What follows over the next few weeks is a daily journal of life in a big game hunting camp. There is a lot of misconceptions which seem to be spread as easily as the common cold about hunting in general, and African big game hunting specifically.
First off, it is a well to do persons passion almost exclusively, unless you are on the working end of the equation. With daily fees exceeding two thousand U.S. dollars a day, the uninformed believe it is simply dollars spent to buy/kill innocent animals. Nothing could be a bigger lie. Nothing. Unknown to most, the dollars are not transferred by “rich hunters” to greedy outfitters. Instead the money is used to bolster the local economy, think indigenous peoples, who have little opportunity in life to better their standing and that of their families, en masse.
Ivory Camp sits on ten acres of developable land, with a concession contract for a ten year period. All the infrastructure costs are paid upfront before ANY client dollars are received. Ninety eight percent of the labor needs to be trained to complete the simplest construction tasks. A total of two acres is planned for actual use. This includes all client facilities (very limited), additional guest facilities (think photographers), professional hunting staff, camp managers, and all processing facilities for the game taken and “trophies” prepared for shipment back to the clients country of residence.
Then there is the local staff, their onsite housing and sanitary facilities, which are unknown to many as they must be trained for their positions. They are used to bushes for there daily ablutions, the river a kilometer and a half away for washing of bodies and clothes, and the daily carrying of varying potable water for cooking and consumption. Any type of personal hygiene is largely unknown or basically ignored, because of lack of necessary supplies. When staff return to their settlements they share the knowledge they have learned with friends and family. Many times they are met with disbelief on all levels.
The cost of all this effort is VERY expensive. Food, supplies of all types, laundry facilities for daily use, irons and boards, pots, pans, plates, glasses, cups, saucers and everything you would find in a modest home is not only difficult to obtain, but frequently many days travel away. Todays problem, hangers for clothes in the chalets. Having built hanging rods, it is now necessary to have simple hangers to hang the clothes upon. Simple, well, not really. A drive of over one and half hours, with all attendant costs for transport, and we have eight hangers. Eight. The balance of twenty four needed are two weeks order time away, if, and only if they are shipped on time. We will have them brought in from Windhoek when the next clients arrive.
If you read this with an open mind, you will begin to understand the ongoing logistical nightmare of a small operation, catering to only two hunters for two weeks or more at a time. In the “wildest”parts of Africa remaining, living is hard. Life is always on the edge. Crops planted and destroyed by an elephant, or hippo, or herd of buffalo is a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions to the small village who has lost their yearly food supply. Their solution, kill the animals responsible. They will consume the meat if possible, but in their minds all animals are a direct challenge to their survival. Soon with the population of Africa exploding there will be no animals left.
Hunters and conservationists know this. The rest of the “civilized” world, ignorant of facts, but freely substituting emotion for facts, raise their voices in a chorus to save the animals at any cost, by ending the very activity, hunting, that imparts value to these myriad creatures. I politely ask, save them from whom? How? The old, accurate adage, “If it pays, it stays” is cast aside to join the photos of animals that once existed in abundance and now live there lives captive in zoos and other contained environments.
25 July, 2016
Arrived Ivory Camp in the dark around eight this evening. We traveled four hundred kilometers due east the length of the Caprivi strip to Kongola, then thirty three kilometers more to camp along the edge of a backwater to the Kwando river. We passed around thirty elephant on our way before dark in the Bwabwata National Park. The entire tar road is a constant patchwork of communal settlements. People constantly walking the road, and herds of cattle, donkey, and goats are ever present hazards. All in all NOT a drive I would eagerly embrace again. I believe the flight from Windhoek to Katima Mulilo is a far better option.
Crossing the Okavango river near dusk was a refreshing change to the dry bush of the typical Namibian countryside . The river was running a hundred meters or more across and with very good flow coming from Angola, briefly traversing the Strip before entering Botswana where it will be absorbed into the famed Okavango delta and the surrounding desert, disappearing forever.
The night shrouded any view of the Kwando, and we were greeted in Ivory Camp by a profound lack of water, except for two small lagoons one hundred feet in length by a third of that in width. The camp is situated on the banks of a backwater, now totally cut off from the main river one kilometer distant. Three islands about eight hundred meters in front of camp, now occupy a dry flood plain devoid of water, and still burning grass and reeds as fire burns northwards into the night.
The camp is well sited under extensive tree cover and surrounded by lawn. The entire camp area currently occupies about one and a half acres with two private client chalets, two family/friends chalets, all four ensuite, a kitchen/dining area, four PH tent/chalet combos, and two more guest tent/chalet combos under construction.
Electricity is provided via a genset that is shut down every evening around ten, water from a new borehole (well) pressurized for delivery to all chalets, and wood fired hot water heaters. It is late now, more to follow tomorrow…