Here's where you need to hunt in Africa for a safe, fun and rewarding experience.
I think most sportsmen probably agree that there are some outstanding hunting opportunities in Africa. However, the African continent is massive and has a wide range of diverse ecosystems. For that reason, the game available, the price of a hunt, and the overall hunting experience varies greatly from country to country.
Not surprisingly, the best place for you to hunt in Africa really depends on what you're looking for.
The upshot is that because Africa is so large and diverse, the continent has something for almost every hunter regardless of whether you're interested in hunting kudu and impala in the Bushveld of South Africa, cape buffalo in Zambia's Luangwa Valley, or Mountain Nyala in the highlands of Ethiopia.
I'm going to break down where you need to hunt in Africa so you can make an informed decision on which area is best for your specific needs and desires as a hunter.
Once known as Northern Rhodesia, Zambia has long been a destination for serious hunters. Though hunting in the country went through a rough patch several years ago, the leaders of Zambia have professed a renewed commitment to sustainable hunting and have reopened safari hunting in many formally closed areas.
As the country has gradually phased hunting seasons for leopards and lions back in, Zambia is quickly returning to its former glory as a prime location for hunting dangerous game.
The Luangwa Valley in particular is known for incredible lion, leopard, and cape buffalo hunting. Zambia is also home to some of the best sable hunting in all of Africa. Hunters may pursue a few unique species like Cookson's wildebeest and Kafue Flats lechwe that don't live anywhere else in Africa.
All that being said, keep a few things in mind when planning a hunt in Zambia.
First off, Zambia is one of the more time consuming and expensive countries to reach in Africa. Second, the price of hunting many plains game species in Zambia is higher than other countries like Namibia or South Africa.
For those reasons, Zambia isn't a great place to hunt in Africa for inexperienced hunters, people on a limited budget, or those on their first safari. However, Zambia is an excellent place for experienced hunters who don't mind spending the money for a dangerous game hunting adventure or some of the more unique species of plains game.
Mozambique is slowly recovering from a devastating civil war that didn't end until 1992. Wildlife populations were hit particularly hard, but they have made an astounding recovery in many parts of Mozambique. Among other concessions, the Zambezi Delta is especially well known for a successful anti-poaching program that has helped protect one of the best hunting areas in the country.
Like Zambia, Mozambique has some great hunting for cape buffalo. With an estimated population of over 50,000, Mozambique has the second largest population of cape buffalo in Africa. There are excellent opportunities for elephant, sable, lion, and leopard hunting in the country too. Populations of plains game species are still unevenly distributed, with some areas having a real abundance of game while others have virtually none.
Due in large part to the damage sustained during the civil war, Mozambique lags behind most other countries in southern Africa in terms of infrastructure development. They are slowly catching up, but even so, travel to Mozambique is still somewhat complicated. American hunters must stop in Europe or South Africa first and endure long drives over bumpy roads or book an air charter to reach some of the better hunting areas in the country.
This obviously adds complexity and expense to hunts in Mozambique. For these reasons, Mozambique is not an ideal country for straight plains game safaris, though that may change as wildlife populations continue to recover. It's also not for inexperienced hunters either.
However, Mozambique is a great place to hunt in Africa because certain parts of the country provide a hunting experience that few other places can rival, particularly for dangerous game.
Tanzania has a reputation as one of Africa's premier hunting destinations, and folks from Theodore Roosevelt to Robert Ruark have journeyed to Tanzania to enjoy a classic east African safari. Tanzania boasts a wildlife population that no other country in Africa can match both in variety and in sheer numbers.
Now that Kenya is no longer open for hunting, it's also the only destination in that part of Africa for big-game hunters.
Massive herds of blue wildebeest and zebra are a common sight on the Serengeti, but they are far from the only big-game animals present in Tanzania. There are over 50 species of game that may be hunted in the country, many of which can only be hunted in Tanzania.
In addition to abundant populations of plains game, the country is especially well known for incredible dangerous game hunting in the wilderness areas, especially for cape buffalo. Tanzania has the largest population of any country in Africa and hunters take some massive bulls there each year.
All that comes at a cost: on average, Tanzania is the most expensive country in Africa to hunt. For those who can afford it, Tanzania is a great place to hunt in Africa for both plains and dangerous game. Consider hunting somewhere else if you're on a budget.
Though Zimbabwe has gone through some difficult times in the past couple decades, the hunting industry there hasn't suffered nearly as much as you would think. The country is still regarded for having a cadre of exceptionally trained Professional Hunters. For that reason, Zimbabwe remains a favored destination for trophy hunters from all over the world.
There are many excellent hunting areas in Zimbabwe, but the Zambezi Valley along with the Save Valley and Bubye Valley Conservancies in particular are renowned for their fantastic buffalo, African elephant, leopard, and lion hunting. They same goes for plains game hunting. Zimbabwe has very reasonable prices for hunting buffalo, elephant, and the big cats, but the plains game hunting is often slightly more expensive than countries like Namibia or South Africa.
