Traveling to Safari Camp
by Stephan Hofmann
In the Boma with Barry and Lizelle
One of the most frightening aspects of an African Safari is the long plane flight involved. I heard that South African Airlines is called "Sore-Ass Airlines" because a 15 hour flight over the Big Pond is involved if one was traveling from America.
Another frightening and daunting aspect is undergoing South African Customs. I was nervous during the first part of my journey but found everyone that I met to be most courteous and helpful. I thoroughly enjoyed my 12 hour trip over the Atlantic Ocean. I enjoyed traveling at 42,000 feet over Angola. I wondered about the Giant Sables that had been rediscovered recently in war torn Angola.
In Johannesburg I was met by a young man named Iftin who helped me get through Customs. My guns were going straight through to Namibia. Iftin escorted me to the proper terminal for the flight leaving for Windhoek, Namibia.
After 18 hours (I enjoyed every minute of the adventure) in the air on South African Airlines, I arrived safely in Windhoek, Namibia. I passed through Customs and collected my luggage and guns. I learned to always travel with a pen. I needed it to fill out my entrance visa. The Customs official would not let me borrow a pen. I approached a young German speaking girl and asked, "Hast du eine Bleistiff, bitte?" She let me use her pen.
I took a cab to the Kalahari Sands Hotel in the middle of Windhoek. It was about a 30 minute drive. The driver of the cab was named Xavier. He was of German ancestry. I asked Xavier which beer is good in Namibia. He said he drinks Tafel Lager.
We pulled up to the entrance to the Hotel. The lobby of the Kalahari Sands Hotel looked like Ricâ's Place in the movie, Casablanca. There were ceiling fans and red colored stone on the floors and the walls. I registered at the front desk in the lobby and gave the clerk my gun case which was put in a safe for protection while I was in the Hotel.
I was led to my room by a porter and rested a while with a few room service Tafel Lagers.
The beer was very refreshing. As I drank the beer I looked out the window onto Independence Avenue, the main thoroughfare in Windhoek. The street with it's traffic and lights glittered in the desert darkness. Windhoek looked very clean and modern to me. The thoughts were going through my mind that I, a neophyte international traveler who had only previously been 500 yards into Mexico and some of Canada, was now in Namibia, Africa!!
I wish I could convey the feeling of accomplishment that this fact gave me. I had survived the long plane flight. I had endured South African Customs. I had enjoyed the short plane flight to Windhoek. The people that I had met were courteous, polite, helpful and friendly. The fact was that I had enjoyed every aspect of my trip so far!!
After I finished my Tafel Lagers, I went down to dinner which consisted of Gemsbok Cutlets grilled to order, Klip Fish fillets, and Warthog Ribs. I can not tell you how excited I was to be eating African food!! Warthog and Gemsbok!!
After my meal which took place in a luxurious dining room I ventured into the Casino. I played a few hands of Blackjack then went back to my room. I slept well that night even though I was terribly excited about my upcoming adventure in Northern Namibia.
In the morning I joined my Professional Hunter and Outfitter, Barry, and his beautiful wife, Lizelle, for breakfast. Barry said he would be my PH for the 10 day Safari. I was delighted to have the head of the outfit guiding me personally.
After breakfast we loaded up a brand new Toyota Landcruiser and started the five hour journey to the hunting camp. We traveled on the B1 Road to Otjiwarongo. It was immensely interesting watching the Namibian countryside pass by.
The country appeared to be quite dry. There were some fences by the side of the road and watering tanks. I saw some sheep and some goats. I had read somewhere that Windhoek is one of the largest sheepskin exporters in the world.
We saw many Guinea Fowl on the road and beside the road. We also saw many Warthogs by the side of the road. Sometimes the Warthogs would raise their tails straight up and race across the road. This caused Barry to firmly apply the brakes. The sighting of the Guinea Fowl and Warthogs was tremendously exciting for me. I realized that I had traveled all the way to Southern Africa and was actually seeing wild African animals and birds for the first time.
We stopped to eat lunch in Otjiwarongo. We ate in a clean fast food restaurant that offered chicken, hamburgers, and salad. I marveled at how spotlessly clean and modern the restaurant was. I ordered a hamburger and a chocolate shake. Lizelle had a salad to maintain her trim figure. Barry had a burger also. The food was delicious.
Barry asked me what kind of animal I wanted to shoot most on my Safari. I told him I was partial to the beautiful Gemsbok. I had read that Gemsbok are very tough and difficult to take cleanly. Barry said that we would get our Gemsbok. Barry said that we would be hunting by waterholes for the first few days. He saw that I was overweight and probably deduced that I was not in very good condition. Barry knew that I could not walk a long ways through the bush.
Barry was a large man also and the 10 days that he guided me would entail no great exertion on his part. Barry said we would work hard and we would harvest all the animals in my hunt package which included a Kudu, a male and female Gemsbok, a Burchell's Zebra, a Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, a Red Hartebeest, a Warthog, a common Duiker, a Springbok, and a Steenbok.
After lunch we went to Theo's Spar and bought bulk groceries to supply the hunting camp. We bought coffee, sugar, flour, corn meal, tobacco, ox tail soup packets, and rice. I think most of it was to feed the camp staff. Barry said the hunting camp had no electricity and the power went out at 22h30. I decided to buy a flashlight. I did not want to be left alone in the darkness with only starlight to see by.
We continued North to Outjo. The hunting camp is North of Outjo and just South of Etosha National Park. We saw Baboons by the side of the road. They were large, black, and evil looking. I had no desire what so ever to shoot a Baboon for a trophy.
We gassed up the vehicle in Outjo. Gas is dispensed by friendly uniformed service attendants in Namibia. They check the oil and clean the windshields. I remember that this service was common in the United States in the 1950's and 1960's before the era of self service.
Outjo advertised itself as the Gateway to Etosha, the large National Park in Northern Namibia. Many tourist vehicles were making their way through town.
We continued North. We left the blacktop and traveled on dirt roads to get to the hunting camp.
The sun was setting. Nearing the hunting camp I saw a herd of four Giraffes at a distance in the murky twilight. The long necks of the Giraffes rose above the Acacia thorn brush. I could not believe it!! I was actually in Africa and was seeing wild Giraffes!! Lizelle pointed to a dark brownish colored Giraffe and said this color was her favorite. A Steenbok scampered across the road. It had little 8 inch horns. Barry said it was a good trophy animal. It looked kind of small to me. Barry spotted some Kudu bulls in the trees by the side of the road. I was like a kid in a zoo. I was actually looking at wild African Kudu!!
We arrived at the hunting camp as dusk was settling over Northern Namibia. The camp consisted of 8 thatched huts, a large thatched communal Boma or African gathering place, and the quarters for the camp staff. Barry brought me to the Boma and gave me a Windhoek Lager. The bottle of beer was meant to be opened by an opener but Barry's strong hands twisted it open for me. I was impressed. The cold beer went down good.
I was then shown to my thatched hut. The hut had all the amenities including running water, shower, and toilet. I was very comfortable.
Barry said that dinner was at 8 o'clock in the Boma. He said to come earlier, have a beer, and sit by the fire. I started to unpack. I realized that I had traveled a long distance in the last few days.
I was truly in a very wild part of Africa. There were Lions, Leopards, and Jackals nearby. I was under Wild African skies with the Southern Cross shining brightly overhead. I could barely believe it.
My Safari adventure was truly about to begin.
I could not have been more excited!!