Hans Vermaak was born into the life of professional hunting, which his father, Coenraad Vermaak, had begun years before his birth. He accompanied his father on safaris from a very young age and sums up his feelings as, “I was hooked from word ‘go’ and looking back, it is obvious that if you are privileged to grow up in this environment, there is nothing else on earth that you would rather do.” In 1994, Vermaak qualified as a Professional Hunter and has been involved in the safari business for 20 years. Now, he is managing Conraad Vermaak Safaris, the longest established safari company in South Africa.
Vermaak hunts in South Africa where their hunting areas are unique in size providing an abundance of wild game and a variety of species. All of the Big 5 and all plains game species from suni to eland are offered. The Khamab Kalahari Reserve spans 239,600 acres of uninterrupted pristine wilderness. The north/south boundary, more than 43 miles, is home to four of the Big 5, including lion, leopard, buffalo, black and white rhino, cheetah, African wild dogs, and a variety of naturally occurring antelope species. It is the largest privately owned conservation area in South Africa. The Timbavati Game Reserve is approximately 160,000 acres. The tented camp is from a bygone era that provides clients with an old school African experience. Rooipoort concession, dating back to 1892, is famous for restocking black wildebeest and red hartebeest to regions of South Africa where they had become locally extinct. Rooipoort is leased from the DeBeers Diamond Group.
For dangerous game hunts, Vermaak chooses a Krieghoff .500 Nitro Express. “It is extremely accurate…” he explains “…has proper stopping power and incredible penetration. For plains game, I normally carry the .500 Nitro because the more I carry and use a particular firearm, the better I shoot with it, and when it really counts it is crucial to be proficient with the firearm you are carrying.”
Decades of safaris have produced a variety of adventures, but one spine tingling hunt is etched in Vermaak’s memory. “I managed to kill a wounded leopard almost at the end of my barrel as it charged from behind a bush I was passing,” he recounts. “I got a shot off from the hip hitting the furious cat square in the chest in midflight, four feet from my barrel. This was a weak knee moment I will never forget.” Regarding his hunting philosophy, “…these experiences are not why I hunt, I prefer a clean kill and I don’t like animals suffering. I cherish every moment in the great outdoors, for me it’s a spiritual experience,” Vermaak says. “Every minute of every day is different ‘in my office’ and each day I learn something new. I never take for granted how privileged I am to spend so much time in beautiful places all over Africa. My life is unique, and I am grateful for this. I am always excited to share my passion for wildlife and wild places with my clients and I find every experience and hunt rewarding whether it’s for Cape buffalo or a red duiker in the forests or simply admiring a magnificent sunset. For me, a safari is all about experiences, which automatically become memories, and happy memories are good for the soul. I strive to ensure that my clients leave with nothing less than happy memories that last a lifetime. I try to impart the fact that a safari is much more than a hunting trip.”
During 2012 and 2013, Vermaak served as president of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA). PHASA engages with local and international government and wildlife departments promoting the concept of sustainable utilization as a valuable land use and conservation tool in South Africa as well as Africa in general. The Association provides impoverished children with toys and schooling equipment and has trained more than 1,000 black students in conservation. PHASA fights for hunters’ rights and has retained a public relations company to help counteract animal rightist groups.
Vermaak is an SCI member. Coenraad Vermaak Safaris, through his father, Coenraad, attended the first SCI Convention where there were 12 exhibitors and has attended every SCI Convention since then. Commenting on his work with SCI, Vermaak says, “SCI is a great supporter of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, and as a member of both organizations, I know each values the other’s contribution to conservation.”