Back in 2008 I had the opportunity to do a recce float trip down the Rio Olifantes – the Olifants River in Mozambique. This is a dig through those archives:

“Bull…” Johan Klopper breathed the word more than mouthed it, as he ground the Landy to a hasty halt. About 100 metres up ahead, a truck of an elephant ambled out of the dense Mopane woodland.

In Kruger, you could have driven up to this old tusker – cautious in your approach, of course – but the odds are he’d let you get close enough to see the whites of his eyes. In Mozambique’s Parque Nacional Do Limpopo (Limpopo National Park), there was no chance of that.
And, swaying his heavily tusked head from side-to-side, he made certain we knew.

Jumbos live here

Jumbos live here

“A local,” chuckled Johan as the jumbo eventually ghosted off into the trees, content that this Landy posed no threat. As chief 4×4 guide for Transfrontier Trails, Johan knows the bush east of the Kruger fence – the South African border – and its animals better than most.

“The Mozambican ellies don’t like people too much,” he explained. “And if you drive a diesel…” Apparently, they associate the sound of a diesel with pain and death. That’s what the soldiers drove during the bush war of the 1970s and 1980s.

BREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE

I’m digging through a decade of faded memory, but I was on assignment for Getaway magazine in Kruger’s ‘new east’ – there to see what was on offer for tourists after the amazing work done by the Peace Parks Foundation. Said elephant bull featured as the star of the intro to the feature that eventually ran in the mag.

I found some of these images on an old disc while cleaning out a dusty box from my storage unit:

The subsistence truth of Massingir Dam, above the Rio Olifantes

The subsistence truth of Massingir Dam, above the Rio Olifantes

Aside from that jumbo and the dustbin-lid sized spoor of his brethren in the Shingwedzi river valley, I recall the fish. The fish in pools of the Shingwedzi and on the river of his name, the Rio Olifantes – on which I was part of a recce trip for what would eventually become a four-day canoe trail, camping wild on the banks.

I should’ve taken a 9, but with around 10kgs of camera gear I had space and weight issues, so all I had with me was a (very trusty) five-piece 5. Fishing was not the plan (it never was on assignments), but Janco Scott (another of the guides) and I managed to sneak a few sessions in between paddling and long 4×4 transfers:

HERE BE TIGERS
I got down to the river on the first evening while Johan and Janco were setting up camp. The river formed a tight bend at the spot where we camped. there was a sandbank and a clean drop off with a beautiful eddy just beyond. Tiger grounds…

And, as by poetry, without expecting too much I managed two 40cm Tigers in the space of 15 minutes. Memory serves the first was on the first cast. But that may be a dream. Both came on a red-over-black clouser Keith Clover (from Tourette Fishing) had tied some years before on another recce float trip on the Zambezi.

Sunset session

Thinking that it was going to turn into a bonanza I hustled back to camp to go to get Janco to come have a bash as the sun dipped toward the horizon. It was a day before selfies and, to be honest, to be away from the camera and ‘working’ to get images for the mag was epic. The result though is no record of the catches. No pics.

Janco dropped one on the jump, as I recall, but things went silent on the river after that. Who knows what the fishing potential could’ve been back then if we had more time.

Janco Scott and a Shingwedzi cat on light spinning

What you looking at?! Janco Scott and a Shingwedzi cat on light spinning tackle

We didn’t have many days on the river (took-out the following day, as the idea of the recce was simply to get a taster and some pics). A few days later Janco and I were into some fish again, this time in the Shingwedzi valley, where we tussled with some small cats in spectacular surroundings.

A PIECE OF THE PEACE
The Peace Parks Foundation were (are) working towards developing a viable Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Proclaimed In December 2002, the park is a joint Initiative between Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. In fully functional terms and theory, it covers an area of more than 35 000km², including the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, Kruger in South Africa and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park, Majinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Ares.

Expert 4x4 guide, Janco Scott, working an eddy for juvi tigers

Expert 4×4 guide, Janco Scott, working an eddy for juvi tigers.

The great hope, of course, is that this will not only aid in the re-opening of original animal migration routes, but see visitors able to drive across the international borders within the boundaries of the park without cross-border formalities. I have not had the opportunity to go back since, but have kept some kind of tabs on the situation and increased poaching issues.

Unfortunately the current concession has expired and the canoe trip (which, among its attractions eventually listed ‘fishing for tigerfish’) is not currently running. The Mozambican side of Kruger is also feeling a lot of poaching pressure and is being battered cyclones.

Janco Scott on the Rio Olifantes

Janco Scott on the Rio Olifantes

The paddle for pictures.

Monkey see...

Monkey see…

*DISCLAIMER: Much has obviously changed in the region due to many factors over recent years, if you do have some updated info, please fill us in.