On the white sand of the Okavango

On the white sand of the Okavango

by Jofie Lamprecht

 

Call me a hopeless romantic. Before leaving on safari I write my wife letters, dated for each day I am away on white paper with a red pen – time permitting. I have been slipping up of late due to my busy schedule but have promised myself and my wife to keep this enjoyable and special tradition alive.

In one of these notes, dated October 2013 I wrote: “I dream that one day our children will play in the white sand of the Okavango river” – this is the first bucket list item I checked off my list in 2019 – bidding and winning the Mahango National Park hunting concession on the Okavango river. There are not many people in the world with a “hard to do” bucket list that can say that they have checked three items off in a single year. My children played in the white sand of the Okavango river in our own Mukongo Camp this year. “Mukongo” means “hunter” in the local Kavango language. What a privilege and an honor to both be a father and be able to roam in such a beautiful place.

 

My wife Maryke and daughter Rachel joined me for a safari in Waterberg National Park this year, with a young but old client and they came along on the hunt. Late one afternoon I located 9 cape buffalo bulls busy feeding and swiftly looped around through thick red sand and got ahead of them. There was a very large bull and we were able to get a shot at 20 yards. As the shot rang out, Rachel aged 3 ½ years old jumped off the vehicle and shouted “Papa” as she ran into the bush after us. Moses our Bushman tracker had to jump off the vehicle and catch our pink clad gal before we got too far from the vehicle while I was dealing with ‘our’ buffalo and his 8 companions.

Once the dust had settled, we washed the blood of the felled beast before I picked Rachel up in my arms and carried her toward ‘our’ buffalo. In her innocent voice she asked me “Papa, is the buffalo sleeping?”, I answered, “No my child, the buffalo is dead.” “Mmm” she exclaimed “Papa, are we going to eat the buffalo?” and I answered “Yes my child” then she moved right on and asked “Papa, where are the buffalo’s ear’s?” and we got down on the ground and I showed her where the buffalo’s ears were, hidden under the deep sweep of his horns. And so, a second bucket list item of mine was checked off my list.

And this is the meandering way of telling you about a splendid elephant hunt I have just conducted. We had a father and son safari and happened to be in excellent health and in his 80’s – wanted to hunt a big elephant bull. We had a big team. Second tracking truck with a PH and three Bushmen as well as the primary truck with a full complement and two videographers for good measure.

 

Before I get side-tracked again, I need to make something clear. It is neither derogatory nor insulting in my opinion to call a Bushman, a Bushman. If you ask one of these well humored master trackers where he comes from he will answer “I am a Bushman from the Khwe tribe”, but he might come from another tribe, but he will certainly tell you which of the various tribes he comes from very proudly – and so, I refer to them as Bushman as they want to be referred.

 

Coming back to the father and son safari for the elephant – we had felled a pair of buffalo already and had looked at our share of elephant. On a crisp Sunday morning our radio crackled that Charl, my second PH had found some elephant bulls for us to look at. We turned from our current operation and made haste in the direction of the excitement.

 

We were met in the two-track by Charl and three Bushmen – two seasoned, one young and enthusiastic – his name is Rambo and I am very hopeful of his future. Charl had several year’s experience in big game areas. Eight eyes were stretched wide “we found a big elephant”. I have never met a Bushman that has seen a small elephant…

 

Ferdinand was born in 1937 and was the primary hunter, we made a slow walk on the tracks hoping to catch up the elephant while feeding, or even better while they were taking their midday siesta. Trudging through the white Okavango sand we followed the spoor of what looked like two bull elephant. I measured the track of one of the bulls we were following – both of my #13 Russell boots fit easily into the hind-foot. Big footed = bodied elephant, but what about the ivory?

 

In under an hour we could hear the elephant a head of us. I cupped my ears to better find the direction they were headed. Advancing slowly, I was stopped from one in our hunting party and he pointed to the other side of the bush I was about to walk around – I saw an ear slowly flapping. I had almost walked into the backside of one of the bulls we were following. Oops.

 

We looped to get under the wind and slowly started seeing the elephant that blend into invisibility when standing still. They are only betrayed by flapping ears, breaking branches and the occasions ‘plop’ of digested material hitting the ground and flatulence.

 

The first elephant carried nothing, the second elephant turned, and I had to drop my binoculars to comprehend if what I was seeing was truly before us with my naked eye. It was the largest elephant I had ever put my binoculars on in a hunting area. Or was it? More than 50 inches sticking out the lip, thick at the lip with very little taper to the tip.

Our hunter had indicated that he would prefer symmetrical ivory, so we continued our stalk and I waited for the elephant to turn. We lost sight of them as they melted into the thick bush and coming around into an open lane – I saw another elephant who’s tusk was not as thick, but just as long? I paused. Two big long tusked elephants in this group? By the sound, there were certainly more than two elephants in front of us?

 

I consulted with those behind me. Two big elephant? We need to be careful to shoot the right bull. With great caution we advanced, we were now amongst the elephant, with a large herd of homo-sapiens amongst them too. I located the thick bull seen earlier – symmetrical and saw both sides. This is a bull dreams are made of. We waited for him to turn. He rounded his last bush and turned to face us, completely unaware of our large parties’ presence. At 35 yards I put up the shooting-sticks and instructed the client to get on the sticks. His son eased in next to his father and prepared to take the backup shot as discussed prior to the hunt. Sticks were raised to the correct height. The crisp mornings relative silence was shattered by a single shot. First hind then front feet crumpled with a perfect frontal brain shot. There was no need for the son to back up his father. Success.

Our team was elated. A fantastic hunt, and triumph before the half way make of our allocated days. An incredible moment between father and son. An incredible trophy, an incredible experience.

In closing, this brings me to the third – and I hope not last bucket list item of my days. My father, Joof Lamprecht, a PH before me had hunted this river on the white sand of the Okavango river that was now under my feet in the 1990’s and hunted his last elephant. The elephant he hunted outweighed my best by four pounds. Four pounds does not sound like much, but it might as well be a ton in the pursuit I have been on my whole career. This was no longer the case. A quest achieved. And under the shade of wide brimmed hats we looked at what we had done – and it was good. I turned in thankfulness for being able to roam these remaining wild places with gratitude for having a father that raised me the way he did.

 

I still miss him.

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One Response

  1. Rick Nordling says:

    Jofie,

    So proud of you! What a wonderfully written tale of the hunt culminating in your largest elephant bull to date.

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Photography by: Jofie Lamprecht