What is it like to be a poacher?

Posted by A on 25 April 2016

The Serengeti is a remarkable place. It feels like the closest to what Africa’s wild tracts of land must have been like before it was bordered and fenced and farmed and firmly managed.


Photo by Claudia Hodkinson.

Photo by Claudia Hodkinson.

When I was there many years ago, I met a man who’d been a poacher. He was one of a band of five. He liked his life better now, he said, working as an anti-poacher for an Italian operation set just outside the official reserve. Perhaps he was telling me what he thought I wanted to hear. But I wondered about the truth of his statement. Although I’m vehemently against poaching, his life must have been vivid out there, living wild on those incredible stretches of yellow plains taking his chances with the creatures – because that’s what they did, he said – like the big-game hunters of old, except now on the wrong side of the law. It must have been like the Wild West, where the men were crazy and untameable and desperately needed those big vast spaces to contain their ‘baccy spit and unyielding characters.

I think many travellers are like that.

As writer and author Niq Mhlongo says in our interview with him on page 32, he gets anxious after one week of being in the same place. Travelling feeds his imagination. Every one of our Getaway travel writers strains against the incarceration of the office, too – Ndabeni, Cape Town, is never going to be as sexy as iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KZN, where Kati Auld and Tyson Jopson got their knees and elbows and everything else skinned off while adventuring this action-packed park (‘Where the Wild Ones Ride’, page 64), or India’s Rajasthan, where Narina Exelby got to experience one of the most endangered and magnificent cats in the world, the tiger (‘While You Lay Sleeping’, page 74).

iSimangaliso, 2016

Rajasthan, May 2016

I’m not romanticising the life of the poacher, though – eventually every one of his gang was hunted down by the law, the guns turned on them as they had done on the wild lives they had slaughtered. He himself was caught and jailed, and when he was released, he came back to the Serengeti to work for the other side, to fight those he’d been one of. He had to come back, he said. He loved these wide-open spaces, but they were also hard when on the run.

I suppose that’s also part of being human: creature comforts – they can make us feel cosseted and loved, and alive in another way, and we need that once in a while. This is why you should take some time for yourself this winter.

Take up one of the good deals we’ve sought out for you – you should be able to find one near you – and treat yourself to a break (‘20 Brilliant Winter Deals’, page 82). Each one of these hotels, inns or B&Bs will treat you like gold because they put their heart and soul into their properties. As the owner of Akasha Mountain Retreat in Heidelberg said to me, ‘This is our LIFE!’

Also read: Akasha Mountain retreat, in photos

So grant yourself a treat at the best price you’ll ever get, and take a Getaway along with you so you can dream of your next escape from the office. And let us know about it. I’ll be taking my break in Montagu, at The Vineyard Country House.

You could win one of four escapes to the Twelve Apostles in Cape Town and Bushmans Kloof in the Cederberg; or Fancourt Hotel near George and Karongwe River Lodge near Kruger (page 95). Enter, it’s easier to win than you might think. Getaway is your magazine and we want to hear your views.

Mail us at [email protected].


This month’s contributors

David Ross

With over a decade’s experience shooting everything from food and fashion to far-flung places, David enjoys the challenge of using whatever light is thrown his way. While in the Serengeti (page 74), he discovered golden plains and moody skies – and captured them for us to experience.


Evan Haussmann

Writer and photographer Evan hates getting up early, deadlines, the cold and being out of his depth. So we sent him to Lesotho to 4×4 in snow (page 48), and to deliver the story on very short notice. He took the task hook, line and sinker as he’s a road-tripping masochist who likes fishing.


Pippa de Bruyn

Pippa was always a reluctant traveller who later realised she was never happier than on assignment, and the discoveries made en route went far beyond ferreting out the best places to stay. This time she returns to the Serengeti (page 74) and gets to know the real meaning of safari.


This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Getaway magazine.

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