Basie Ackermann - Zambezi Encounter

Zambezi Encounter

We were out on the Aliwal Shoal. It was a perfect, windless day in May, and I knew the Wahoo had to be around. With 25m+ visibility and a light north south current, it wasn’t long before the first shout of “boat” was heard. We saw several shoals of Wahoo, and managed to boat two at that stage. A lot were chased but they just stayed out of range.

We were drifting off the NE pinnacle in 30m, as they seemed to circle there. I noticed a huge Zambezi cruising on the bottom, but thought nothing of it, as it was very mellow. About half an hour later I saw it again, right down on the sand off the edge of the reef. As I looked up and to my right, I saw a shoal of Wahoo hugging the surface. They were well out of range, but I decided to try and get closer to them. As they were unaware of me, I swam on the surface parallel to them, carefully edging closer all the time. I had my gun tucked under me, so I could get even closer. At this stage I was swimming north against the current, way off the reef, but I was gaining slowly. After what felt like an eternity, I managed to get near enough to plant a shot in one of about 25kg. It was a good shot, and within literally seconds my float came past me, 40m of line with it. This fish took off as only a Wahoo could. I was still marvelling at the speed of the fish, when next I was thrown upside down out of the water in a jacuzzi of bubbles and foam. As I managed to find my bearings, I looked down in time to see the same Zambezi (approx. 3.5m) right next to me, it’s tail at my knees, but it was already doubled up and bolting back down to the sand. It was in full attack mode, with erratic body movements and stiff pectoral fins. I couldn’t believe what had happened and thought that eventually it was my turn. I did a frantic body check and thankfully found all my limbs still intact. Realising how close a call that was, my next intense desire was to get back on the boat. I looked down to see where the shark was going to launch itself from next, but I couldn’t see it anywhere. Fortunately the boat was right there, as the top man, bless his soul, saw me chasing on the surface, and followed me slowly. He saw my buoy flying past me, and me being catapulted out the water literally seconds after that.

I’ve realised just how lucky I had been, and how unpredictable Zambies could be. I think what happened was that this Zambi shadowed me on the bottom as I started to chase the fish. With all my attention focused on the Wahoo, I never saw it, and when I shot, it came barrelling in on the distress signals of the speared Wahoo. At the last minute he must have realised I’m not source of the signals, and turned back down. What hit me a glancing blow on my legs was his body as he decided to change his path of attack and turn, cart wheeling me around and upside down.

A very scary experience, and I lost the Wahoo as well. But then, rather the Wahoo than my legs…