more bait. They found some impala on the river bank so we beached the boat and headed up a hill. As they crested the hill all of the impala had run off except one. Doug had a chance to catch his breath and prepare for a good shot. He hit it behind the front leg with the 30-06 and we had some bait. The guys just threw it into the boat.

They set up another bait in a tree by the river. Andy had been watching this site for a long time but had never built a blind there. He thought this might be a perfect spot for Bob. The park ranger and one of our guys were dragging some entrails for scent when the came across a lion. They came back in a hurry. By the time Doug and Andy finished and took the boat upriver, the lions were gone. They saw an elephant, a male kudu and some hippos on the way back.

Andy went out in the truck to check bait while we packed up our things. We had to move to another cabin because the owner of the camp was flying in on his helicopter again but this time with his daughter and some of her friends and he wanted our cabin. He looked like mafia anyway so we gladly traded our accommodations.

We had some really great macaroni and cheese for lunch. This seemed to go down fine and stayed there fine for both of us. Then we took a nap until Andy came back. We left again about 2:30pm and we found 5 zebra from the truck. We stalked them for about 15 minutes and we came up upon them from an anthill. Doug’s first shot was not as clean as he would have liked, but the zebra was dispatched eventually. We took pictures and then used the winch to pull the animal up into the bed of the truck. We raced back to the camp to drop off the zebra and then to get back to the blind in time. No leopard came tonight either and we left at 6:15pm. Dinner was early tonight. Bob put the pictures to date on Doug’s laptop. Bob was still working on the pictures when the generator went off. To put the pictures on Doug’s laptop, Bob transferred them from his camera to his iPod and then to the laptop. Since the pictures were in maximum resolution, they took up a lot of space.

Zebra Trophy Spot

Africa Safari, Day 10, Checking Bait - July 22, 2007

Again we were up at the now standard 4:00am time. We had the normal eggs, toast, bacon (from some venison – bush pig maybe?). Doug is now drinking only tea. Bob says grapefruit juice affects Lipitor as well. He takes his Lipitor in the morning while Doug take his at night. Doug said he needed to ask his daughter Carrie what the pharmacist recommends.

Note to self: There is no record of us seeing any leopards this morning.

We came back to camp and took the boat down the river to the bait along the bank. We saw many hippos along the way including a very large bull. We saw crocks slithering off the bank and silently into the water like in Tarzan. We also saw kudu and bush pig. After pizza for lunch (with crumbled venison sausage / ham) and a short nap, we drove to some new areas to put up bait. We saw a male lion (a young one about 3 years old) along the side of one road. He had some beard but not much hair on top. We stopped and took a lot of pictures but none were very good because of the tall grass.

An elephant passed across the road in front of us. Finally a great big bull kudu was near the road. Bob only had an arse shot and wisely decided not to try it. It was getting too dark to track further so the area was noted as a place to come back to later. We smoked a cigar and sipped some Grand Marnier around the camp fire. We had fish for dinner. We did not go to any of the blinds tonight nor did we plan to go in the morning. Andy looked tired and a little stressed.

Hwange Base Camp

Africa Safari, Day 11, More Checking Bait - July 23, 2007

Today was bait, bait and more bait. We got up at 6:00am and went out checking bait all day long. We saw a lot of elephants when we went up the river. This was really funny because one German hunter and his son in camp were hunting for elephants and had not seen any all week. We were not hunting for elephants but could have shot a lot of them. You can shoot a tusk-less (female) elephant as well.

Bob chased bush bucks up and down the hills next to the river and came back exhausted. While this was going on, Doug was eating lunch in the boat. He had his feet up and was feasting on hard boiled eggs, wrapped in spam that were deep fried. Yum yum !!!!! We had lunch on the Zambezi River. That is not something you say everyday.

Five girlfriends of the owner daughter, showed up and what ‘princesses” they were. They sure know everything about everything for being in high school. Doug called Marsha from a satellite phone just to say that he was OK. She said the varsity lacrosse coach had called to make sure Katie was coming out for the team. They said they would try to work around Katie’s schedule but they always say that until the time comes to miss a practice.

