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Note: We invited retiree John Dixon to recount highlights from his recent Africa adventure - a long-awaited dream come true.
It was a trip that my two friends and I had first discussed many years ago. An African Safari was definitely on our bucket list, but it would be put “on hold” for over two decades. I had not given it much thought for that long period until my friend Hoke told me he was planning to attend the Safari Club International Convention in Las Vegas in January 2011. Over the next 12 months, several safari groups operating in different countries were evaluated. South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana were considered, but it became apparent that the place to go was Namibia. Namibia had a stable government, malaria was not prevalent, no tsetse flies and no sleeping sickness. The hunting reserves in north-central Namibia had large populations of plains game plus elephant, rhino, hippo, leopard, cheetah and lion. In addition, the reserve we were considering in the Okonjati area was open range, allowing for “fair-chase” hunting, as opposed to South Africa where much of the hunting is within small fenced areas containing ranch-raised animals. Jan Oelofse Safaris was the obvious choice. We booked our hunt in March of 2012 for June 2014. It would be winter in Namibia, with temperatures ranging from the low 30s at night to a high of 70 during the day-- perfect weather for hunting.
Getting to Namibia would be the hard part. Our first choice was to fly American Airlines from Charlotte to Frankfurt, Germany, and then fly Air Namibia direct to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. We had to change to plan “B” when we received reports that German officials were making it difficult for U.S. citizens to check firearms through Frankfurt. Our new travel plans required us to fly to JFK airport in New York, then a 14- hour flight on South African Airlines to Johannesburg, South Africa, and finally two hours to Namibia. Rudie de Klerk, one of our hunting guides, met us at the airport to drive us to the lodge, a “brief” four-hour trip, the last 25 miles on dirt roads and trails. At dusk and about four miles from the lodge, we passed a water hole where four white rhinos were grazing... a great introduction to the Okonjati game reserve. We arrived at the hunting lodge at 6:00 p.m. Sunday June 8th, 32 hours after departure. The lodge was an oasis in the middle of 180,000 acres teaming with African wildlife. A feast of Blesbuck stroganoff and Springbuck tenderloin was waiting when we arrived. We ate our fill and then crashed!
Our hunt did not start until Tuesday so we got to sleep until 8 a.m. Monday. Steve Tors our other professional hunter (PH) joined us for breakfast. Steve was a larger than life character who grew up in Los Angeles. His father was the movie and television producer, Ivan Tors. Ivan was a friend of Jan Oelofse and shortly after high school in 1976, Steve moved to Namibia to work for Jan and become a professional hunter. As described on the Oelofse website “Steve was a true man of the African wild.” After breakfast we headed out to the shooting range to check our rifles. When a large trophy fee is on the line, you want your scope zeroed on target. The rest of the day we spent touring the area in our URI hunting vehicles-- custom-built open-cab “jeep-like” pick-ups designed for handling the rough trails. We saw plains game of every variety, from the common Springbuck and Impala to the rare Roan and Sable antelope, plus Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffe, Blesbuck, Hartebeest, Nyala, Waterbuck, Eland, Baboon and the ever-present Warthog. We would not see Kudu (number one on our trophy list) until we hunted them later that week in the higher mountain areas where they range. Returning to the lodge at dusk we met in the bar for a “sundowner” and then a dinner of Eland steak.
For the next 10 days we would rise at 5:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. when hunting Kudu) for breakfast and then head out for the daily hunt. Most days we would return to the lodge for lunch but sometimes we would lunch in the field. Lunch, like dinner, would include an entree’ of antelope with salad and delicious side dishes and always a special dessert... pretty nice eating in the wild. Returning to the lodge at dusk, after a 12-hour day in the field, we were ready for a sundowner or two before dinner.
Jan Oelofse Safaris can accommodate a maximum of six hunters per 10-day hunting period. When we arrived, there was only one hunter at the lodge with two days to complete his hunt. The next group of hunters would not arrive until the end of our hunt, so for the other eight days my two friends and I had the entire area to ourselves. At the end of the hunt, we each had taken the antelope on our “bucket list” and more. Each animal taken was above average, with some trophies exceptional, scoring enough to qualify for the Safari Club International Record Book.
