The exciting buzz on the Dallas and Safari Club con- vention floors in January was talk about the reopening of hunting in Angola. In Dallas, Ken Wilson of Sportsmen on Film (830-792-4200; firstname.lastname@example.org) was promoting the destination in his booth, while Gretchen Stark of Safari Outfitters (307-587-5596; email@example.com) announced the destination’s open- ing on a banner over her booth in Reno. So, who is the operator claiming to have opened Angola? It’s Roger Whittal of Roger Whittal Safaris (firstname.lastname@example.org). Just don’t get too excited yet about booking a hunt to Angola as there are some serious caveats to this development.
After doing some initial research and checking with several sources between conventions, I visited with Whittal in his booth at the Safari Club International Convention to find out what he has lined up. He told me he has been working to open Angola for two years now and has succeeded in getting a concession assigned to him. He even offered to show me the paperwork proving it. Does that mean he can start taking hunters right now? Well, no. Not yet. I asked Whittal about work permits, firearm permits and other vital paperwork that would allow him to bring foreigners into the country and actually conduct safaris. Whittal told me none of that paperwork has been finalized yet, but he believes that it will be by this coming August when his first clients are booked to hunt.
According to Whittal, the half dozen hunters who have put down deposits know there is a chance the opening will get waylaid if the paperwork does not come through. He says they are willing to take the chance in order to be among the very first international hunters in 30 years to go on safari there. If the last approvals aren’t issued in time, he says he will roll over their deposits or return them to any hunters who want out. Furthermore, he says they understand that the first hunters in are likely to encounter some snags and that they should view this opportunity as an adventure. He told me he only plans to take about six hunters this year to see how things go. These first hunts are booked throughout the month of August and into September for 2010, according to information distributed at the Dallas show by Ken Wilson. The season extends into November. Wilson was also taking deposits for 2011, but told me that all hunters would have to be flexible and understand that booked dates are contingent on the timely completion of outstanding permits and paperwork.
As for the concession, which is the only thing Whittal did have locked up when we spoke, the area lies in the southeast corner of Angola in the Cuando-Cubango region. It’s the Luiana Coutada, and it encompasses 2.5 million hectares (about 6,177,600 acres), including the Cuando River. Whittal says the area is similar to the Okavango. He spent six weeks in the concession in 2008 and was there from April through November of 2009 putting in 80 kilometers worth of roads. He expects to have a couple of camps completed this year, including a photo safari camp. Whittal says they were able to get a helicopter to fly them around a bit and have been scouting the region. In addition to buffalo and elephant, he says there are also sitatunga, roan, sable and lion. He says, however, that they don’t yet know exactly all the species that will be available in the concession or their quotas, and that CITES permits are not available right now. Angolan authorities will need to conduct game counts and apply to CITES before restricted species can be exported. In the promotional flyer distributed by Wilson, he lists various buffalo packages combined with lion, plains game, sable, roan, sitatunga and lechwe. He also provides an extensive list of game species and trophy fees.....