Our “Namwala” camp overlooks the beautiful green waters of the mighty Kafue River in Zambia. Along this stretch, the normal wide river is broken with many island close together. Some are 2 or 3 hectares in size while others are as small as a single rock standing proud.
My clients left early in the morning and I had a week off before the next group was booked for another 14 day safari. Being the dry season, the river was low and the channels between the islands made for the perfect fishing spots anyone could ever wish for. Nembwe, Humpback, Three-spot, Pike and huge Catfish are but a few of the species that are found in big numbers in the Kafue.
This makes for delicious eating during a safari and many times the clients sacrificed a day or two of hunting for great fishing. With big expectations I grabbed my rod and a few of my favourite lures and proceeded along the bank to a few spots that I knew of.
It was late in the afternoon and the “cooing” of the Rameron Pigeons casted a relaxed atmosphere over the slow moving water. I came to a well-known spot on the rocky bank that had a huge overhang. I jumped down to get to the water’s edge. As my feet hit the flat rock that was to be my fishing spot, I got an immediate sense of danger.
I did not see, hear or smell anything. It was such a sudden and intense feeling that I instantly reacted to by jumping into the water. I had total disregard for the numerous Crocodiles and Hippo that inhabited the river, I just had to get away!
In the water, I glanced back at the flat rock with the overhang. A big female Leopard leapt from under the overhang and disappeared into the bush. I swam the 5y back to the bank and sat on a warm rock shaking all over. I still had my rod but did not feel like fishing anymore.
On another occasion on the same concession, I was after a wounded Buffalo. My client had shot and broken the front leg without inflicting a mortal wound earlier in the morning. My tracker was in front following the easy drag spoor down a wide game trail. I was one step behind and slightly to his left. The client was behind me and way back was the once cocky Game-Scout. Normally I would not allow a client to accompany me on a dangerous follow-up because I am more afraid of getting shot than I am of the wounded animal.
It just is not worth it but this client and I have hunted together many times and I came to trust him completely.
We were following the spoor for about four hours now and the stress and concentration was taking its toll on us. I snapped my fingers and indicated that we will take a ten minute smoke-break. As I struck a match, an instant and intense sense of danger overcame me. I dropped everything, grabbed my rifle and jumped to my feet staring into the undergrowth.
Ten yards away, the buffalo was looking at me through a densely covered ant-hill. The moment I made eye contact he came at us and I killed him with a shot to the brain. It all happened so fast that the client and game-scout were still seated against a tree looking at me as if I was mad.
I cannot explain it. I do not understand it but I do know that it is real and I totally believe in it. Some famous big-game hunters of the past also experienced it and wrote about it. Werner von Alvensleben, John “Pondoro” Taylor and Harry Selby all owed their lives to this.
My good friend and PH, “Pieter van der Westhuizen” and I was following the blood trail of a Leopard late one night after a client took a shot at it and it ran off. We were on our hands and knees, one scanning left and right while the other looked for the spoor. We each had powerful flashlights attached to our rifles so that where ever the light shine, the gun barrel would be pointed.
We followed the difficult spoor for about an hour on hands and knees in very thick undergrowth. Suddenly the cat was there. Dead as last week’s dinner. I did not get that feeling that warned me. Maybe it was because the cat was already dead. Who knows?
It has also happened where we were hunting for elephant in that thick Jesse infested “hell” called the Zambezi valley. October is the hottest month of the year in the Valley and at mid-day it can easily reach 45 degrees Celsius. Nothing moves during the hot time of day, not even flies. Hunters do however show a lot of unexplained madness by trying to follow big Jumbo into those thickets.
We were slowly creeping along when that same intense feeling came over me and I stopped and brought my rifle up and ready. Again I did not see or hear anything that could warn me but I just knew that we were very-very close to an Elephant. The client behind me saw my reaction and although he did not know what was happening, also brought his rifle to the ready. We stood like statues for about 5 minutes with sweat pouring down our bodies when the owner of the tracks that we were following moved his leg not 10y from us. We could only see his one leg and nothing else.
Many times something similar has happened to me and a few of my fellow PH’s also admitted to having experienced the same thing. We do not talk about it often. It is not fear or panic that is felt but rather a strong adrenalin boost with the knowledge that real and immediate danger is very close.
One must not try and counter that feeling with logic or debate in yourself if or if not to adhere to these strong urges. I know for sure that those times that I did experience it, it saved lives by reacting immediately.
Maybe there is someone that can explain these strange things that happens to us out there in the jungles of Africa where we live and enjoy our trade.