Kalahari Safari

Making Your Dreams Come True

Just hearing the word Safari conjures visions of deepest, darkest Africa in all her splendor. A magical continent hosting a mind-boggling array of animals we’ve never seen before, all in their natural state. We think of hefty bolt-action rifles and double guns with cigar-sized cartridges stuffed into wide leather culling belts. Yes, the word Safari has a special, mysterious meaning.

Now — Or Never?

After booking your Safari and you’re in-country, the best description I’ve seen, and exactly how I felt, is from the 1996 movie The Ghost and the Darkness starring Val Kilmer.

Kilmer portrays British Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson who is sent to oversee a bridge project over the Tsavo river. The scene involves Kilmer entering Africa by train while sitting on a bench mounted on the cow catcher at the front of the train.

He watches in wonderment at each species of animal he passes and gives a short rendition of each critter from the reading and familiarizing he did before the trip, learning everything he could about the captivating wildlife Africa has to offer.

His sense of amazement, wonder, respect and awe is beautifully captured in the scene. I promise you, this is the feeling you’ll have when you start seeing Africa for what it really has to offer. It’s exactly how I felt on my first ride in the “bucky” during my first morning hunt.

Yes, there certainly are lions in the Kalahari Desert.

Dreams Come True

While always dreaming of going on a faraway Safari, I never really thought it would happen. But the planets aligned themselves and at the age of 56, I was booking a flight to Botswana. GUNS Field Editor John Sheehan is a PH (professional hunter) for an outfit called Kudu Safaris in the heart of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana.

International hunting was closed for five years due to Government restrictions, but in 2019 hunting reopened due to a new political regime. This is a good thing, as it allows foreign hunters to spend dollars which in turn goes to helping the Government pay for more game wardens, animal research and habitat. It’s good all-around for everyone, including the animals involved. If not for hunting, the game ranches would cease to exist, replaced by sheep and cattle.

I booked my hunt with Kudu-Safaris and cannot say enough great things about this outfit. Richard and Carol Pascall are wonderful hosts and run an excellent camp. Accommodations are first-class, clean, comfortable and cozy. Hot showers, great food consisting of game we took, along with daily laundry are part of Kudu-Safaris’ offerings.

Tank with his Kudu bull.

Flyway Byway

One of my biggest obstacles, and a common one, is the long flights involved getting to Africa. I have no fear of flying, I was simply worried about squeezing my large frame into an economy class seat for an 8-hour flight to London and another 11-hour flight to Gaborone, Botswana.

The bottom line? It was a very enjoyable experience. International flights use planes with slightly larger seats, with more leg room than domestic flights. The flights are usually scheduled at night so you try and grab a few winks. A few cocktails, as well as a nice meal, does wonders. I was soon relaxed, sleepy and comfortable.

Besides — you’re going to Africa! You’ll be dreaming of all the wild and exotic animals you’ll be seeing. After my wonderful experience, I’d hang onto the outside wing of the plane to get back to the continent again. It’s so terrific. Honest.

Giraffes are here! How cool to see them in the wild?

Finally, Magical Africa

Driving down the long lane consisting of compacted sand to our base camp, my senses were in overdrive. Seeing herds of wildebeest, impala and springbok confirms I’m actually in … Africa! The Kalahari Desert is just as it was the day Earth was born. The landscape is made of mostly acacia bush and trees.

Everything in Africa is tougher! It needs to, to survive the toughest conditions imaginable. Long-standing dead Acacia and camel thorn stand like spooky Halloween trees, a testament to their strength and durability. Even dead, they breathe their last life-breath into wonderful evening fires. Horns of red hartebeest, wildebeest, kudu and impala litter the desert floor in testament to the tough conditions showing death equals survival for the living.

Africa demonstrates the food chain there is more apparent than anywhere else in the world. Animals eat each other to survive. This makes them more hyper-vigilant of their surroundings and an intense sense of survival-mode kicks in when they’re injured. African game is tough because it needs to be tough to survive. I have much respect and admiration for the beauty and tenacity African game exemplifies.

The Toyota Land Cruiser, or “bucky” as it’s called. From here nature’s most beautiful sights will be seen.

My Hunt

Hunting consists of riding on top of a padded bench-seat in the “bucky,” a Toyota Land Cruiser — famous for durability and guts in the African outback. After a day of driving up and down the dunes, you’ll understand the name. It adds to the experience, as you never know what lies beyond the next dune. You may go over four or five dunes and see nothing, but on your sixth as you peek over the crest, there may be hundreds of wildebeest — or gemsbok — or springbok. It’s simply astonishing.

Your impala hunt can quickly turn into a red hartebeest stalk, or just as quickly become a waterbuck hunt. You just never know what will happen around the next turn or as you pop over the next sand dune. I know I saw more game animals on my first day of hunting than I’ve seen my whole life of hunting in the states. Just as all hunters are animal lovers, you’ll love just watching these splendid creatures.

PH Sheehan is knowledgeable, funny, entertaining and just plain fun to be around. He will get you on the game animal you want, making sure it’s of trophy class, one you will be very happy with.

I chose not to travel with guns and used the camp gun, a Sako .308 bolt-action with integral suppressor. It has a Leupold 3X9 scope on it and we shot Hornady 180-gr. round-nosed bullets in handloaded ammunition. It performed splendidly on everything from a 1,400-lb. Eland bull to an 80-lb. springbok.

Native tracker Barrond stumbled onto a pangolin during the hunt. A rather shy and
scarce critter, the scales are made of keratin. It was released after the photo was taken.

The Day Is Done

African sunsets are a thing of beauty to be admired and enjoyed. It’s nature’s way of telling us another great day has ended and tomorrow brings new adventure. Of course, having a “sun-downer” consisting of your favorite beverage, while sitting around a cozy campfire reflecting on your day’s experiences, is the perfect way to unwind and relax.

Ruark said of the campfire, “This is the real Africa,” meaning the time you take to reflect and enjoy what you have just experienced, to dream of tomorrow. Africa is full of excitement and heartbreak and you simply never know what the future will bring.

A favorite activity while enjoying our “sundowner” was watching the waterhole approximately 150 meters from our firepit. Baily, the camp wonder dog of vizsla decent, would start barking as we watched shadows morph into animals seeking water. A splendid way to end the day, indeed.

Memories Last Forever

Since returning from Africa, I’ve replayed hundreds of memories from my trip. Better than any book, or movie, our own personal memories are the best show on earth. I have no regrets from going on my Safari. My biggest regret would have been to never make the effort to go in the first place.

Step out of your comfort zone for the magnificent experience of a lifetime! If you don’t make the effort, nothing’s ever going to change. Legend has it if you see the Southern Cross asterism in the African sky, you will return. I made sure I saw it every night as I retired to my room.

John Sheehan, Ph: (702) 637-9836 [email protected]

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