Subscriber Mark Richards gives us word of an interesting buffalo hunt opportunity on a private land area in southeastern Zimbabwe, Hippo Valley Estate. PH Alan Davies currently operates hunting on a game reserve on the Runde River within the 124 sq-km sugar estate. Richards hunted there in early August, taking a trophy buffalo as well as a problem animal control (PAC) elephant. Richard provided details on this hunt via email.
“The hunting area is entirely privately owned by Hippo Valley Estates, a subsidiary of Tongaat Hulett. The area has not been hunted for years due to political issues lingering from Zimbabwe’s land reform. During that time the area experienced severe poaching, and plains game numbers remain very low. Some species are now absent, including eland and wildebeest. However, the core heard of buffalo remains, numbering around 500 head with many good bulls. The hunting area is surrounded by sugarcane fields and other farming activities, so it is by no means remote. Chiredzi is just 20 minutes away. That said, when you are in the bush there is no difference from being a 1000 miles from civilization.
“I have hunted with PH Alan Davies and his tracker Showder since the early 90’s, and this was probably my tenth visit to Zimbabwe with him (including some six buffalo hunts). He held the Malapati concession for many years, and is a consummate Zimbabwe PH with a lifetime of experience.
“This hunt was much the typical buffalo safari. We were up early every morning looking for tracks to follow, and often bumped into herds crossing the track. On the fourth or fifth morning we came across a group of about 40 buffalo grazing by the dirt track. We saw several bulls around 40 inches and one that was a bit bigger. I had to convince Alan that we should shoot as he was thinking we would find bigger. The result was a nice 42” hard boss bull.
“Tracking bulls below the dam was serious fun, and the buffalo are not too spooky. I think even a hunter with limited mobility could connect with a good bull, and I would guess that there are heads up to 50-inches present.
“I spent most of the remaining time hippo hunting. We did this by sneaking around the access points on Lake Mteri to glass hippos either in the water, feeding on the bank, or lying out in the sun. We also glassed pools in the Lundi river and sat out several nights trying catch a bull that was visiting the sugarcane. We should have had that one, but he always came to the cane just before or just after we were there. Plain bad luck.
“A group of elephants (five cows and one bull) had been in the area for several weeks, and the bull had gotten in the habit of pushing down fences to get at the sugarcane. Eventually, the sugar operation closed down all work in the sections where the elephant were visiting. It was decided that the bull should be shot and that the cows would likely go back to Gonarezhou National Park. Early one morning we picked up his tracks and followed non-stop for 10 hours. Deciding to quit for the day, we marched thru the bush to get back to vehicle, and stumbled into the elephant not far from where we had started at 6AM. The brain shot was a touch high but knocked him down enough for a quick follow up. A very exciting classic hunt with a little luck at the end! The tusks were a very respectable 55 x 50.6.
“It should be noted that Davies cannot offer PAC hunting. It is just something that may or may not come up. The area does have a quota for one trophy bull and one tuskless elephant. Elephants typically come into the area in June and July to feed on the abundant coconuts, and the possibility of a bull with big Gonarezhou genetics is real. There are 100-pounders that live close by in the park. That said, there would be no way to plan for this in advance, and it would be best to do a trophy hunt ‘on call’ on short notice.
“I decided to do this hunt at the last minute to be the first regular safari hunter and to help get the ball rolling for both Davies and Hippo Valley. I believe if they can get the people/poaching issue under control this place will be a fantastic destination. Right now it is excellent for big buffalo, crocodile and hippos and there will hopefully be leopard on quota for next year (there are big leopard present). The limited plains game quota is unrealistic, as there are few mature animals. During 14 days there I did not see one mature impala ram. I suppose the odd zebra or kudu might be available, but it’s hard to justify hunting plains animals while they are attempting to increase the herd.
“The camp is the Mteri Lodges, which cater primarily to fisherman who come for the bass and bream fishing. The chalets for hunting clients are removed from the others and the staff provide meals, drinks, laundry etc. separately. Hunters do not have interact with other guests of the lodge. Service, food, staff, and accommodations were all excellent. All the staff (from top to bottom) were very happy to see hunting resume. This is not darkest Africa, but it’s a great place for an exciting buffalo hunt.”
We also heard from Alan Davies via email. He writes, “I have hunted this specific area on and off since 1983. Sadly, political turmoil has led to the area being mismanaged and severely poached. With serious policing and dedicated management it will take several years for the plains game to show any kind of recovery. The buffalo population is still relatively healthy and an offtake of five hard-bossed adult bulls each season can be expected. There are good leopard in the area and I have requested one on permit for next year. The wildlife area within the estate is 14,000 hectares, with an additional 6,000 ha of bush for cattle that also holds game. I expect to be offering hunts as the estate PH for the next few years at least, and I also freelance elsewhere in Zimbabwe when requested.”
Davies may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at +263 712 211 277.