Burkina Faso 2016
Burkina “Fiasco” Safari
By Ernest Dyason
What a fiasco!
That was the first thing that went through my mind when I arrived in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on Flight 548 from Paris.
This adventure started after a safari in Benin with one of my old friends and hunting client, Dick. We hunted during the month of March when temperatures soar to heights that would make even the Devil jealous. Dick bagged a great western savanna buffalo, and nice western hartebeest when he decided that the heat was too much, and we left for an air-conditioned hotel in Cotonou.
So with that unfinished safari, we got chatting again, but this time decided on Burkina Faso. I had no idea on how to start. Dick had corresponded with a booking agent that sends a lot of people to Burkina, but this agent did not seem to want me involved.
At around the same time a fellow by the name of Tony had made contact with me via the Internet and offered me hunting. How he found me I will never know, and to this day have not bothered to ask.
Ordinarily I would have brushed the idea aside, but something kept me intrigued – just fate, I imagine.
Tony and I corresponded back and forth many times over a period of two years. Many times I wanted to walk away and shelve the idea, but the unknown of that destination kept nagging at me.
Finally I got what I thought were reliable enough answers to my questions, and reasonable pricing from Tony, now my partner in this venture. Timing was a problem for Dick, so I had to find another guinea pig who would be willing to risk it all on this adventure with me. It was Dennis.
Dennis and I touched down late one night on Flight 548 and the fiasco started. Formalities were reasonably easy, even though no English was spoken. As promised Tony was there. This pleased me as thus far I had not been conned, keeping in mind that the safari was pre-paid.
We stayed at the Ricardo that first night, a quaint little hunter friendly hotel, close to the center of town. (Since then, I only stay there.)
The next morning Dennis and I were presented to the director of wildlife, why I really cannot say, but we shook hands and listened to him speaking French for about 30 minutes, and then left to go do some fresh supply shopping. The city center is a fiasco – dusty, dirty, plastic bags everywhere, and people hustling, but I was rather pleasantly surprised at the produce that we could get at the store. Good quality French wines as well!
The journey to the hunting area in Pama was also an adventure. I had very little knowledge on where we were going. I think Tony also had little idea, but we took the leap into the unknown.
“Fiasco” is an understatement when you travel on the roads in Burkina Faso. You will find sights that will amaze even the most well-traveled adventurer.
Mini buses, designed to carry 14 people will have at least 19 or more inside.
All the baggage and other goods including multiple motor cycles, will be piled high on the roof. Then, perched on the very top, you will find the first-class seat with its passenger lazing away as the motor vehicle speeds away on the pot-holed highway.
En route, this taxi will collect more passengers that actually stand on the tow hitch at the back, holding on for dear life. This must be the economy seat / stand.
About half way, at a large village called Fada, we stopped for lunch – “Fiasco Chicken” I named it. You get it all – head, beak and feet, but it is very delicious. Beer is always available and cold, Brakina! While you are enjoying lunch, a young boy will clean your shoes for you around the corner for the equivalent of US$1. Amazingly, as a European, you do not stand out. Nobody stares at you.
When Dennis and I arrived at our camp that first time, I was quite shocked. The place was very dilapidated and dirty. No seat on the toilet, and only a trickle coming from the faucet and shower, but amazingly the rooms had air-conditioning, and it worked well. We have since done a lot at that camp and it is very much better now; still not to the standard of our Southern African camps, but comfortable.
I soon realized the need for education of the locals on the importance of their wildlife, and have started a few feeding schemes. We invite school kids to camp to feast on game meat that is hunted by us, allowing us a chance to hand over small gifts such as school supplies, stationery and pens. We hope to also have a trust fund in place soon that can be used as scholarships for those that cannot afford an education, all paid for out of the hunting income.
Our hunting crew consisted out of a game scout, driver, tracker and local PH. This last man fascinated me. An ex-poacher, getting on in years, his religion was Muslim, which meant that he was not allowed to stand when urinating. This especially intrigued me so much that I had to also try it!
He was very excitable, and whenever we saw an animal we had to restrain him as well as the whole crew, as they would all simultaneously try to get us to shoot, whether the animal was big, small, male or female. Everything we saw was “big”.
It took a few stalks and some discussions, to slow the thing down, and make them understand that I would be the one to make a final decision.
The hunting was great. We saw a tremendous amount of game – buffalo, leopard, cheetah, roan, hartebeest, kob, reedbuck, oribi and many more. Lion tracks were seen every day, and often in the early morning you would hear them roar. I was now fully intrigued with this “fiasco” country and the stark contrast in the pristine wilderness, clean, untouched and plentiful wildlife. I was hooked on this hunting destination.
I am quite a keen birder when I get the chance, and now there were multiple bird species to rediscover, my favorites being the western Grey Plantain-eater, Rose-ringed parakeet, the western version of the Go-away-bird (quite shy here), and a parakeet species that I breed at my home in South Africa.
Dennis bagged excellent trophies on that trip – buffalo, roan, hartebeest, kob, reedbuck, waterbuck and bushbuck. All of them were fully mature and bigger than expected.
I have subsequently guided other clients to take even greater animals, including a new pending SCI #2 or #3 reedbuck.
(Much to the dismay of my wife, Al-Qaeda attacked a hotel while we were there, but at no time whatsoever did we feel unsafe.)
Burkina Faso will remain “Fiasco” for me, but I love the place and I absolutely adore the wildlife and hunting there.
Ernest Dyason started hunting at the young age of six, and turned professional in 1989, then on the family farm near Hoedspruit. Ernest and Marita Dyason own and operate Spear Safaris since its inception in 1995, and concentrate on South Africa, Western Tanzania and Burkina Faso, offering varied hunting opportunities from January to November.