Suspicions arose when my French representative took me aside at Ouamou, our hunting camp in eastern Burkina Faso, strongly advising me to keep my firearm within reach at all times. I had just arrived with my last group of hunters after two months of back-to-back safaris in Burkina Faso (formally known as Upper Volta). Some background. Terrorist attacks escalated during the past few years in Burkina Faso. On 2 March 2018, at least eight heavily armed militants launched an assault on key locations throughout Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso. Targets included the French Embassy and the headquarters of Burkina Faso’s military. ISIS fighters infiltrated the Sahel region (northern Burkina Faso, western Niger and southern Mali) from the north and established strongholds in this arid and religious-diverse area. The Sahel region forms the southern frontier of the Sahara Desert.
Splinter ISIS groups moved into the countryside of eastern Burkina Faso – directly into our beloved hunting grounds. For nearly a decade, African Echo has conducted successful hunting safaris in association with our local partner during the months of January through to the end of March. In Singou, not far from where I was busy hunting savannah buffalo with an American client, a French outfitter and his hunting clients spotted two armed men at a distance who immediately opened fire on the French group, but luckily no-one was hit (very bad shots). The French picked up 34 AK-47 cases after the two men ran off. The news spread like a veldfire among the camp staff, and we were all on high alert. Not initially wanting to alarm the clients, we started hunting more to the south in the concession and added a few extra armed scouts to our party. We all spoke French, except my clients.
My tracker Oually normally goes off on his own just before arrival at our lunch-time picnic spot, to shoot a few guinea fowl which very tastefully paired with our packed pasta, Moroccan sardines and a few cold ones.
After the first shot from his old Russian single-barrel shotgun, and very much to his surprise, he was surrounded by half of Burkina Faso’s armed forces. Luckily the heavily armed convoy was led by Michel, a good friend and local hunting guide, showing the military where the previous attack took place. I remember being quite proud as Michel was wearing his African Echo hunting cap (he often helped me out when I had double bookings). By now the clients realised that this was not a standard anti-poaching exercise.
We had a meeting back in camp and decided to stop all hunting. The plan was to wait for the military to clear the area. After sitting in camp for two days and slowly running out of hunting days, I contacted my local partner in Ouagadougou and he organised another concession in the Pama region, very close to the Benin border. This was my last safari that season – little did I know that it sadly would also be my last safari since then. We quickly packed, and after lunch the whole crew drove down to Pama, roughly 200 km southwest by road. Trust me, 200km is not a two-hour drive in West Africa. We arrived at last light, regrouped and settled in.
After losing a few hunting days and confronted by a whole new area, we were very fortunate to obtain most of the animals on the clients’ wish list. We were all on the same Air France flight from Ouagadougou to Paris from where my clients caught their connecting flight back to the States, and I flew back to South Africa. Saying our last good-byes at Charles De Gaulle Airport, I sensed a mutual awareness of what just happened to us. It was more than just a hunt. The past ten days of compact and intense adventure will provide a lifetime of memories.
A Proud Member of Craig Boddington Endorsed Outfitters.
Registered ACP (Confirmé) & PHASA. SCI member & Global Rescue partner.
Please contact us if you are interested in hunting West and Central Africa (Chad & Central African Republic) or Southern Africa (Mozambique, Zambia & South Africa).
Mobile: +27-83 456 1934
YouTube URL-link below of last short film made in Burkina Faso: https://youtu.be/nzMMI7RRAkU