Marsha was unaware of the civil unrest in Zimbabwe, the rolling blackouts of the Harare and the bare shelves at the grocery store……….until Doug told her – bad mistake. From then on she was all over the internet and Doug’s name was “mud”.

Africa Safari, Day 12, Female Leopard in Tree - July 24, 2007

Andy left on his own by boat to check the bait in the gorge. We had breakfast at 7:00am when Andy got back. No activity at the gorge bait. We heard a series of shots and we surmised that this was the German elephant hunter. A call came into the camp for the “elephant recovery team” to go out confirming our suspicions.

Bob set up the tripod with the camera and we drove the Rover by it in both directions for some film. We checked bait and went on a number of impala hunts. We built a new blind over looking a tree across from a dry creek. We replaced what was an amateurish blind with the Andy “cadillac” version. That night we set up in the blind at 5:30pm. It was a very long hike into the blind. The flies were not as bad. We saw a female leopard tearing pieces of meet off of what was the zebra Doug had shot. She would then go down the back of the tree to feed a cub. When we left we had about 20 minutes of great video tape and some photos with the long lens.

The walk out was a bit longer as they parked a good distance away. Doug gave all of the people a 20 US$ bill as a tip for the help they provided that week. The group, including the park ranger were really good to us all week. We ate dinner and then Doug packed up to go home in the morning. Doug’s bush pilot was already in camp.

Leopard Blind Location

Africa Safari, Day 13, Doug Leaving - July 25, 2007

On the last morning for Doug, we got up at 4:00am again. The standard toast, eggs and Canadian bacon this time. Doug is still only drinking tea. We left at 4:30am for the blind. We saw a female leopard and a porcupine driving in. Walking to the blind in the total dark, the sole of Doug’s shoe came off at the heel. Doug was flopping along and he knew he would probably be shot by Andy for making too much noise. When we got to the trail, Doug took off both of his boots. Andy even took off his socks. Somehow we made it to the blind in the dark without stepping on a thorn. We were treated to two female leopards and 2 cubs. We got up to leave and another leopard came to the tree. We sat back down but it was again a female. This time we had some great film but in addition we got some pictures with the camera and the big lens.

Doug took a shower and put on his traveling clothes. There was a small delay and some angina looking for Doug’s plane ticket. But it was found.... eventually. Doug gave the camp directors $100US for their efforts. Doug bid farewell to Andy and Bob and the crew. They went out to look at bait and perhaps shoot some more. Doug and the pilot Nick at by the fire for a while and then they loaded up the plane. They flew at 7000 feet in Z-WOG for about 75 minutes. Nick got Doug an early check-in and then helped Doug get through customs. He took Doug the whole way to the gate. Since they were behind security the whole time, they did not have to worry about what might be going on outside the airport.

When Doug boarded, he met a man from Johnson City Tennessee that had shot both a leopard and a cape buffalo with a bow and arrow. He said the bow had a 90 lb. pull and that he was 26 yards from the leopard when he shot it. Yikes. In Johannesburg they walked into the Premier lounge as no one was watching the front desk. Doug sent a message to Marsha about when he would arrive in Atlanta (via Dakar). Finally his phone battery ran out, so he went to the Air France lounge but it was not anything special. He shopped for a birthday present for Jim and Jack. For Jim, he had bought an elephant wallet from Andy for 30 dollars. For Jack, he bought a safari bush vest and a Big 5 shirt. Doug did not take off for a while since the air conditioning on the plane was not working. There were at least 20 people with 3 week beards and safari shirts on.

After Doug left, Andy and Bob headed back out to check bait. Both Andy and Bob were starting to get worried that a shootable male Leopard might not show in the Days they had left together. That evening in the blind produced no Leopard and Bob and Andy made their way back to camp for Dinner and bed.

