Getting A Handle On Benin. Plus, News?


Published: April - 2007

A pleasant surprise. That is the way I would describe my safari to the West African country of Benin this past month. My safari operator was Jose Chelet of Aliboro Safaris, who has an absolutely huge hunting area along the border of a Transfrontier Park (Benin/Niger/Burkina Faso) in the northern end of the country called simply W.

Chelet's area is nearly 50 miles long and 18 to 25 miles wide. It comprises some 280,000 acres. There are no villages in the area. No development of any kind. Just mile after mile of hunting track through open savannah lands that give way in places to rolling hills reminiscent of kudu country in Zimbabwe.

It would not be accurate to say the area teems with game, but there were certainly plenty of animals, especially western roan, West African savannah buffalo, western hartebeest and harnessed bushbuck. There were also enough elephants around to warrant special care. Twice, we had to swiftly make our way around an approaching herd. I personally took a buffalo, hartebeest and bushbuck, opting to pass on roan because I already have a good one, albeit not of the western variety.

Lion is on license in Benin, by the way, but only one per hunting area is authorized each year. With baiting disallowed, it is difficult to take a lion on any given safari. Those that are taken, while large-bodied, tend to have little mane.

What made my safari such a pleasant surprise was the hunting method that is required to be successful here. Quite simply, you have to walk. Then walk some more. A typical hunting day in Benin begins with a slow drive down one of the many hunting roads Chelet has cut through his area, looking for fresh tracks. Once they have been spotted, the fun begins. The trackers Chelet employs are some of the best I have had the pleasure to go afield with in all of Africa. They were able to follow tracks across ground as hard as stone, spotting evidence of a passing animal........(continued)

 
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