By: bowhunting biologist Wade Nolan
Africa will get under your skin faster than a wounded leopard. It's the majesty, the intrigue and just the sheer adventure we’ve all salivated over from our earliest days in the movie theaters and on TV. Let’s face it, few areas neither hold as much interest and excitement nor conjure up the thing dreams are made of quite like Africa. And yet many hunters hesitate when they hear the word "Africa." The reason is because they have unanswered questions that make Africa their "Dark Continent". This article will dispel some of the myths and cast light on this wonderfully wild place.
I've been enjoying Africa safaris for 16 years. I love the people and the countryside and I speak from experience in wild places. After spending 17 years in Alaska's wilderness I promise you that Africa can offer the same kind of wild experience. My Q & A goal is to shed some light on bowhunting and exploring Southern Africa.
Q. Is it safe to travel around in Africa?
A. If you go to the safe countries it is extremely safe.
The safest countries are South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. These countries are all in Southern Africa and share common borders. The political atmosphere is stable and has been stable for a long time. Across 16 years of visiting (Sometimes as long as 6-weeks at a time) I have never had a single negative encounter.
Q. What language do they speak?
A. The good news is that regardless of where you go in Southern Africa everyone speaks English. They are taught English in school and they can both write and read English. English is the language of commerce and Afrikaans is their conversation language.
Q. Who are the Afrikaners?
A. Most of the whites in Southern Africa are Afrikaners. It is a European ethnic group in Southern Africa descended from almost equal numbers of Dutch, French and German settlers whose native tongue is Afrikaans: a Germanic language which derives from Dutch. These are the white farmers/explorers/settlers whose opened up these countries.
Q. What is the population breakdown between native blacks and whites in Africa?
A. In South Africa there is about 43 million people. Approximately 12 million are white. The native Blacks are friendly toward Americans and are some of the nicest folks I've ever worked with. In Namibia there are 4 million people and again about ¼ are white. Botswana has a higher percentage of blacks but again my experience with the local blacks is excellent. The Bushmen are mostly found in Botswana and Namibia. There are many different tribal groups in Southern Africa who each have their own language.
Q. Is South Africa like all the Tarzan movies depict? Animal infested trails you have to hack through and natives living in huts?
A. No. Today's Africa is mostly civilized with quality paved roads linking the major cities. There are still a lot of villages, now called townships, where large black native populations live in concrete block homes with tin roofs. The wildlife that can eat you has largely been relegated to giant national parks. Lions and elephants make poor neighborhood guests.
Q. Is there a major poverty situation among the Blacks in South Africa?
A. No, they are quite healthy in these politically stable countries. The government provides them with staples and most work. In Southern Africa clean water is widely available and you will be surprised to see how well dressed and healthy the native population is. Many own businesses, drive cars, have electric and most have a cell phone. Some still drive donkey carts.
Q. So is it really a tame region, like Ohio?
A. Not really, Africa is vast. South Africa alone is more than twice the size of Texas. It has extensive mountain ranges and wild country left. In these wild places lions still may eat a guy or two and leopards see you as on the menu. Crocodiles still rule the many of the rivers. In Botswana there are large regions where free ranging lions still rule. Leopards in parts of the Kalahari are as abundant as they ever were. The Kalahari Wilderness Reserve is half the size of Pennsylvania and it is as wild as it was 300 years ago. In parts of Namibia there are only a handful of people and it is as wild as Alaska with gemsbok, kudu, springbok, warthogs and Hartebeest roaming free in the western Kalahari. Up near the Caprivi Strip Desert Elephants still roam.
Q. Is Southern Africa full of disease and will I get sick. Do I need a lot of shots and immunizations to travel there?
A. No exotic diseases plague South Africa and no shots are required when you go. Nearly all of South Africa and Namibia are Malaria Free zones. I don't take malaria pills. The people who live there never take them unless they are going into a jungle area during the rainy season. The area we visit is a desert area similar to Texas or New Mexico and we don't go in the rainy season. I have never seen a hunter get sick from a disease he picked up in Southern Africa. Aids is common among the Black population however but Aids is also common among some dimensions of our population here in the US.
Q. What are my chances of getting bitten by a poisonous snake while there?
A. About zero, as we visit during the winter when snakes are hibernation. It would be a rare day that you get to see a snake as they avoid people with as much focus as we avoid them. I have never heard of a hunter being bitten by a snake. I recently asked my Professional Hunter if many of his friends or acquaintances in Africa had ever been bitten and he said only twice in his life time did hear of a local snake bite. Your chances are probably the same as getting bit by a rattlesnake on your next Texas whitetail hunt.
Q. What is the weather like? Is the entire country flat?
A. Southern Africa is in the southern Hemisphere so their seasons are flipped. Our winter is their summer and our fall is their spring. During June July and August their winter temps are similar to October in Pennsylvania or March in Texas. Daily highs are usually in the 60-70's and lows in the 40-50's. In a word…perfect. Southern Africa is as varied as New Mexico with beautiful mountains and rolling deserts.
In Africa Myth Busters Part 2 I'll answer some of the more frequently asked safari questions concerning costs, flights and hunting details on animals and gear. Specific questions? Email me at; firstname.lastname@example.org for details on our Bring 3 hunt for free bowhunt offer. www.dvisser-safaris.com