Africa Safari, Day 14, The Grind of the Hunt - July 26, 2007

With Doug, my scribe, friend and hunting buddy gone I was sad. We had a great time and it wasn’t the same without him there. I really wanted him there when I took my leopard. As if the animals knew this, our day was quiet and relatively uneventful. Our morning in the blind proved uneventful and we started the process of driving around bait checking again. I am writing this account one year later from memory as Doug is the scribe and I, sadly am not....

Andy and I stopped for lunch near a stream and enjoyed meat sandwiches (couldn’t identify the meat). We drove around the entire day checking bait. There was some sign of leopard and we switched blinds for the evening sit, but we were not rewarded with a sighting and I could feel the stress of not getting the leopard building up in both Andy and I.

The hunt was starting to wear on me. The 4:00am starts along with the late 7:00pm finishes had taken this out of shape warrior and made him very tired. I fell into bed exhausted knowing I would have to get ready to start it all over the next day.

Africa Safari, Day 15, Leopard Trophy - July 27, 2007

I woke up on 7/27/07 with a sense of urgency. Not the kind that usually grips you in the morning, but one of “hey I only have a few days left and I haven’t got my Leopard” kind of urgency. I could sense that Andy had it too. We ate our morning meal and spent a cold and fruitless morning in one of the blinds. Andy had been 100% effective on the last six Leopard hunts he had done this year and was wanting to keep his record at that perfect level. Of course, I was rooting for him too....

After the trek back to the Land Rover from the blind, we started off toward the next “most likely” bait spot of the 13 baits we had out. About lunch time, we checked a bait we had set a couple of days earlier near the roadway and found some fresh leopard tracks that appeared to be larger than what we had seen before. Andy decided that we should build a blind there but I think at that point he was pulling at straws.... We (or should I say the hired help) built the blind and by mid afternoon we were off toward another bait site on which we had already built a blind. We got there and found fresh tracks too.... We had now what appeared to be 2 leopards eating bait and had to decide which of the 2 blinds we were going to go to for the evening sit.

Andy got back in the Rover and told me that he wanted to sit at the blind we had put up today. Back we started, but during the trip Andy kept discussing with me that maybe we should go back and try the blind we had just left. We chatted some more and I listed the good and bad points of each spot (like a good engineer). After that Andy was not sure of anything anymore and asked me to make the call. I thought abut it for a while and realized that I was sitting next to the man with the best instincts...... engineering be damned! I asked Andy why he had made the initial decision to start off toward the blind we had set up today and he told me he just “had a feeling”.... That was enough for me and we continued on toward that new blind with a new confidence.

We arrived later than we had wanted to and lugged (quietly of course) the guns and video camera to the blind. I set up the camera on the tripod and started it rolling onto the area in the tree where we had set the bait. As I was sliding the gun into position Andy whispers “Leopard”... My blood started to race and I was wondering if it were another female we were going to see. I put my eye up to the scope, and started to search the tree for the Leopard. Sure enough there it was just coming into view, climbing up to the branch we had baited. It was cautious and neither Andy nor I could tell if it was a male (hangy parts and all). It slowly made it’s way up to the branch and stopped well short of the bait. That’s when I saw through my scope it was a male and whispered “balls” to Andy. At that point the cat looked right at us and I thought “OHHHH NOOOOO..... It’s going to RUN”. Fortunately it didn’t, but Andy’s view of it at that moment didn’t allow him to see the same part of the leopard’s backside as I had. The leopard, after what seemed like an eternity, took another cautious step towards the bait. I know this was a male, but didn’t know if it was mature, so I dutifully waited for Andy to give the word on whether this male was a go or not.