The two weeks passed much too quickly and the day came for departure. We arose for an early breakfast at 5 a.m. (midnight EST) on Saturday, June 21. Forty hours later, which included a 19-hour flight from Johannesburg to Washington Dulles with a fuel stopover in Dakar Senegal, I would arrive home. One piece of advice–if you plan a trip to Africa, I would advise against a flight that had a stop in Dakar.
Some final thoughts on my safari: I am well aware that some people believe the hunting of wild animals is wrong, and hunters are contributing to the decline of animal populations around the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hunting reserves like Jan Oelofse are ensuring that populations of African wildlife are sustained through managed hunts and live capture and relocation. Trophy hunting was banned in Kenya in 1977, and animal populations in that country have dropped 70 percent. For the true story of Kenya and the impact of its hunting ban check out the article at www.rexano.org/ConservationPages/Kenya_Frame.htm. Another issue to be considered is the economic impact of trophy hunting on the local economy. In a country where a large percentage of the population is impoverished and with unemployment greater than 20 percent, the benefits cannot be overstated.
If you are interested in an African hunting safari check out www.janoelofsesafaris. com and for those non-hunter photographers check out www.mount-etjo.com. You will enjoy the experience of a lifetime.
Just wanted to drop you guys a quick email to say hello. We also wanted to tell you, once more, how wonderful a time Maile and I had at your beautiful farm! Words cannot begin to adequately describe our experience with your family. Although the hunting was exceptional - the lodging, food, and especially your friendship made our visit to Namibia one we will cherish forever.
I also had my springbok scored for the SCI record book. According to the SCI scorer it is about the 9th largest in the world which I am very proud to say Naftali was able to find the animal for me and took at Jan Oelofse Hunting Safaris. I think about the hunt almost every day and also how excited Naftali was when he measured it's horns. I now realize why he was so excited!
I went hunting to Namibia with Jan last October after some rather specialized trophies that I got in very good quality. Besides, I saw many more in both rare and common species, some of them really good quality trophies.
Namibia is a beautiful country, as advanced or more than South Africa, however the bush is still almost virgin. There are some very interesting tribes, as the “Obaimbas”.
The “camp” I was in, is doubtless the best I have been in Africa, it can compare with any European hunting lodge. My guide was Steve Tors, very knowledge and kind person. However, everyone else in the staff is first class.
On the negative side, I made the mistake to arrive to Windhoek via South Africa and we were missing my wife´s bag for some days. Next time, I will go via Frankfurt on Namibian Airways. Don’t miss the Victoria Falls, you need to go to Livingstone in Zambia or to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. In both towns are excellent SPAs by the edge of the falls.
Congratulations! You are about to have a great and marvelous experience, your first African Safari! Enjoy the people, the place and off course
Good hunting always!
This was our first safari and hope it will not be our last. We had a ten day safari in August of 2011. One can not describe how fantastic it was without actually being there. Everything was perfect,The accomodations, Jan and Annette, our PH Rudi and the entire staff . The hunt was outstanding, everything you would dream about and more. My wife and I would not consider any other than Jan Oleofse Hunting Safaris.
Rudy was absolutely great with Anna Claire and all of us for that matter. He is the consummate professional. Simone was excellent also and as a team he and Rudy are perfect. The food, rooms etc were all perfect and Brigitte works long hours each day to make sure it meets her high standards.
Just a quick update to let you all know that my trophies arrived at my taxidermist. Every item was correct and all were in great shape. After hearing and reading all the horror stories about getting trophies back to the States, I was very concerned. But thanks to all of your hard work, everything worked out perfectly. Thank you all so much for a job well done. I certainly hope to do business with you all, down the road.
Like our other clients who hunted with you this year, Chuck Hoffer gave his hunt a rating of A+. He said that his hunting experience and saty at Jan Oelofse was the "finest" and that he and Janice enjoyed every minute of it. Also, he he gave very high praise for his PH (I think it was Rudie) and sais that he is the best.
Annette I’ve really tried to find a point in time that i was not having a great time and really couldn’t, well except maybe the drive back to Windhoek which brought to me the sudden and sobering realization that the fun was about to end, but the pictures and memories of all of the people i came into contact with will stay imbedded with me forever. I look forward to the day that I return back and resume my quest, maybe a leopard. Mahalo again.