By Enrich Hugo


West Africa has a special appeal not only for hunters. The mix of geographically diverse zones offers savannahs, marsh and rainforest lovers plenty of opportunities to explore fauna and flora. This time is Benin our hunting destination. This elongated, small West African country is considered the cradle of the voodoo religion. In Abomey you can visit the old royal palaces as well as the voodoo temples. The capital is Porto Novo. The international airport where our journey start is in Cotonou. A typical West African city. Stinky, hectic and a lot of traffic. Surprisingly fast, by African standards, are the immigration formalities, and weapons import documents are done by customs and police.


After that, the luggage will be stowed in the waiting Land Cruiser. Our host and outfitter from Pendjari Safaris wants to start as soon as possible. It is still early in the morning and he wants to reach the end of the city of Cotonou before morning traffic starts. Ahead of us is a nine-hour drive. Cotonou is located on the southern border of Benin, directly on the Gulf of Guinea.


Our destination and camp is located in the north of the country, on the edge of the National Park Pendjari.


The 700-kilometer drive gives us another insight into this, for West African conditions, very stable and peaceful country. No religious or racial tensions make Benin a special oasis in West Africa and is gently governed by a democratically elected government. The influence of the former French colonial era can not be denied and is reflected not only in the French official language. The main income of Benin, one of the poorest countries in the world, comes from agriculture. In addition to corn, sweet potatoes, cashew and pineapple, it is mainly the large cotton plantations that catch the eye. It is exactly this cotton that we can see again and again on completely overloaded trucks on our way to Batia.

After about eight hours driving we leave the paved road and after another hour on a sandy road we reach our camp. In addition to the typical round huts stands a completely newly built building with four rooms. Each bedroom with its own bathroom and toilet and of course with air conditioning. Anyone who has ever hunted in West Africa will be extremely pleasantly surprised here. After a long shower, we meet again at dinner. There we will also be introduced to the two professional hunters and our trackers, who will guide us in the next few days. One of the two professional hunters is a Portuguese, who works in Benin from December to May, during the hunting season in Benin, and earns his living as a professional hunter from June to November in Mozambique. The second professional hunter comes from neighboring Burkina Faso and has been working here for over 15 years as a professional hunter with Pendjari Safaris. How valuable the experience of our two professional hunters is will already evident on the following first hunting day.


We take the first day of our hunt calmly and after a good breakfast we go out for the first terrain exploration. The camp is located on the edge of a small village. The people wave friendly to us and children run after our car. Here, too, the ethical and serious hunt has written its success story. Conservation programs, a rigorous anti- poaching, and appreciation for wildlife has contributed to the development of not only a high stock of wildlife but also a small but considerable wealth in their village. Not only the meat of the hunted game support to the local villages with protaine, also a large part of the revenue of the trophy fees is used to expand the infrastructure. After twenty minutes we are already in our hunting zone. Here my two hunting clients check their weapons and after a threefold series, it’s ready to go. Khalid has opted for a double rifle 9.3×74 and my second hunting guest Rodrigo leads a 375 H&H. Our hunting area is especially known for its abundance of Western savannah buffalo and Western roan antelope. But also Western Hartebeest, Nagor Reedbock, Harnest Bushbuck, Defassa Waterbuck, Oribi, Warthog and two different Duiker are huntable here. We chose the month of January for our hunt and therefore the high grass is not dry enough to burn it down. Despite the sometimes high grass level, we can still recognize the typical savannah character. Small to medium sized bushes and trees dominate the landscape in addition to the extensive grassy areas. The first game drive should serve primarily to get a small overview of our hunting area, but after one of our professional hunters has discovered fresh tracks of buffalo is instantly aroused our hunting fever.


