Here’s the deal: In Zambia, only those Safari outfitters who have been given hunting rights in hunting concessions or GMA’s (game management areas), are allowed to sell safaris. This has always been the case and the only other manner that safaris can be sold is if these government appointed Safari operators appoint another person or organization as their booking or sales agent. In short, the legal paperwork channel must be followed and the hunt must be conducted under the name of and by the Safari operator who legally holds the hunting rights.
Safari hunting for international clients is governed by a set of laws which Safari Operators or outfitters have to follow and allows for professional service and to some extent ensures the client gets a quality hunt and has recourse through various channels if anything goes wrong. This results in higher fees and any international client wanting to hunt in Zambia has to hunt under these circumstances / regulations, it is a fair playing field for all parties concerned.
BUT in Zambia you have many local resident hunters who are allowed, from September 1 st each year, to hunt certain species for meat. They have the option of hunting in what locals term an open area which is like hunting on public land, OR they can apply to hunt in one of the Safari hunting concessions or GMA's. As may be expected, GMA's have a greater abundance of game and make for better hunting success.
However it also leaves open the door for residents to ‘pretend’ they are outfitters or PH’s and invite foreign clients on these hunts for a fee. The fees for this kind of hunt are incredibly low because they cater to locals who are after meat to feed their families and typically species are restricted to plainsgame and in some cases buffalo and hippo. So when a foreign client sees this price compared to the ‘legal’ price he starts thinking twice. Especially if he hears that he will be hunting a GMA
Usually you will find a foreign PH or outfitter approaching a Zambian resident (or it could be the other way round) and making a deal with them to apply for the resident license for a particular GMA. This resident license can only be issued in the name of the local Zambian resident, not the name of the foreign PH or the foreign client. The foreign PH then sells this hunt to a client who he may or may not tell what the real situation is.
The bottom line is the price of these hunts are incredibly low and unfortunately more often than not, the clients who go for this cheap hunt are people who are taking a once off dream African trip and 99 percent of the time end up disappointed. Then the natural reaction, once they have been burned is that Africa sucks OR Zambia sucks. They don’t realize that they may have booked a dud safari or that the person they booked with was not honest with them, they blame the country or the continent because it is easier than saying I made the wrong choice.
In the end the legitimate Safari operators lose out because this is who the finger gets pointed at. The ‘fly-by-night’ outfitter or PH is long gone and we in Zambia are left to try and explain this intricate situation (because it is complicated to understand from an outsiders viewpoint).
Here are some warning signals:
Firstly, on the Scabenga hunts the client is not allowed to import their own firearm into the country so they will be told that they can use the local PH’s firearm. By law only clients of registered Safari operators are allowed to temporarily import their firearms for the purpose of a hunting safari. So if you are told you cannot bring in your rifle, think again! More than likely you are dealing with illegal operators.
Secondly, the actual hunting license cannot be issued in your name and you will probably be told that if questioned by anyone looking like a wildlife scout while out in the bush, you must say you are just a friend along as an observer and that you are NOT hunting. You see, what happens is that the local resident whose name the license is issued in is the only person allowed to hunt the game specified on the hunting license or permit. BUT he is allowed to invite ‘friends’ along and technically you are there as his friend and must restrict your activities to those of an observer.
This leads to the third warning light. Legally only trophies hunted through a legitimate and registered Safari operator will be issued with an export permit. To obtain this export certificate the Safari operator has to present to the Zambia wildlife authority, a hunting license in the name of the foreign client. So either you will be told that the hunt you are doing is a cull hunt and no trophies can be exported or you will simply be lied to and never see your trophies.