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After some fantastic plains game hunting in South Africa and the incredible wild game meals that followed, it’s off to Mozambique, to the second largest man-made reservoir in Africa. the Cahora Bassa. This involves quite a trek. Packing everything we may need, driving four hours south to Johannesburg, a two hour flight to Tete, then a three hour truck ride west to the reservoir, then an hour boat ride north to camp. Our remote lodge is well appointed. I’m amazed that everything here that is man-made was brought in by boat. Our “camp” is where the Duonga River flows into the Cahora Bassa. I do believe we found the middle of nowhere . . .

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It’s located at East 31 degrees, 53 minutes. South 15 degrees, 35 minutes. We arrive safe and a bit tired. Just in time for a sundowner.

Superior Safaris sure knows how to treat their clients. This camp is everything it promised and more. We are here for two reasons. The main reason being that Mike, part of our hunting foursome, is here to hunt crocodile. We are here for the hunt as well and to catch tigerfish. They grow quite large here and are very tasty.

This is truly wild Africa. There are no fences, no electricity, no internet, no cell phone service, and so-so sat-phone service. Even with one of Iridium’s best.

You must always have a large caliber rifle with you here. There are plenty of apex predators roaming about. That explains why around 5 to 10 people per month disappear in the city of Tete alone, through which the Zambezi River runs. Out where we are, about 25 to 50 people disappear annually. Mind you, lions and leopards may kill and eat you, but there’s usually enough left for someone to find. A hippo may gore you, but again, usually someone will find your remains.

Crocodile? They tend to make you disappear. In one way or another. Within a couple of miles of our camp, one young lady disappeared about 10 days prior to our arrival and a man went missing about a month earlier. And as the natives do their laundry and bathe in the water, it’s not hard to figure out why.

We saw plenty of fresh tracks of croc, lion, hippo and leopard.

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There’s no shortage of animals that can and will ruin your day. Buffalo, mambas and ticks. Good grief. I’ve got about 50 bites per leg from ticks. Glad I’ve got my antibiotics for malaria. They’re also good for tick fever. My hunting buddy Jeff wasn’t so lucky. He got tick fever that hit him hard for a couple of days. For large critters, we have two camp guns. A Weatherby stainless .375 H&H and a Brno in .458 win mag.

Some time in the recent past, Mozambique changed their rules on taking firearms into their country for hunting. The paperwork went from filling out a form at the airport and paying 20 bucks, to filling out forms three months in advance and paying $1,200.00 US. Per gun. So we left our personal guns in South Africa.

Our first morning has an air of promise. It’s warm and sunny, so we drive to a safe place to shoot the guns to familiarize ourselves with them. Mike isn’t really happy with the Weatherby. The scope isn’t his and the trigger is factory. He would much rather have his Blaser R-8. Can’t say I blame him. It’s a beauty in .416 Remington Mag.

The PH (professional hunter) explains that some of the people who come to hunt aren’t experienced shooters, so he must have an average rifle in a good caliber. The .458 is the PH’s personal gun.

We then drive a couple of miles and park in the road. No one else is within 100 miles has a car, so blocking traffic isn’t really an issue. We then walk a faint trail towards the Duonga River. It’s about 20 yards wide with plenty of reeds and sand bars where the crocs like to sun themselves.

I’m wishing I had my snake chaps, as it’s quite warm and we’ve already killed one puff adder.

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After about a mile, we sneak to the water’s edge and scope out a few sand bars. There’s a dandy 13 foot croc lying in the sun, but Mike is hoping for a 15 foot or better dinosaur, so he passes. After all, it’s only the first morning of the first day.

Less than a mile from our camp, on our way to check some sand bars for crocs, we ran across this scene:

Each morning and afternoon are spent in quiet in the bush. Crocs have extremely keen senses. Even with that walnut-sized brain they have, their survival instinct is quite high. They don’t live 80-100 years by being stupid.