My heart was racing and I was trying to calm myself down as I didn’t want to screw the shot up. With the safety on, I practiced “shooting” the leopard over and over. Finally, Andy identified it and whispered “take the shot Bob”. I immediately released the safety, took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. My mind whispered over and over... “Squeeze, Don’t Pull” as a mantra, and I gently squeezed the trigger. It was a perfect shot and the leopard had expired before it hit the ground (CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO). I was excited, relived and generally spent. We slowly and cautiously headed out of the blind and approached the area where the leopard had dropped. I had picked up my Video camera and was shooting (like a good videographer) but left the rifle in the blind and Andy was a bit annoyed. He had been bitten and almost killed by a leopard this season so he was VERY cautious and wanted 2 guns at the ready instead of just one. We saw that the leopard was dead at the bottom of the tree in a small gully and sent the helpers to bring it up the hill and place it in front of the “Magic” tree.

Andy said that this and most the other trees we had been baiting had been used for years and years for this purpose. You would think the leopards would notice that the Magic tree was producing meat again and avoid it..... Especially since their kin continued to disappear after eating from the “Magic Tree”. I guess the adage about the free lunch is apropos here....

We posed the leopard in front of the tree and proceeded to take pictures and video before the sun fully set. We then loaded the cat into the Rover and headed back to camp where we were met by everyone in an excited rush. After more photos, bragging and congratulations, the leopard headed over to the skinning shed and I went with it as I wanted to grab the bullet out of it. We found the remnants of the bullet lodged against the skin on the other side of the entry wound and saw that it had punctured both lungs and heart. Death was instantaneous and I was thankful. The skinners washed the bullet off and presented it, along with the unattached throat bones (a unique thing to leopards) to me. I wrapped them up as they wound be the only hard evidence I would be taking home as proof of my achievement. The leopard skin still had 18 months to go before it would show up mounted in my living room.

We had dinner and drinks and celebrated the success of the hunt. Needless to say, Andy and I were relieved as well as excited. As I sat by the fire that night I thought of luck..... My last name spelled backwards is “seven” so that has always been a lucky number for me. This cat had a lot of 7’s associated with it... 1) It was the 7th leopard taken that season; 2) It was the 7th leopard we had seen on the trip; 3) It was shot at 17:27; 4) It was shot on 7/27/07. Lucky Seven....

Tree where Leopard Trophy was Taken

Africa Safari, Day 16, Taking Down the Blinds - July 28, 2007

With the Leopard “in the bag” we took a day to wind down. No 4:00am wake up call for me! We had a leisurely breakfast and started the task of undoing what we had done to attract the leopard in the first place. This meant traveling to all the 13 bait sites and pulling down bait and taking down the blinds we had built in order to leave the park as we found it (minus a few animals of course). It was a nice day driving and I spent a good part of the day taking pictures of the areas birds with my camera.

This was also “Video Day”. I had to get additional video shots of the successful hunt day for editing purposes, so we went back to the leopard trophy site prior to tearing down the blind and I set up the video camera on the tripod while we re-enacted the events leading up to “the shot”. Andy was quite annoyed with me by the 4th take and camera position and I could see that I was “done” filming. We finished taking down that last blind and were done with the day. We headed back to camp and enjoyed a nice relaxing meal of some animal that we or another hunter had shot. I went to sleep stress free....

Africa Safari, Day 17, Photo Day - July 29, 2007

Photo Day.... We spent the morning boating down the river toward the fishing camp that was also in the Hwange Game Park. We stopped and floated with the current along the way so I could take photos and videos of the game and birds we saw along. We encountered all sorts of animals and it was a peaceful day shooting the animals with something other than a gun. We fished for a while (and caught nothing). We had a nice quiet lunch back at base camp and I spent the rest of the afternoon photographing the some of the untold varieties of birds that flew by the camp.

Some of the other Hunters hunters had already left camp and so dinner was an intimate affair with mostly professional hunting guides that was thoroughly enjoyable. The German hunters had left and the guides were all telling stories (none too pleasant) about them and their hunting techniques. It made me wonder what they would say about me after I left. We sat around the campfire and enjoyed the pleasant weather and company and then headed off to bed.

