Strange Tales from the African Bush

Hannes Wessels (Safari Press, 2009, 234 pages.)

Reviewed by Ken Bailey


As is suggested by its title, Hannes Wessels’ Strange Tales from the African Bush is not your typical book that describing someone’s African hunting exploits. But then, Wessels is not your typical author. He grew up in Zimbabwe along the Mozambique border, where his interests in hunting and the outdoor lifestyle blossomed. As did many young men in the day, Wessels served in the Rhodesian War, but soon after returned to school and earned a law degree. Deciding the law wasn’t the profession for him, he turned to the bush, and spent 20 years hunting professionally, and recreationally, in Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. This well-written and highly-entertaining book is part autobiographical, including the horrifying tale of Wessels nearly losing his life in 1994 when he was gored by a buffalo in Masailand. Much of it, however, consists of Wessels relating the strange but true stories of people and places he’s known over the years.


One story of note tells the tale of the young PH who wanted to impress the beautiful young daughter of his client on a hunt along Zambia’s famed Luangwa River valley. Without giving away too many of the details, the PH ended up with the barrel of his .416 Rigby unintentionally inserted in his posterior with such precision and force that he required surgery to have it removed. As might be expected, he didn’t make the impression he’d intended on the young lady.


Two separate tails describe incidences where game wardens and guides ended up in hollowed-out baobab trees with uninvited guests – in one case a leopard, in the other a black mamba. In another tale, Wessels relates the misfortune of two young PHs send to explore an uncharted river for potential safari camps who ultimately end up walking for more than a week with little more than a knife and their wits as they struggle to make it back to civilization, all the while dodging hippos, crocodiles, leopards and a wide assortment of other challenges.


Wessels clearly has a passion for the African bush way of life that shines through in his varied stories of PHs, clients, trackers, poachers and assorted other characters; his tales are at times funny, sad or frightening, and always entertaining, but never are they mean-spirited or derisive. If you pick this book up, I guarantee you’ll read it cover to cover, enjoying the ride.