By Peter Ruddle
Capital City: Windhoek
Official Language: English. German widely spoken
Currency: Namibian Dollar (N$)
Size: 824,290Km2 (Larger than Texas)
Historical Hunting Overview
Namibia was formerly known as South West Africa. The British took partial possession of the country before it was colonized by the Germans. After the First World War, the country was placed under the administrative rule of South Africa until it gained its independence in 1990.
The oldest inhabitants of the region, the San people (Bushmen), are descendants of the Early Stone Age people. Originally, they were migratory people who neither cultivated the land nor kept domestic livestock, the true epitome of hunter-gathers. To this day their survival and hunting skills, along with fauna and flora knowledge, leave many in awe. Their undisputed tracking skills are rated as probably one of the best in the world.
Another well-known tribe in the northern region of the country, is the Himba (singular: OmuHimba, plural: OvaHimba) – a Bantu ethnic group that is also renowned indigenous hunter-gatherers.
Trophy hunting is believed to have started in 1962 as a sideline to traditional agriculture when farmers allowed professional hunters to hunt the plentiful herds of Springbuck, Gemsbuck (Oryx), Kudu and Warthogs found on these farms.
In the 1980s large-scale commercial poaching, subsistence hunting and drought badly affected some areas of the country. However, since then, there has been a huge turnaround with buy-in and support from the government in fee-based trophy hunting. This success came about by devolving rights over wildlife and communal landowners making the hunting industry a major contributor to the national economy. Over 80% of wildlife is now found outside of protected areas and the wildlife numbers continue to increase.
Game Management Areas
Namibia offers a variety of hunting opportunities to meet most requirements and budgets and the country’s wildlife conservation and hunting land use model is divided into four categories.
Hunters are attracted due Namibia by the sheer size of the hunting farms. These farms are unfenced and offer affordable free-range plains game hunts which are very popular amongst European clients. The hunts take place on working ranches amongst domestic livestock, like cattle sheep and goats. Although some excellent trophies may be taken the emphasis is more on a management style of hunting. Many commercial farming areas have combined their conservation efforts by establishing conservancies with their neighbors and are now able to offer sustainable offtakes of more species and additional hunting land for the client’s enjoyment. The accommodation offered is normally a refurbished farmhouse or a section of the family’s main farmhouse.
Private Game Ranches
Many of these farms now have dedicated wildlife areas where the interior fences and domestic stock have been removed. Species previously extinct in the area have now been reintroduced, along with species that were not endemic to the region. To protect their wildlife investment, these farms are now being high-fenced and also forming large privately owned conservancies and/or private game reserves. Many of these private game reserves are so large that they can accommodate the “Big 5”. Accommodation ranges from luxury lodges and tented camps and trophy fees range from moderate to expensive and are quality related.
Communal Wildlife Conservancies
The conservancies are community-based institutions that have obtained the conditional rights to use the wildlife occurring in the defined area. Until recently these tribal communities often found themselves in direct conflict with the wildlife found in these areas. Many of these communities have democratically elected committees that now oversee and promote sustainable natural resource management according to the management plan for these areas. Proceeds from hunting in these areas have now become the community’s primary income source in these agriculturally marginalized and impoverished areas. The concession hunting concessions are auctioned off to outfitters who enter into a contract with the tribal authority and are responsible for the management of these areas and providing the agreed community upliftment services as agreed in the transaction. These hunts are ideal for adventurous hunters wanting to experience the old remote, rugged Africa. Most Big 5 hunts in Namibia take place in these conservancies.
Big Game Concessions on State-owned Land
Over 19% of Namibia is conserved under its protected areas program which equates to 130,000 hectares (320,000 acres). The most well know of these parks is the flagship Etosha National Park and the well-known Skeleton Coast National Park. Then there are other lesser-known protected areas where the Ministry of Environment and Tourism offer limited hunting opportunities. The government has adopted a policy to regulate the granting of tourism and trophy hunting concessions on State land that includes protected areas, game parks and communal areas. The policy was developed to serve as the basis of new legal provisions concerning concessions that are to become part of the future Parks and Wildlife Management Bill. The new policy lays down clear objectives and principles for the granting of concessions, including empowerment objectives for the communities living in these areas.