We don’t talk much, just sit and watch. We see plenty of smaller crocs. Six to eight footers. Lots of hippo coming and going, but no monsters.

Day four of five, we see what appears to be a trident submarine cruising the river as though he wants to beach himself on our sand bar. He looks to be 16 to 17 feet long. The 13 footer has also made another appearance and dutifully beaches himself, too.
For some reason, the behemoth just cruises on by.

Mike makes the decision to shoot the 13 footer. By all appearances, he is huge. His head is about 16 to 18 inches wide. His body? Pushing two feet across. And teeth? It would take him half a day to brush them.

We have already gone over the various shooting angles and where to place a good kill-shot. It’s not like a deer or elk that you can track after a marginal shot. If you make a bad shot, the old bull will disappear under water and never be recovered.
The camera records the five shots at the old lizard and he’s done. A couple of spine shots and a chest shot did the trick. Two misses are recorded as the croc thrashed on the sand after the first hit. Our PH, Eli, was the back up with the .458 shooting solids.

The beast is recovered and brought back to camp for the arduous task of skinning him and cutting some nice tenderloin backstraps for dinner the next night. We are all anxious for the feast!

When all is said and done, we haul the remains of the carcass back to the sandy beach area to let the other animals feast as well. There is one last chore though. Cutting open the croc’s belly to have a look at what he’s been eating and maybe recover some of the “croc rocks”.

Either by accident, or by design, a crocodile will have rocks in its stomach. Some theorize that, similar to a bird, they help to grind up food. Some say it’s pure accident and the croc will simply excrete them. If the rocks stay in the stomach long enough, they are polished smooth and look like eggs.

My hunting buddy Jeff decides to do the deed on a dare. Now, if I could impart to you the kind of odor that emanated from that gullet in smellivision, I’d warn you that it’s XXX before you push the emitter button. It’s something akin to a garbage dump surrounding 10 day old rotting fish guts that have been sprayed by a skunk. In August. In Texas.

The gag reflex comes on fast, even standing six feet away. This odor will knock a buzzard off of a crap wagon, it’s that bad.

Jeff recovers some nice rocks. Some rounded smooth and some that are still jagged.

And then bones. Rib bones. Human rib bones. And the lower four inches of a human femur.
It’s unmistakable.

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Three of our group have knowledge and experience in human anatomy. I’m a former paramedic, Bill and Jeff are former EMT’s. We’ve all seen them. Bill has even seen his own. I even have a genuine human skeleton from my college days. This puts a serious dampener on any celebration. I let the PH know that I will pass on eating any of the Croc tenderloin. I’ll stick to grits and eggs, thank you.

Maybe, just maybe, Mike may have saved a life or two. By shooting this beast, maybe the locals can do their laundry or bathe in the knowledge that at least one man-eater is gone.

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36 Responses to Back to Africa: Man-Eater of the Cahora Bassa

  1. I read the gastric juices inside the stomach of a crocodile can actually dissolve and digest bones. So – they are not excreted. Also – they live so long on just one meal that the food takes ages to digest.

  2. Wow, an african safari and a man eater. Who lives this lifestyle anymore? Oh, yeah. TIO. Color me jealous.

  3. The beast is recovered and brought back to camp for the arduous task of skinning him and cutting some nice tenderloin backstraps for dinner the next night. We are all anxious for the feast!

    Nothing says tasty like eating something that eats humans.

    • Apex predator meets super-predator.

      You should’ve eaten the Croc steak, Tom. Might not have another chance to do that. Besides, don’t you gain extra strength from eating the flesh of your enemies?

  4. Thanks for the memories. As a teenager in the late 70’s, I lived in South Africa for a couple years. Though not a hunter, I pursued game with a camera. Spent time in Hluhluwe and Kruger in South Africa. Lots of camera time in Chobe in Botswana. Saw the “Big 5.” Both white and black rhino. If you get the opportunity, don’t hesitate to go. Wildlife and scenery you will remember to the end!

