The late Peter Capstick described an African safari as “one of the greatest adventures our modern world can still offer.” I can’t say it better. An African hunt is indeed one of the last great adventures—and a first safari is a life-changing event that, honestly, can never be repeated—although many of us have spent our lives trying to recapture that level of magic.
Africa captivated me at an early age. I devoured the great old books, and spent all too many hours dreaming of Africa. I was still a kid, just 24, when I saved enough pennies to go on my first safari. My intention was to get Africa out of my system once and for all, but that didn’t work very well. After 35 years and more than 100 African hunts I still dream of Africa, and wait anxiously to return. That first safari was in Kenya, at that time the most traditional African country, but closed to hunting just a few weeks later. Based solely on that fact, I can probably lay false claim to having seen the last of the great old days of safari. The truth, however, is in the past 35 years I have seen many changes in African hunting, and not all for the bad. Here are eight reasons why African hunting today isn’t what it used to be.
- African game country once seemed limitless. In the old days a safari could pick up in Nairobi and wander south down through Tanganyika, as Hemingway did in the ‘30s and Ruark did in the ‘50s. Or perhaps northwest through Uganda all the way to Sudan, as the Roosevelt safari did in 1909. Today Africa’s burgeoning human population has consumed vast areas that once were wild, replacing game with cattle and goats. Wildlife is ever more regulated to smaller enclaves in and around parks, reserves, designated safari areas, and in some cases private lands.
Like many changes this is neither bad nor good; it just is. But there is one good outcome: today’s outfitters and professional hunters must operate in particular areas, usually called concessions. They will hunt those areas for successive seasons, so they come to know them well, and they must manage them properly for sustained yield and consistent quality.