Africa Safari, Day 18, Walk down the River Bed - July 30, 2007

Andy hadn’t shot anything in a few days and wanted to take me hunting again. We headed out early and went looking for Kudu. We found 3 males by late morning and I quietly got off the rover to set up for a shot. They were big and definitely trophy size. Andy singled out the largest and came over to give me the “sticks” to rest the gun on. I was feeling a bit cocky after my perfect leopard shot so I waved him off and decided to take the shot free hand and without the “sticks”. Boy was that a mistake.....

I missed the Kudu (over his back) by several inches and we spent the next 2 hours chasing them up and down through the foothills. I was sweaty, tired and empty handed by lunch time and was definitely “done” with hunting for the trip. Andy, shaking his head, readily agreed.....

For the afternoon, Andy suggested that take a walk down a dry riverbed to the Zambezi river where a boat would then pick us up and take us back to base camp. I was happy as that meant “downhill”! I grabbed my cameras and we were off. The riverbed was full of all types of animals looking for water and I got some great photographs and videos of a variety of game and birds. We got to within 50 meters of a large group of elephants when Andy started describing to me what to do if they charged.... Not the way I wanted to end my trip, so I suggested we retreat a bit. I had a long lens...

As we continued the walk, me in the back, I smelled an unusual odor and loudly blamed Andy. He was professing his innocence as we rounded a corner and then stopped dead in his tracks, as we came face to face with a water buffalo not 5 meters in front of us. These are nasty creatures that kill more hunters each year than any other animal. Luckily, it was as startled by our appearance as we were about running into it. It turned around and “high tailed” it out of there. We were all relieved and saw that it was part of a heard that had some shootable males in it. I now understood the smell... Andy got that gleam in his eye when he wanted to shoot something and I said a big “NO” when he asked if I wanted to take home another friend.... I took some photos instead and we moved on down toward the Zambezi.

The boat picked us up right on schedule and we had a nice float back to camp. I took more “shots” on the way of Crocs, Hippos, Birds and Kudu. You can see them in the photos section of the site. We arrived back at camp just in time for Dinner. I was quite worn out from the Kudu chasing and river hiking so fell right to sleep.

Africa Safari, Day 19, Drive Back to Harare - July 31, 2007

The long drive to Harare.... I decided to drive with Andy to his home in Harare rather than fly again on a small plane. It gave me a chance to see the countryside while we drove and chat with Andy without him worrying about the next animal. Unfortunately, this trip was a real disaster for Andy’s tires. We blew 2 tires out on the road and spent a fair bit of time on the side of it changing tires.... Luckily we had 2 spares, but with our luck, Andy decided we had better stop in a town and get at least one of the blown tires re-tubed. We arrived in Harare in the late afternoon and I asked Andy if he would take me somewhere to buy some legitimate Ivory. He took me to a shop where I purchased a few items (with Cities permits) to bring back home with me.

We went out with Sarah and their kids to a Chinese restaurant in Harare that evening for dinner. The food was good and when the bill came it was more than 2 million Zim dollars ($40US).... After dinner we went back to Andy and Sarah’s beautiful house in Harare and tucked in for a good night’s rest.

Africa Safari, Day 20, The Journey Home - August 1, 2007

It’s time to go home.... Needless to say I was sad that the trip was over but felt great that I had gotten my leopard. We got up early and had a quick breakfast before heading out. Andy grabbed his 9mm and tucked it under his car seat with a smile. It was near sunrise and he didn’t stop for any red lights in order to avoid potential trouble. Don’t know if I could live like that.... He dropped me off at the airport... That is, me and ALL my luggage (including my 33kg video housing). I got checked in and took my assigned seat to Johannesburg. From there it was onto Singapore and then to Shanghai. I sat waiting for my Video Housing to show up at baggage claim in Shanghai and it never did. I finally filled out the claim form and left the customs area with the rest of my gear.

I made the 3.5 hour trip home and the next day got a call from the airlines saying that my housing had arrived, but customs had snagged it. They informed me that I had to drive (the 3.5 hours each way) back to Shanghai Airport to clear it all up. A day and lots of fast talking later I had my video housing back at home.....

It was a vacation to remember......

Harare Airport