Caprivi–that odd, narrow 300-mile eastward projection from northernmost Namibia is today officially renamed “Zambezi Region.” It is a geopolitical anomaly, a long, narrow slice of land with Botswana to the south, Angola and Zambia to the north, and ending near Zimbabwe’s northwest corner. From the hunter’s standpoint this is an extremely interesting area where northern and southern, desert and bushveld, species collide. It is one of very few areas where sable, roan, kudu, sitatunga, lechwe and perhaps even gemsbok might be found…and it’s a place where, at one time, the entire Big Five (including black rhino), plus hippo and crocodile, were found in numbers. It was open to hunting briefly in the 1970s, then the long Angolan conflict began, followed by Namibia’s struggle for independence. The area was closed for a long time, but more than 20 years has passed since Namibia became independent, and Caprivi has been open.
It’s been on my wish list for a long time, and it wasn’t until September 2015 when I finally saw Caprivi, hunting with my old friends at Omujeve Safaris and PH Japsie Blaauw. The habitat remains superb, well-watered with grassy plains alternating with belts of woodland. There are several parks and reserves that provide enclaves for wildlife, as well as numerous emerging conservancies on tribal lands.
All huntable species are on tight quotas today, and I was there for what is now the crown jewel of Caprivi: Elephant. Many elephant bulls pass through between Botswana, Angola and Zambia…but an elephant can walk clear across Caprivi in a day. So, although there are lots of elephant, it’s hit-and-miss hunting, spot-and-stalk in grasslands and islands of cover rather than tracking.
With elephant hunting currently closed in Botswana, and Zimbabwe ivory no longer importable to the U.S., Namibia and South Africa offer the only elephant opportunities for American hunters. There are areas that have potential for better ivory, but without question, Caprivi offers the best combination of availability and affordability. There are lots of elephants, and with Botswana’s gross overpopulation of elephants and resulting deforestation, there are more on the way. Caprivi doesn’t generally produce huge ivory, but it’s always been a place that produces high success on good, solid tuskers.
Caprivi is especially beautiful: Winding rivers, oceans of grass, dense thornbush. Wildlife populations are not dense; you have to dig, but the game is there and quality is very good. There are lots of elephants, and we looked at lots of elephants. I had an “own use” permit, which is essentially a community meat quota unique to Caprivi. The community gets the meat, as always, and the government gets the ivory…and there’s a limit on ivory weight that can be taken. This caused a potential problem for me: I’ve taken enough elephants, and I didn’t want to remove a young bull with promise, so we were looking for an older bull that either had broken his tusks or had never grown good ivory.
After several days of looking through mixed herds, we got lucky. Tipped by a villager, we found a beautiful old bull with a broken tusk and a bad limp, which turned out to be from a poacher’s bullet. Japsie led us on a perfect stalk and we put the old elephant down without incident. Then the villagers gathered to harvest the meat.–Craig Boddington