Khalid gets the preference and we start our first stalking in the Savannah of Benin. As usual, the stalking is led by one of the trackers. Then Burkina, as our professional hunter from Burkina Faso is affectionately called and then Khalid the Hunter. Because of the tracks we estimate that it has to be a smaller group of five to eight buffaloes. The tracks are relatively fresh and since they are not particularly deep, it also tells us that they are moving slowly ahead of us. The direction of the wind is also perfect and after about an hour of stalking we see the small buffalo herd in front of us. As already suspected, there are six Savannah buffalos. Four cows and two bulls. This little group already shows us the special of the Western savanna buffalo here in Benin. It is the variegation of these buffaloes. From almost black to dark brown but also reddish, the buffalos are colored here and very often these different colors are found in one and the same herd. That is also the case here. The Western savanna buffalo is the third largest buffalo species in Africa alongside the Cape and Nile buffalo. Despite the successful stalking we do not come to a conclusion. The two bulls are too young and should be given the opportunity to pass on their very good genetic before they get hunted. But no reason to be disappointed. On the contrary, the first stalk was already excellent and we had a successful overview. Our trackers and professional hunters have been able to prove their skills and experience at the first stalk, and my two hunters already have the feeling that they are in good hands. After a short time we are back on the road where our car is waiting. After a little refreshment we continued our game drive. We pass two larger waterholes that are full of tracks but due to the time of day no game can be seen. Since there are some larger trees next to the last waterhole and the sun is directly above us at the highest point, we set our lunch break here. A shady place with a great view.

Lunch break.

Hunter heart, what do you want more. Lunch tastes particularly good here and we enjoy the boundless freedom in the middle of West African nature. But after a long rest, things continue. It is already an hour before sunset when Burkina gives the driver the sign to stop. He points to the east and still the sun is in our backs, I can see nothing without my binoculars. Burkina instructs me and with the help of the binoculars I can then also recognize what he has already identified only with his eye. A dark, almost black dyed Dagga Boy, as here also the single living buffalo bulls are called. You can already clearly see Khalid’s excitement. The buffalo is 300 meters away and our professional hunter decides at short notice that he will only stalk with Khalid and 

a tracker. The terrain between us and the bull is too open and too many people would make it much easier for the buffalo to discover us. Me, Rodrigo, and the rest of the team follow the stalk out of good hidden place. The buffalo is still grazing and shows no suspicion even though Khalid and Burkina are only 50 meters away from him. I can see that Khalid have his gun on the shooting stick and is already aiming the bull. The shot does not wait. The buffalo immediately draws and breaks to the right. 


After ten meters he stops and the second shot breaks. Although the first shot was excellent for me and in my opinion a deadly hit, the second hit finally drops the Bull to the ground. When Burkina and Khalid are by the buffalo and both give us signs to come, we are on the way to go to the harvest buffalo. Of course, a heartfelt congratulation the shooter and congratulation to the professional hunter to this successful conclusion of the first hunting day. A really old fighter lies here in knee-high grass. Numerous traces show of old turf wars and one or the other scar suggests that he was also the target of attacks of lions. An excellent launch. Khalid is overjoyed and describes in detail the course of the stalking and the killing of the buffalo. The loading of the bull is routine for our experienced team and then it’s back to the camp.

Just at sunset we arrive at the camp and there we are greeted. Despite the enjoyable beginning of our safari, we are in bed shortly after supper to rest and be fit for the next day. The second day is similar to the previous day. Game drive through the vast savannah and a part of our team is looking for fresh tracks and the other half explores the environment for movements that could close on antelopes or buffalo. And again, Khalid is challenged when we discover a three-headed group of roan antelopes. All three are old and strong trophy bulls. This time I accompany Khalid with his stalking. Very slowly and over again we observe this second largest antelope of Africa. Up to a distance of 90 meters we stalk closer and Khalid sights the extreme left roan of this group of three. Optimal shot distance for his 9.3 caliber and the Roan antelope breaks down after firing. Already on the second day of our safari Khalid killed both main game species from Benin. Of course, always a big dose of luck with it but also the experience of our professional hunters and trackers and over years game management here are fruits of success. In the afternoon we still see the first Hartebeest and waterbuck but all female or young animals. Nevertheless, a successful hunting day comes to an end and we let it end comfortably. The next three days of hunting also show us that we are not here in a fenced hunting farm in South Africa or Namibia and really hunting in the wild. Three days of stalking for hours, with backsliding by a sudden change of wind direction, attentive game or carelessness on our part. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for me, and I know that from my many previous savanna hunts

Loading the buffalo.


