It was late April 2017 when Mark told me we were booked to go on our first African Safari…in July. Most likely a tactical manoeuvre on his part so as not to give time for the panic to set in. Don’t get me wrong we have some hunting experience in the UK and regularly go deer stalking and attend some game drives, but Africa!
We spent 2 months gathering appropriate clothing, gadgets, toys and knives all necessary to give any animal a good grolicking in the African bush and essential to our survival!
We arrived at the Bulawayo airport excited and eager to get to the lodge. I for one was terrified….of everything. I was sure I would be eaten by Lions, or a snake would leap out of a tree or maybe the car would be squashed by elephants, but the journey to Rosslyn Safari was uneventful except for a kamikaze chameleon.
On arrival at the camp we were warmly greeted by Juliet the owner and her partner Sean who showed us our tent. I call it a tent because its canvas but its really glamping with en-suite facilities, real shower and toilet, heated blankets on a king size bed.
We quickly change and reconvene in the dining area as Sean says we can drive around the farm before dinner and get some target practice before tomorrow’s game hunt.
Rifles zero’d off we go in to the bush on top of the 4X4 and as the sun set we saw Zebra (I didn’t!) some giraffe, plenty of impala, enormous Kudu and the most beautiful sable. It really was the most beautiful scenery.
We head back to the lodge, shower and change for dinner and head to the outside deck to sit in front of the fire and have drinks, this would become the ritual for the week. The deck overlooks a vast area and an array of animals come to the watering hole whilst we sit and relax enjoying the scenery. Fortunately for us Juliet’s father Peter was waiting for us and what a pleasure to meet him. He built Rosslyn safari’s and has spent a lifetime hunting throughout the world. All the trophies hanging in the dining area have been shot by him and he can spend hour after hour recalling stories of his expeditions which will have you roaring with laughter.
Dinner was also an event, the chefs (Charles and Charles) create something magical with an impala. The atmosphere is lovely as the whole family sit and eat with us. After dinner its back to the deck for some more relaxation!
We awoke the next morning very excited to head out on our first day hunting in Africa. I was pleased as punch with Sean as our PH, but I am sure to this day he still has some residual tinnitus! He told me in good spirits he’d never been hunting with someone quite so loud.
It was a successful morning, Mark came romping home with a Zebra while I managed to land an impala. The rest of the week went in much the same vein. Mark would have something on the floor before breakfast and Sean and I would have something before lunch! So much for our survival kit which was all but redundant. I did chop up an orange with my super duper knife but that was the only time I used it. All spoils went straight to the on-site butcher who deftly dealt with the skin, the meat and the carcass.
Over dinner one evening Juliet suggested I might like to go horse riding, I jumped at the chance. The following day we went to the stables and took our trusty steeds out for a walk around the reserve. The animals don’t seem to be as wary of the horses and so you can get much closer to the wildlife, and trust me you’ve not had an adrenalin rush until you’ve galloped through the African bush.
Some things surprised me in Zimbabwe, firstly that you’ll try any food that’s set before you and so you find yourself tucking in to zebra schnitzel with gusto and looking forward to the giraffe lasagne promised for tomorrow, and secondly we could be craning our necks using a respectable pair of bino’s to see an animal half a mile away, and the guides can see it with naked eyes and tell you its got an ear missing. Incredible skill and knowledge from the trackers means that after a not particularly great shot at a wildebeest we could track the animal through the bush on single dry drops of blood and when that ran out on footprints alone even when as far as I was concerned there were none to be found.
When we arrived in Zim we were told that you leave a piece of your heart in Africa, and its true. I am sure this was largely down to the hospitality of Juliet, Sean, Peter and their entire crew for whom nothing was too much trouble.
Africa was certainly an adventure and one that I hope to repeat so long as Sean keeps his promise to come out of retirement one last time.