4 Great Options for a First Safari: Zimbabwe

Due to the huge losses of game on "reallocated" private lands, Zimbabwe is no longer a primary destination for a plains game safari, and options for a buffalo-plus-plains game safari are much more limited. However, buffalo hunting remains excellent in the designated safari areas and some of the forestry reserves and communal lands on the periphery of the country.

Many of these areas, such as the great Zambezi Valley, never were particularly good plains game country. But they are still wild Africa — areas where buffalo roam — and there are certainly pockets of good plains game. A buffalo/kudu combination is very possible, and there are zebra, waterbuck, sable, bushbuck, lots of impala, and other species.

However, in many of the better areas the buffalo quota is likely to far exceed that of any other species except impala. This means that a Zimbabwe safari is becoming ever more specialized, and on many short buffalo safaris the available bag is limited to buffalo, impala, and perhaps hyena and grysbok.

If a larger combination is so desired, today it's almost essential to commit to the desired licenses at the time of booking. Hunting in Zimbabwe is generally marketed as a daily rate plus trophy fees, so if you have a kudu and don't take one, you don't have to pay for it and your kudu can generally be offered to another hunter later in the season. But if you don't have a kudu on your  hunting license, you can't take one. The Mozambique situation is very similar, except that in Mozambique's huge concessions, quota is generally only a problem for relatively scarce animals, such as eland, hartebeest, and zebra.

The exceptions to all this are Zimbabwe's large conservancies, all managed as private lands. They are excellent, with limited and well-managed buffalo hunting and amazing densities of plains game. Understandably, a buffalo/plains game safari in these areas carries a premium, but they are very good.

As for the politics, Zimbabwe has its challenges, but the vast majority of Zimbabweans seem well aware that you and I as hunting tourists are not part of the problem. In recent years I have spent a lot of time in both Mozambique and Zimbabwe and have not felt unsafe or threatened. So long as you perform due diligence in your choice of an outfitter and place yourself in his hands, you can hunt these countries with confidence.

So those are my four picks for a first African safari. Namibia and South Africa for plains game; Mozambique and Zimbabwe for "buffalo plus." There are a dozen other countries in the "roll call" of African hunting. Each has its charm and attraction, and most have their own unique prizes. Don't worry! Once you get that first safari under your belt, you'll want to return'¦and there are plenty of options!

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