However, it is important for my hunting clients to prepare for such a hunt so far that they can handle even those thirsty streaks that a savannah hunt entails and that they do not lose the desire for the further safari. For Khalid and Rodrigo, however, the last three unsuccessful days leave no trace. On the contrary, I have the impression that they absorb everything in and this hunting trip will keep a special positive memory. The sixth day of hunting is again at its best. On this day we return very successfully to the camp. A West African Hartebeest, a Harnest Bushbuck and a Nagor Reedbock could be killed after successful stalking. We were able to detect and shoot the latter two at two different waterholes. Now only the buffalo of Rodrigo falls to complete a completely successful safari. Two days are still available and we look forward to these days. The penultimate day is already starting promising. Fresh traces of a larger herd. We try to stalk these herds. We succeed and I count more than twenty Savannah buffaloes. It is a mixed herd with cows, calves and also some bulls. I even see two of the reddish colored bulls what Rodrigo wants to hunt. But we do not want to shoot a buffalo out of a herd. Our goal is to find a single Dagga Boy. We just enjoy the big herd we were able to stalk so successfully and then continued our hunt. Although we can no see a red-colored loner on this day we still have plenty of material for our cameras. Herd of young roan antelopes, some hartebeest, oribis and a young waterbuck can be photographed and filmed.


The last day of our safari is approaching and this time it starts earlier. Today we want to look for the Dagga Boy in the northeastern corner of our hunting zone. The idea does not come from somewhere. Some of the rangers employed by our outfitter, who implemented the anti-poaching program and are busy patrolling the hunting grounds, have just seen a reddish bull at this northeast corner. And just where these rangers last saw the bull, we also find him. An old, mature bull. The red is almost reminiscent of a forest buffalo occurring in the rainforest, but which is much smaller than the Western savannah buffalo. An absolute dream buffalo. This time, Jorge, the professional hunter from Portugal, introduces us. The buffalo stands in the shade of some trees and the wind is excellent for us. I estimate between 250 to 300 meters separate us from the bull. Jorge, Rodrigo a tracker and myself start the stalking. Each step is checked twice. Just no hasty movement or a careless kick now. Suddenly Jorge stops petrified. He makes us understand that we should not move and shows something in the left direction of our stalk. An elephant bull watches our approach. A fantastic experience to experience the elephant so close but still we are glad when he makes off and pulls back into the dense undergrowth. Finally we can continue our stalking. Our buffalo seems to have heard and seen nothing of all this. The rangefinder in my binoculars shows 80 meters. After another 15 meters and a tree with perfect rifle rest Rodrigo is ready to go. The weapon is already unlocked and he just waits until the buffalo shows him his broadside. I can understand that this moment has to fill up like hours for him. Finally the time has come. Uncovered with the full side of the bull shows up and the finger writhes on the trigger. The red draws immediately and breaks in place in the fire. Jorge keeps track and asks Rodrigo to reload immediately. After another minute, Jorge gives the ok and all-clear and lets Rodrigo secure the weapon. It needs no further shot. A red colored buffalo with an extremely strong trophy lies in front of us. We give Rodrigo alone for a few minutes with his harvest bull. A sensitive moment that probably every hunter can understand too well.


With this last buffalo we killed on this hunt we can say that we had a hundred percent success. The passing of Benin ends with a promise from the two hunters. We are infected with the Savannah virus and we promise to see each other again when it says: Savannah hunting in Benin!