The phone rang and on the other side was a good friend of mine from Mozambique telling me that I had to be in Mozambique in two days for an Elephant hunt. As soon as I put the phone down I was in a flat spin, trying to get everything packed and booking flight tickets to depart to Mozambique on Friday 11 September. We arranged that I would fly into Inhambane and that he would pick me up from the airport that afternoon so that we could head to his Beach resort to pack the safari equipment that day and head off to the bush the next morning.
Saturday Morning at 5 we departed from Pandane Beach Resort and headed north towards Tete. The drive took us 12 hours and we finally arrived at our destination late in the afternoon. We quickly set up our overnight camp in the Mazoe river bed for the night. The next morning our priority was to establish a permanent camping site near the Mazoe river that we would use as a base camp for the rest of the safari. We drove around and found a great site with large trees, flat terrain and only 50m away from the river that would work perfectly to set up our camp. So now with the camp site set up we headed back to Changara (Nearest Town) to get our Elephant Credentials (Permits) from the local game conservation office. We spent the remainder of the day in town stocking up with ice and cold drinks and the odd things we needed. The peg on the picture below was our location.
The next day was spent gathering local information or Gen as our outfitter called it from the all the little villages around our camp. The area we hunted in was over 200 000 HA so we needed all the help we could get to figure out the where about of the herds of elephant moving around in the area. With all the information we knew that there was at least 5 different herds of elephant moving around with numbers ranging from 10 to 20 animals per herd but there was not allot of information regarding big elephant bulls as they were roaming around alone and only joining the herds from time to time.
With our PAC (Problem Animal Control) permit we were only allowed to hunt a bull elephant that was raiding the local Mashambas (Plantations). This meant that we would be doing most of our hunting at night as the Elephants only came into the plantations at night, but the days were spent following elephant tracks to know the whereabouts of these bulls.
For the first week we woke up early every morning, had a cup of coffee and headed out to find fresh spoor. There were not many roads in the bush so we drove until we found spoor crossing the road and then we were off on foot the entire day tracking the big footsteps through the heat of the day until it was time to turn back to the vehicle which was 5 to 20km away at the end of the day. The other method we used was to drive to the villages and asking the local hunters if the had seen fresh tracks passing nearby, this method proved to be the best method. Once the locals showed us the spoor we were once again off into the bush leaving our vehicles at the village.
I would like to add that if you want to hunt Elephant in Mozambique you need to be walking fit as we walked between 15 to 30 km a day and that some days we even stretched further, the temperature ranged from 35 to 42 degrees and tires you out quickly if you are not fit.
We got back at camp in the afternoon just in time to see the magnificent sunsets and to take a well deserved bath in the Mazoe river. We then made dinner and talked about the days activity’s around the camp fire. At around 8 at night we headed out on foot to the river bed to wait for the elephants to come and have a drink. The local Mashambas (plantations) were spread out along the river banks and some were even made in the river beds with water channels dug through the plantations. We waited silently in the river bed every night with our hands cupped around our ears to hear if we could hear them coming through the bush. A couple of times we walked out of the river bed into the bush following our ears to where the elephants were breaking trees in the dense bush. Walking around in the bush at night without lights is a scary experience at first but as every night passed we got more comfortable with the night hunting. Hours seemed to pass by allot slower at night for some reason, maybe its because we had to be absolutely silent at night and that there was no talking allowed. We stopped night hunting at around 11 every night so that we could get a good nights rest for the day to come.
In the last days of the first week we decided to head out to the furtherest end of our hunting block to some hills that the elephant were believed to be moving around in. here we did not find any elephant but we were horrified to find logging and poaching camps in that area that we burned to the ground and then informed the local scouts of the location. We now knew why these elephants were so illusive and clever, these poachers have been after these heard for who knows how long.
We have now spent a week in the bush and have not had any luck in finding or even seeing any big bull elephant. It was time for a change in tactics or area.
We decided to change the location of our camp to one of the villages nearing some hills as the elephant seemed to be more active during night in the hills as there were small streams flowing down the hills and the locals had plantations surrounding these areas.
We quickly set up our new camp and started gathering the local information from all the nearby villages. In the nearest village we had to undergo a blessing ceremony from one of the spiritual leaders in the village, this was a very interesting experience and it lifted our spirits quite a bit. We hunted the plato on the foot of the hills every day trying to figure out the elephant movement patterns, we quickly relized that the elephants were moving through the hills at night and that they came into the plato during the day and seemed to favour one piece of bush. Now that we had our plan together we spent our nights in the hills waiting next to the little stream that seemed to attract the elephants every night and our days following the freshest spoor out of the hills towards the favoured bush.
We sat on a rock about 30m from the stream every night, waiting for any sound of nearing elephant. If you have ever hunted elephant you will know that they really make a big noise when they are feeding, you can hear them breaking and pushing over trees from far away, but at night these elephant were as quiet as mouse and you really had to listen carefully to hear them approaching. The one night a heard of about 15 elephant drank water 80m away from us without us hearing them approaching, we only found their spoor on the way back down the stream.
On the second last day we found fresh spoor coming out of the hills leading towards the favoured bush, we decided to follow the spoor and soon after we started following the spoor we could hear the elephants breaking there way through the bush. We approached the heard with the wind in our favour, we listened carefully to make out where the herd was moving towards and where the front and the back of the herd was. We ended up about 40m in front of the herd with them feeding towards us. We stood and watched the herd move closer and closer, we were trying to see the bull of the herd but he was a bit more to the middle of the herd. As the bull was clear for a shot the advancing cows got to close to our position and we had to sjoe them away before they got into charging distance, we didn’t want to be in the position that we had to shoot a cow so this was our only option. The herd ran away into the bush and we never found them for the remainder of the safari.
In my opinion if you are a true hunter at heart that likes working hard for your trophies there is no better place than Mozambique to test your limits. It a hard hunt with harsh conditions and no luxuries but you are rewarded by walking in places that very few men have ever seen.
PH, Petrus Geldenhuys