It was 1994 and I was a very eager and energetic young professional hunter, under the employ of a south African-based outfitter.


We were always eager to get “out” and into wilder areas in adjoining countries, places that seemed “unknown” and exotic to us.


When the late Phillip Nel, asked me to do some freelance hunts for him in Mozambique, it seemed too good to be true. Mozambique at that time was very exotic and unknown to me; Phillip managed to lease Coutada 10 from the Mozambique government, and was just establishing a hunting concession after the long civil war.


Phil Nel and Anton Marais were some of the pioneers in getting the Marameu region started up again, after the long and devastating civil war.


Phillip Nel had a base farm in South Africa, in the Soutpansberg, and that was where we met up to fly in their private plane to the area in Mozambique. Things were just different then, there were no commercial flights in and out of Beira. Officials were quite stand-offish and looked at us with suspicion and disdain, and when you presented a rifle for Import, you were a terrorist.

River crossing in 1994.

Buffalo from Mahimba in 1994.

I went to camp a few days before our hunters arrived; both were South African nationals, and really nice guys. I have lost contact with them and could not obtain their permission, so we decided to cover their faces in the photos attached, in order to respect their privacy.


I tried to familiarize myself with the area by asking my employer some questions about what to expect, but all I really got was, “We do not know the area very well ourselves, and also do not know what to expect.”


The main quarry was buffalo, but we could basically take anything that we found, if we found anything.


En route to the Marameu, we had to land at a place called Mahimba, just north of the Zambezi River, where I met a veteran hunter, Brian Smith.


Brian greeted us at the airstrip, extremely sunburnt, and wearing flipflop shoes. He never stopped complaining about the long grass… Later on I got to know Brian a lot better and reminisced about that first meeting, which he never remembered.

I arrived in camp in a very wild place; even the odd local villager we encountered seemed to not know much about European people.


The first few days I spent driving around with one of Phil’s local PHs getting to know the lie of the land and looking for buffalo with his client. It was evident that this was wild country and that hunting was real. Game was a bit scarce, but I was amazed by all the bushpig we saw almost daily, and in daytime, something I was not accustomed to.


There were a few sable, some reedbuck, waterbuck and of course buffalo deep inside the swamp, that required long stalks on hands and knees. In one of the buffalo photos you’ll notice the torn part on our client’s jeans – those pants were almost new when he started.

Lots of mosquitoes and hot sun was also just the order of the day.


After a few days of me scouting, my two hunters arrived, and I had my own Land Cruiser to go with and free range.


We basically just picked a direction, eastwards, towards the swamp and looked for the Egrets, “white birds that accompany large herds of animals,” I was told. Not much has changed even today, 29-odd years later.


The safari went extremely well. We got two good buffalo bulls early in the hunt and then just explored and hunted for plain game.


On one of the days, I was driving between the flood plain and forest, where it makes lots of smaller open areas when we spotted a lion running across our path and into some thickets.

Buffalo 1998

It was totally unexpected, and I did not know what else to do, other than to ask my hunter, “Do you want to shoot a lion?”


“How much is it?”


“I don’t know but you could always negotiate that later,” I told him.


Decision made and we went after the male. We spotted his eyes peeking at us from some long grass and thicker vegetation where he was crouched. I told my hunter to just shoot between the eyes, and voila! the lion was still. Just like that, no glory, no hero hunt.

Camp 1994

Camp 2023

We walked up to the magnificent cat and admired him. After a few seconds I realized he was still breathing and the breaths were becoming stronger, so the client shot him again in the chest which sealed the deal. On later inspection we found that his first shot went a bit high and the angle only stunned the lion. Things could have turned out very differently.


Up until then we had done much better than expected, I think a bit to the dismay of the resident PH. We were standing around our lion back at the skinning shed when the other party arrived back from their hunt. They spotted us and drove over to us.


The look on the resident PH’s face was something to behold. He just looked at me and said


“A f–king Lion.” That was it, no congratulations, no well done, no wtf.


That evening around the campfire was different, there were big congratulations. At the time there was an estimated 20 to 30 lions only.


Now we are in 2023 and I just completed another hunt in the Marameu, Coutada 11, managed by Zambezi Delta Safaris, Mark Haldane, and what a transformation.


Area 11 is by far my favorite area to hunt for the tiny guys. Red duiker, suni and blue duiker are so numerous that they are like a rat infestation. Not to mention the buffalo, reedbuck, hartebeest, sable – the list just goes on.


I recently read a article by Craig Boddington where he mentions the number of 3000 buffalo after the war, to the now 30 000. This all happened in a mere 25-odd years.


Hunting for plains game is almost like going to Walmart – they are numerous and bigger than elsewhere.


Seeing an area almost decimated return to what it is today, is such a nice success story, and the fact that it was done entirely through hunting and hunters makes it so much more sweet.


Hunting buffalo in Area 11 is pleasant, you can choose. Go into the swamp for a morning, or hunt for one on dry land in the forest, they are there.


Going into the swamp means getting into Zambezi Delta’s swamp vehicles, driving, floating or whatever you want to call it, deep into the formerly impenetrable regions, and look for the birds.


Once located, you load up and the crawl is on. Exhilarating but still fresh when you start.


Once you connect with a good bull, and you will, the swamp vehicle can get to you and load the whole carcass. No meat goes to waste, and you will return to camp mostly long before dark, to enjoy an ice-cold beer.

Buffalo 2023

Obviously, you have your harder days, but the numbers of game you will encounter en route in as well as out make all the aches and pains go away.


Even the lion numbers now have increased, and it is not unusual to encounter them more often. Their numbers are approaching 100 and rising fast.  Cheetahs and elephant are all making a comeback.


I am in the very fortunate position to have seen the area then, and also now, something I cherish and love to share with other avid outdoorsmen.



Transport 2023

Waterbuck 2023