Bushman Initiation Hunt, Botswana
April / May
This is an extraordinary opportunity to witness and participate in a rapidly disappearing Bushmen ritual, an eight night initiation hunt, followed by two nights at Jack's Camp. This unique safari is led by the famous Botswana-born expert of the Kalahari and the Bushmen, Ralph Bousfield, in conjunction with the Bushmen people themselves. Ralph’s special relationship with the Bushmen ensures a genuine and unpatronising Bushman experience where you witness the age-old ceremonies and traditions associated with an eland hunt and rites of passage into manhood. You will accompany the hunt and respectfully observe the related rituals and tradition to its successful conclusion. This is followed by (an optional) two nights at Jack’s Camp, one of the most romantic camps in Africa infused with remnants of the decadent colonial safari era, where you will go on walks and drives to see meerkats and other desert-adapted wildlife and plant-life.
Arrive by plane at midday and transfer to a remote campsite deep in the ancestral gathering lands of the Zu/’hoasi Bushmen. Enjoy lunch, then head off to your tent for a rest. After tea, walk to the nearby Bushmen village where you will be met in a traditional manner by the elders of the community. Around the fire before dinner, listen to the history of the Bushmen people whose origins can be traced back 30 000 years, and learn about the complex political challenges that are confronting them today. Enjoy a delicious dinner under the stars.
After a restful night’s sleep, meet the men after breakfast to prepare for a traditional hunt. Walk into the bush and search out the poison grub beetle, gathering suitable roots, sanseveria leaves and branches for the manufacture of rope, bows and arrows. Return to camp for a lunch and siesta. After tea, return to the Bushmen village. Watch the men prepare bows, arrows and quivers while young boys demonstrate various traditional games that provide training for the hand-to-eye co-ordination skills that will be so necessary when on the hunt. Retire to bed after a satisfying dinner in excited anticipation of the next day’s hunt.
DAY 3 - 8
Depart early after hearty cooked breakfasts for a day’s traditional hunting with the men. Spend the next few days with the men tracking, hunting and gathering - observing and sharing in their astounding knowledge of their environment. Your guide will be a fully qualified zoologist/biologist in consultation with community leaders thus ensuring a unique experience that combines both culture and wildlife in an educational, yet non-intrusive, fashion. These Bushmen are the last of the greatest hunters alive today. To hunt an eland with Bushmen in a truly authentic manner is an incredible privilege and a rare and special experience. One that, until now, has been impossible to experience anywhere in Africa. However, it must be accepted that the success of the hunt can never be guaranteed. The Bushmen will aim for eland but if unsuccessful, will hunt a gemsbuck, wildebeest or kudu as all of these species are incorporated in the initiation rituals. The successful hunter will undergo the ritual ceremony of the hunt led by the elders, receiving tattoos to indicate his passage into manhood as a hunter. A huge feast and incredible trance dance will follow, through which all the community bond and are healed by their Healers. This is a deeply spiritual experience for the Bushmen people. It is a great privilege for our guests to have the opportunity to observe the mysterious passage of the Healer into a state of altered consciousness (entirely induced by breathing technique), where he can make contact with his ancestors. Please bear in mind that activities may vary due to the spontaneous and authentic nature of the experience.
Bid the community farewell and drive by vehicle to the airstrip to meet up with your light aircraft for onward travel or for Jack’s Camp. Arrive at Jack’s Camp, pitched on a low grassland knoll amongst an oasis of dignified desert palms and Kalahari acacia. The camp’s hub is a romantic canvas pavilion of low spires and finials with a fluttering valance beneath its eaves and could be the site for a medieval jousting tourney were it not a deciduous green. Three poles support the main chamber where everyone meets for meals at a long communal dining table. Ten green roomy and stylish canvas tents with en-suite bathrooms, indoor and outdoor showers (for those who want to feel the Kalahari breeze on their skin) have been fashioned in classical 1940s style creating an oasis of civilisation in what can be the harshest of stark environments. Persian rugs underfoot, cool cotton sheets and mahogany and brass campaign-style kit from the family safari stores form a striking contrast with the rugged wilderness viewed from the comfort of one’s own veranda.
Set off in the morning to visit some of the Kalahari’s sexiest meerkats! (‘Suricate’ to science minded people and ‘Timon’ to Lion King fans). Get up close and personal with these captivating creatures. On chilly mornings, you might well find a meerkat snuggling up to you for warmth. Or, in the absence of a termite mound or tree, using your head as a sentry lookout post. By spending quality time with these incredibly social, superbly adapted animals, you will be able to see how they interact with each other and their environment. You also get the chance to see the desert through the eyes of a meerkat – which, despite the fact that it’s only a foot off the ground, is a pretty spectacular vantage point, and definitely one of the most special and memorable game experiences you will encounter in Botswana.