Friday, September 16, 2011

SHE Apparel, SHE Expeditions & Tollie's African Safaris

Warning…long blog post. Photo blog will be available for lookie-loos shortly!

I sat anxiously in 42A on South African Airways flight 208. Our flight was taxiing the runway at Washington-Dulles airport. We were racing to get the heck out of dodge before hurricane Irene’s arrival. I wasn’t worried about Irene, I was more concerned about how I was going to occupy the next 16 hours of my life as well as how the next 10 days was going to pan out. I was more excited than nervous, as this was my first time going to South Africa. A dream was finally becoming a reality.

After a rather uneventful flight, I met up with a group of ladies in Johannesburg. This group was a diverse, yet accomplished group of women from the hunting and shooting industry. Sherry Crumley, the first lady of camo, was on my flight from IAD. Once through customs we met up with Karen Davis, industry veteran and editor of Turkey Country Magazine, along with Hilary Dyer, managing editor with Grand View Media Group.

After clearing our rifles and obtaining our South Africa gun permits we spent the night at the Afton Guest House. There we met up with our trip hostess Corinna Slaughter, President of SHE Expeditions and her friend Dawn Peeples. It was an early night as we all were flying to Port Elizabeth the next morning.

After re-checking all of our luggage and rifles (picture a group of women, toting firearms and large luggage going on safari, yes we got interesting looks), we met up with the 7th member of our group, Brittany Boddington of Intermedia Outdoors.

Our short flight to Port Elizabeth was pleasant, it was nice to step off the plane and feel the cool refreshing ocean breeze. There, a tall and cheery man, Tollie Jordaan, owner of Tollie’s African Safaris, greeted us. We spent the day at Jeffreys Bay, collecting amazing seashells. In the evening, we went on a game drive at a local ranch. It was incredible to see so many different species as well as get up close with dangerous game. Hello momma rhino and baby at 15-yards!

We stayed the night in Jeffreys Bay at Tollie’s B&B right on the beach. The next day we toured Addo Elephant Park. The history behind the park and the elephants that inhabit it are very interesting. There, the land and the animals were very diverse. It was a lot of fun to spot the animals and discuss what our shot placement would be if we were hunting. We saw elephants, kudu, zebra, monkeys and so much more, too much to list!

Tollie’s lodge is about 125 miles north of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. The terrain is mountainous and rocky, approximately 6,000 feet above sea level. It is a 5th generation family operation; they know the land very well, and are passionate about keeping it pristine. Most of their properties are free-range, which is nearly unheard of in the region.

Our accommodations were excellent. We stayed at the guest lodge that had five bedrooms, kitchen, sitting room, den, living room, pool, cabana and full-service spa. We had our meals at the main homestead. Karen, Tollie’s wife prepared all of the meals. Oh boy, were they incredible! I could get used to Nyala and Kudu for dinner!

Speaking of Nyala, they have a couple of interesting pets at the lodge. There are four orphaned plains game that roam the property and are domesticated. We would hand feed Ears, the Nyala as well as Bonty, the Bontebuck. There also was a pair of Springbucks, Hansel and Gretel, but they were very shy.

Each person was allotted three plains game species to take during the week, with the exception of Brittany. She was after the highly elusive Bushbuck and Mountain Reedbuck. The hunting was absolutely incredible. Every animal was a different hunt, on different terrain and a different chase. I have a new respect for the people and the animals that call South Africa their home. It is tough out there and survival of the fittest is more than just a saying. It was exciting to stalk several animals and exhilarating once you were able to take a shot!

I was paired up with Karen and our PH was Beans. He has worked with Tollie for over 15 years and knows the land very well. Riding in the back of the truck was our tracker Kombutay (sp?) and Beans’ dog Rigby. We lovingly called our motley crew “Team Beans.” I am pretty sure this group was meant to be. There was never a dull moment hiking in the bush or driving around in the truck. We got to know each other very well. Karen was the ringleader of questions and quizzes. My favorite, if you were a cookie, what would you be and why?

Team Beans did exceptionally well in the field. Karen and I each took an Impala and Springbuck. Karen took a great Blue Wildebeest and I got a Black Wildebeest. I really feel like I got to experience so much of the hunting because I was there for most of Karen’s. Beans did an amazing job finding us the best, most mature animals for our hunt.

I could go on and write for days about this trip. The people I’ve met, the places I have seen and experienced, I really feel like I have accomplished something. I am a much better hunter. I experienced things outside of my comfort zone and as cheesy as it sounds, I really do feel like I bring more to the table of life with my experiences in South Africa.

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