  5. Opening up a croc and discovering human remains was a seriously grim discovery. But Tom should have closed the loop by eating the croc.

    BTW, I’ve eaten gator tail and it’s pretty good.

    • I’ve had gator once, about 2 hours after it was shot.

      I found the tail to be on the rubbery side, is that standard for gator tail?

      • It’s often going to be a little chewy, but when cooked properly it’s no big deal.

        A lot of Floridians know how to cook gator.

        • “A lot of Floridians know how to cook gator.”

          I’m a transplant, that ‘splains it…

          Tom, y’all should have eaten the croc’s heart, that would have closed the circle.

          🙂

  6. Nice story, if a bit over-sentimental regarding the man-eater. I would have no qualms eating that beast, in particular.

  7. They made up the story for the arrival of the great white hunter.
    Helps the money exit the pocket faster when helping the village. 😉

  8. i’ve never understood why people in india or africa who are predated by lions, crocs, and tigers tolerate that crap.

    Even a 90 lb woman with a good rifle is more than a match even for “Apex predators”. And if the villagers can’t afford rifles, Jesus, how freakin’ hard is it to make spears and bows, get organized, and wipe out the predators around your village?

    There USED to be lions in Europe, and they were 25% bigger than today’s african lions. They were wiped out back in the stone age, partly due to a round of “global warming” and partly by humans killing them.

    • Cultural result of institutionalized victim-hood and religions that teach that maybe the next go around won’t be as bad. Life becomes a bit cheaper in the grand scheme of things when you are taught from the cradle that you and everyone else will have more than one. Justifies alot of bad things for some people.

    • No worries, I doubt there will be much predators, or game, left in Africa, or India, in 50 years or so, at the shocking rate those regions’ populations are increasing. Tom in Oregon is/was smart to go while he still can.

    • We didn’t have game wardens and prisons in the stone age. And Berkely liberals getting laws passed to make you sub human if you kill one of those apex predators. And I’ll bet the local .gov wasn’t popularly elected. They would frown on their subjects being armed.

      Life was so much simpler in the stone age.

    • In many african countries its illegal to own a gun and more importantly guns cost a lot of money for these people and ammo is the same.

      And as far as tolerating people getting killed every day well that could be said about any US inner city too.

  9. It’s eery enough when the resident 7 foot gator stalks me while I’m bass fishing, I don’t think I could sleep knowing a cousin twice that size was lurking nearby.

      • Alligators will only attack something they perceive as being smaller than they are. Crocodiles on the other hand are mean and will attack anything.

    • I don’t think those sizes are linear, I’d bet 14 feet is at least 4 times the size of 7 feet.

      Great story, Tom. Are you ever going to shoot something?

        • If the proportions remain the same, a 16-footer will be eight times as heavy as an eight footer; it’s twice as large in all three dimensions, a cubic function: 2X2X2 = 8.

  10. “And then bones. Rib bones. Human rib bones. And the lower four inches of a human femur.
    It’s unmistakable….”

    Oh, man…

    That was great ‘ambush’ story telling, Tom. I never saw it coming…

  11. “There are no fences, no electricity, no internet, no cell phone service, and so-so sat-phone service.”

    Tom, that doesn’t make any sense, unless you were under so much tree canopy that it attenuated the signals from the Iridium constellation. It should have been able to see enough of the birds.

    Were the batteries weak in the Sat. phone?

    • Just the healthy canopy. One moment a good signal, nothing the next. Batteries stayed good, I brought a neat sub-zero solar charger for these things. You had to go to the boat and get out in the water for a steady signal.

        • Ha! As soon as I saw the boats I knew I was OK. They were similar to the center helm Boston Whaler design. About 25 footers and unsinkable.

  12. Was hoping to get to hunt near the Cahora Bassa myself with some guys we hunt with near the N.E. portion of the lake but the day rates and cost for a buff is just too great. We’ll probably head up there later for some other game and some tiger fishing instead.

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