There’s nothing wrong with this, the relationship between client and hunter / outfitter is usually a close one and many people prefer to hunt with the same PH or outfitter for all their hunts in Africa. This happens to me a lot even though my primary hunting grounds are Zambia. BUT remember that a game farm PH who has attended one of those 14 day PH courses is very far removed from the real hunting that takes place in Zambia. This is the real bush and things can very wrong very quickly if you don’t know what you are doing.
Anyway, I digress. Here’s what I am getting at! With all the interest in Zambia right now everyone is trying to jump onto the gravy train, so to speak, and while there is nothing wrong with a foreign outfitter or PH arranging a hunt for you in Zambia, you have to be very careful and ask the right questions.
It’s NOT just about Zambia, it’s about the RIGHT hunting concession!
Zambia’s hunting grounds are divided into geographically demarcated concessions called GMAs (Game Management Areas) which are leased to Zambian registered Safari Operators / Outfitters on a 5, 10 or 15 year basis. These GMAs are scattered throughout the country, mostly concentrated around the two major National parks in Zambia, the Luangwa Valley and the Kafue. These GMAs are classified by the Zambia Wildlife Authority into Prime, Secondary and Depleted status depending upon the quality and numbers of game perceived to exist in the area as well as its size and past records.
Naturally you can guess what this classification means and you can use it as a general rule of thumb, the prime concessions are going to have better numbers of game, usually better trophy quality and also to an extent, more professional and experienced outfitters as the lease fees for prime concessions are not cheap and you need to know what you are doing to turn a profit.
So when you read about a hunt in Zambia, this is one of the first criteria you should consider, the quality of the concession is paramount to a successful hunt, we are not dealing with the South African game ranch set up here, you are dealing with the real Africa where game is wild and not fenced.
Usually you will find that those with top class concessions highlight this, and understandably their prices are higher. For example, one of Zambia’s top Lion hunting concessions sell their Lion hunts upwards of $70,000 while other less illustrious outfitters can only manage about $35,000. This has to do with the quality of trophies the GMA produces as well as the name of the outfitter.
Another point to ponder is that, legally only registered Zambian Safari Operators who have GMAs under lease, are allowed to sell hunting safaris in Zambia. This is generally a standard rule across African countries, you have to have the rights to hunt a particular property or hunting concession before you can sell it.
So how come there are so many people selling Zambia when there are a limited amount of concessions?
Here’s how it is done. Any GMA leaseholder is allowed to appoint a third party as a sales agent or booking agent and for many of Zambia’s GMAs this is the case. Without saying too much, for a number of the current GMAs, the leaseholders are not long term experienced or dedicated Safari Outfitters and have been given the lease due to influential circumstances. So these ‘Outfitters’ rely on other safari outfitters and booking agents within Zambia and from surrounding Africa as well as the US and Europe to bring hunts to their GMA. The standard procedure is for the leaseholder / ‘outfitter’ to appoint, whoever wants to sell hunts in the GMA as an agent by means of a written and signed letter. However this seldom happens. What really transpires is more relaxed and broad spectrum. The leaseholder will supply his prices and conditions to whoever asks and will then deal with whoever puts the money down. Often if you have a confident 3rd party outfitter they will try and secure the most desirable species in advance by means of a deposit and they will then venture forth into the selling market.
However a great many hunts are sold on hearsay and desperation to satisfy a current clients desire and curiosity. I see this all the time at the marketing conventions, PHs, usually South Africans, coming up to me with a guarded look and enquiring what I can offer them and their client in Zambia. While I always try and help, what this usually means is that the PH wants me to sell him a safari at enough of a discount so that he can cover his costs to Zambia as well as make a profit and at the same time pretend to the client he’s conducting the hunt. I hate this type of guy because they have the typical hard headed belief that hunting conditions are the same in Zambia as they are back home on the family farm.
No matter what, you’ll always have to use a Zambian PH!
Foreign PH’s wishing to hunt in Zambia have to obtain a work permit and they have to get a Zambian PH license. Once they have this they have to pay an annual license fee of $5000 for the right to hunt in Zambia. Unless you have more than 100 days of booked hunting for Zambia, it is not really worth going through this time consuming and expensive process (and it is expensive and difficult). The law states that all Zambian hunts have to be conducted by a Zambian Licensed PH, and many foreign PHs / outfitters rely on the presence of a ‘covering’ PH who is licensed in Zambia to avoid the hassle and the fees. Of course there are PH’s who make their living in Zambia as ‘covers’.
Any good Zambian PH worth his salt in the bush will usually have a full season booked either by himself or the outfitter they are working for. Good experienced fully licensed PH’s are hard to find in Zambia! So you do get the situation where those Zambian PHs who do not have work or a full season, and I’m not saying anything about their ability nor why they don’t have work, are usually available for 'cover' hunts.
I will leave you to put 2 and 2 together about what I have said above BUT here’s some advice when you look at Hunting in Zambia.
Firstly not all concessions are created equally, there is a great variance in the quality and number of game found in the various hunting concessions. When you are booking a Lion hunt at plus $45,000 you need to know what the quality of the concession is. Check recent references and check recent success, ask for trophy pictures shot in the concession over the last 2-3 years! And there are some concessions in Zambia which you should simply stay away from, no matter what the price!
Secondly, know who you are dealing with! Ask the person with whom you are booking the hunt who the actual leaseholder& owner of the hunting rights are in Zambia and what is the name of the concession. Get their address and phone numbers in Zambia just in case. Remember this: as far as the Zambia Wildlife Authority is concerned, the third party you book with has no legal claim or standing to the GMA, they will only deal with the legal leaseholder. This is especially important in the case of trophy shipment and export documentation.
Thirdly, ask who your PH is going to be and ask for references for that PH and confirm that he is actually licensed. Remember that using a ‘covering’ Zambian licensed PH is not legal because this PH is actually meant to conduct the hunt. If you are hunting with your PH buddy from South Africa and if anything happens to you then you have no recourse. In addition if the authorities do find that this did happen then you stand to have your personal effects and trophies impounded with no recourse.