Zimbabwe used to be one one of the most highly developed countries in southern Africa, but years of mismanagement by the government has allowed things to deteriorate to a certain extent. The country has better infrastructure than Mozambique, but lags behind Namibia and South Africa and some of the more remote government concessions may only be reached by air.
All things considered, Zimbabwe remains an excellent place to hunt in Africa, particularly for dangerous game like buffalo, elephant, and lion.
Located on the southwest coast of Africa, Namibia was one of the best kept secrets in African trophy hunting for many decades. That has changed in recent years, as hunters have discovered what a gem Namibia is for plains game hunting.
Namibia is the only place were hunters can pursue Damarra Dik Dik and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, and the Kahahari Desert of southern and eastern Namibia is home to an abundant population of Kalahari Gemsbok and Springbok. Additionally, there is great hunting for other species of plains game like kudu, eland, wildebeest, and red hartebeest in the country.
While Namibia is a premier destination for plains game, with the exception of leopard (of which there is a thriving population), the country has much more limited dangerous game hunting opportunities. Lion, elephant, and buffalo are only present in a very small portion of the country and only a handful of these species are hunted in Namibia each year. In general, Namibia is not a very good value country to hunt any dangerous game in besides leopard.
Namibia is the only country in the world where Black Rhinoceros may currently be hunted. The tags are very rare, quite expensive, and extremely controversial (as Corey Knowlton found out). Even so, Namibia is the only country where a hunter may conduct a "Classic Big Five" safari (Black Rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion, and leopard).
Namibia also has a very developed infrastructure. Most of the hunting concessions in the country outside the Caprivi Strip in extreme northeast Namibia may be accessed via road after flying into the capital of Windhoek. Namibia is also a stable, safe, and peaceful country with a government that fully recognizes the benefits of sustainable hunting and is committed to fighting off attacks by anti-hunters.
Due to the generally competitive daily rates and plains game trophy fees that many hunting outfitters advertise, the country also has a reputation for very reasonably priced hunts and may appear to be the least expensive country in Africa to hunt at first glance. While that's true to a certain extent, there is more to the story.
Namibia is not extremely difficult to travel to, but travelers from the United States must unfortunately stop in Europe or South Africa first. This makes for a longer and more expensive journey to reach the country. The same applies to getting your trophies home after your hunt. The added cost of transportation increases the "all in" price of a hunt there to the point where it's roughly comparable to South Africa.
That being said, a Namibia hunting safari is a wonderful experience, especially for hunters on their first hunting trip to Africa.
Home to incredibly large and diverse wildlife populations, a wide variety of habitats, and reasonable prices, South Africa is known as one of the crown jewels of African hunting. For these reasons, South Africa is regarded by many as one of the best countries to hunt in Africa.
Second only to Tanzania, South Africa has fantastic hunting for a wide variety of plains game. Hunters can pursue animals like greater kudu, cape eland, nyala, waterbuck, sable, hartebeest, blue and black wildebeest, blesbok, bontebuck, impala, springbok, bushbuck, roan, warthog, bushpig, reedbuck, and klipspringer in their natural habitat.
In addition to plains game hunting, South Africa is also home to all the members of the Big 5 as well as huntable populations of White Rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and crocodile. In particular, the bush of South Africa is an outstanding area for hunting cape buffalo, both in terms of overall population and trophy quality (six of the top 10 buffalo in the SCI record book are from South Africa).
Unfortunately, elephant quotas are very limited and the country does not have a reputation for big tuskers. At the same time, be very careful booking a lion hunt in South Africa, as most of these "hunts" are for captive bred lions. The country has a very limited number of wild lions and these hunts are comparable in price to wild lion hunts in other countries ($50,000+). Any hunt advertised for less than that is most likely for a captive bred lion.
South Africa has a highly developed infrastructure and is also home to the world famous Kruger National Park. It's one of the few countries on the continent accessible via direct flight from the United States. Because of those things, a South African hunting safari is one of the best bargains remaining in the hunting industry.
While hunters who want to hunt elephant or lion should probably go somewhere else, South Africa is an ideal destination for a African safari pursuing plains game. It's also right up there with Zimbabwe for hunters looking for a good value cape buffalo or a buffalo/plains game combination hunt.
There are many other countries to hunt in Africa aside from the countries mentioned. Some, like Botswana, have excellent (though very limited) hunting opportunities for common species of African big game on privately owned land.
Others, like Benin, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, and Uganda, offer hunting for exotic species with a very limited distribution like bongo, giant eland, and mountain nyala. However, those countries are usually very expensive, challenging to travel to, and extremely difficult to hunt. Some of these countries, especially those in central and western Africa, are also located in areas with lots of political unrest.
For the time being anyway, those countries are primarily the domain of very experienced and/or deep pocketed hunters.
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