Popular Hunting Destinations
Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa and is normally divided from west to east into three main topographic zones: the coastal Namib Desert, the Central Plateau, and the Kalahari. However, I have divided the country from south to north but keep in mind that the extreme west of the country is the driest desert (Namib Desert) in the world.
1. Southern Namibia
The region may lack the wildlife densities and diversity of the north but makes up for it with the sublime desert scenery. The main attraction in this area is the true desert species and the Kalahari specialities, namely the Kalahari Springbuck and Kalahari Gemsbuck (Oryx). You will not find better trophy quality of these two species when hunting in this area which is also home to the Bushmen. Hunting with Bushmen trackers is an attraction on its own.
2. Central Namibia
The central plateau varies in altitude from 3,200 to 6,500 feet (975 to 1,980 metres) and is the core of the agricultural life of Namibia. This region includes the country’s capital city of Windhoek and the only international airport making it ideally situated to the many hunting areas in the region. Being a semi-arid savanna region, you can expect to see higher densities of plains game and a richer variety with many introduced (exotic) species.
3. Northern Namibia
This region extends from the game-rich area surrounding Etosha National Park to the Kunene River which forms the border with Angola. The area boasts some endemics, such as the Damaraland Dik-dik and Black-faced Impala. The area is also known for its Lion, Leopard and Rhino hunting.
4. Zambezi Region (Caprivi)
This thirsty country only has only 4 permanent rivers of which two are found in this region. This sandy area is so different to the rest of the country. The aquatic habitats and ample availability of freshwater attract masses of game, ranging from Elephants to Hippos and Crocodiles. The floodplains, riverine and swamps also offer excellent habitats for a huge variety of birds and fish, including Tiger fish.
Climate and Hunting Season
Hunting season opens on February 1 and closes on November 30. The best time to hunt is during the cool, dry winter months from May to September.
The summer rainfall months (October to March) can very hot. The winter days are milder and it is best to dress in layers as the morning and nighttime temperatures can be crisp with frost. Temperatures drop rapidly once the sun sets especially if you are seated in the back of an open hunting vehicle.
Hunting camps and lodges vary from area to area. There are three types of hunting accommodation on offer in Namibia.
It is not uncommon to be hosted in a converted farmhouse or in many instances in the family’s farmhouse on a true working ranch. Your convenience is kept in mind and the en-suite rooms are cosy and have air conditioning. All well-equipped facilities are very comfortable and the bedrooms are ensuite with hot and cold running water. Many have swimming pools and provide heating for those cold winter nights. The main focal point is often around a fire pit, entertainment and dining areas. Enjoy the traditional Namibian lifestyle, culture and traditions. The meals often include game dishes and traditional German cuisine.
These facilities range from top-of-the-range luxury to a comfortable well equipped hunting lodges offering you a true African safari feel. Priority is given to the guest’s comfort and entertainment. Many of these lodges feature en-suite rooms with king-size beds, bar fridges and air-conditioning. Most of your evening time is spent around the fireplace, at the bar or enjoying a sumptuous traditional meal often prepared by well-trained chefs specialising in venison dishes and homegrown organic vegetables.
Sleeping under canvas is the closest you will come to those nostalgic safaris of yesteryear. Many imagine the rooms to have rickety cots but it’s far from the truth. This is truly glamorous camping (glamping) in style with fully functional en-suite bathrooms, hot and cold running water and flushing toilets. The camps are often built in the most idyllic spots with views over the surrounding countryside or scenic river vistas. These luxurious facilities with their olden-day feel will ensure you experience the romance of a true African Safari.
Available Hunting Species
Big 5 Species
Cat, African Wild
Giraffe (Angolan Giraffe)
Hartebeest, Red (Cape)
*Hyrax, Kaokoveld Rock
Indigenous – where the species occurred naturally without any human intervention.
* Endemic – where an indigenous species has a naturally restricted range.
**Southern African near-endemic – where about 80% of the natural range of a species is confined to the specified area.
***Exotic – where a species originates from another part of the world and has never occurred naturally.
****Peripheral Indigenous – where a species just enters the very edge of Namibia, with most of its distribution occurring elsewhere.
+Color Variant – Introduced to some game ranches in Namibia.