ETHIOPIA: Northern Operations / Collect Africa / Dean Stobbs Safaris 2024

Hank2211

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My trip to Ethiopia was planned more than two years ago. I had originally planned to go in 2023, but my outfitter couldn’t guarantee the availability of a Menelik’s bushbuck. He believed we’d be ok, but rather than risk going to Ethiopia and not getting one of the two endemic bushbuck, I chose to wait another year. (That had one negative consequence - gerenuk, which was available in 2023, turned out not to be available in 2024, at the last minute. But gerenuk can be found elsewhere). This was my second trip to Ethiopia and I didn’t really want a third - Ethiopia is one of the most expensive places to hunt in Africa.

A lot of prep goes into any hunt, but Ethiopia has a few extra levels. First, and this is a recent change, you need a permit to take your binoculars into the country. Not a huge deal, but just ensures more time spent clearing guns and ammo. Second, and this is a change as well, satellite phones and gps devices are prohibited. I haven’t asked why, but I expect it has something to do with the 2022-23 war in Tigray, in northern Ethiopia, as well as the usual unrest and conflict with neighbors such as Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan, not to mention Al-Shabab along the southern border with Kenya. Having said that, iPhones are GPS devices and I brought a ZOLEO device, but no one asked about those. Thirdly (and this is not a change), unlike almost all other hunting countries in Africa, you can’t “take what Africa offers” in terms of game. You have to choose the animals you want to hunt in advance and pay the trophy fee. If you don’t see an animal in respect of which you’ve paid a trophy fee, there are no refunds. Lastly, the hunting areas for the different animals are vastly different not only in terms of biome, but also in terms of distance. Highland species (like mountain nyala and Menelik’s) are only found there, and desert species (like lesser kudu and Abyssinian bushbuck) are only found there, and the distances, while not vast on a map, are very long by road, and these areas require much different hunting styles as well as clothing. And there apparently isn’t the option currently to fly between areas.

It was the two bushbuck which drew me back to Ethiopia. I have already taken a number of Cape, Chobe, Limpopo and harnessed bushbuck [others] and this would add the Menelik’s and the Abyssinian. That would leave the Nile and East African bushbuck to finish the available bushbuck species. And since I was going, and I’m goal oriented, I decided to add a giant forest hog, giving me three of the four pigs of Africa, as well as the gelada, which some people count as a baboon and which would help if I ever lose my mind and decide to get all of the baboons of Africa (not a lot of competition for the “baboon slam”?!)

I have to say that no one - including my wife and children - was wild about my going to Ethiopia at this particular time. The US State Department in its travel advisory puts Ethiopia at Level 3 “Reconsider Travel” and gives Oromia and the Bale area in particular, where I would be hunting the highland species, and Afar, where I would be hunting the Abyssinian bushbuck, as Level 4: “Do Not Travel”. Canada and the UK say much the same thing. As an aside, I had a cab driver a week after my return who it turned out was from Ethiopia, and upon hearing I’d just come back, asked me how safe it was. His family in Oromia had told him it was too dangerous to visit! In fairness though, things are always fine until they aren’t, so I’m not judging those who might exercise more prudence.

Once again, consider this your health warning. This hunt report goes through just about every aspect of the hunt, including the prep, flying, etc. It’s been my experience that I tend to get messages from people who want some information on whatever, and so I’ve come to just include the whatevers in my report. You can skip over these parts, or even the whole thing…Or, if you suffer from insomnia, have at it.

In brief:

Location and time of Hunt: Ethiopia. Highland hunt: Bale mountains; desert hunt: Danakil Depression, near town of Talalak. March, 2024

Outfitter: Northern Operations/Collect Africa, with Jacques Meyer and Ficker Makonen as PHs, booked through Dean Stobbs Safaris.

Animals sought: Primary - Menelik’s bushbuck and Abyssinian bushbuck and secondary - giant forest hog, colobus monkey and gelada baboon. I had hoped to add a gerenuk, but the one concession which holds those has been closed so far this season.

Firearm: Martini Gunmakers Canada .300 Win Mag, with a Swarovski 1.7-10x Z6i scope

Ammunition: Federal Premium 165 gr. Barnes TSX

March 3… Departure Day

Departure day finally came, and it was -17 deg C. in Calgary, and it had been snowing for the better part of the previous night and day, resulting in accumulations of 6” of fresh snow, with more in areas exposed to the wind. But that wasn’t the reason my flight to Toronto was delayed. Air Canada had had mechanical issues with the airplane - a 787 Dreamliner - and had delayed the flight no fewer than 4 times before we finally boarded, some 4 hours after our original departure time. And though I travel quite a bit, what happened next was new to me. After an announcement that the cabin door was closed and we were finally ready to push back, nothing happened. Some 15 minutes later we were advised that one crew member had timed out and wished to stay in Calgary, so we got the jetway back, re-opened the cabin door and let the flight attendant off. And then we had to wait for the airline to find a new one! Unbelievable.

Fortunately, I had planned for delays, as you have to these days. My flight to Toronto was originally scheduled to arrive around 10 pm, and my flight to Addis was to leave at 10.20 the next day. So no stress, other than the fact that I was losing time I could have been sleeping.

I had checked my bags through to Addis, after making sure that I didn’t need to re-check the firearm with Ethiopian Airlines in Toronto. No, I was told, all good. I also received an email from Air Canada confirming I would next see my bags in Addis. Then, while flying, the in charge flight attendant approached me and asked if I’d checked something “special” which he said he’d call ‘golf clubs’ for the purposes of our conversation. No need to upset other passengers I guess! I confirmed that I had indeed checked ‘golf clubs’ and he said he had been told to tell me that I had to pick them up in Toronto, notwithstanding what I’d been told. Fair enough. Once in Toronto though, the baggage people told me that there was no way the bags would come out, given that the tags showed them checked through. I waited around anyway, not having anything better to do at 1 am. Not long after, both my bags came out on the belt. I picked them up and went off to the hotel to try to get few hours sleep before my morning flight to Addis. I did manage a quick wave to the baggage desk and a point to the bags, and got a wave in return. Friendly. Not helpful, but friendly.

March 4-5

I arrived in Ethiopia on time and clearing immigration and customs wasn’t an issue. Immediately after passport control I was met by Mesfin who would help me with formalities, and we went to look for my baggage. It wasn’t coming out on the priority carrousel so he went to look into the matter, and returned a few minutes later with my bag (containing my ammo), my rifle, and someone in uniform who was holding onto everything as if his life depended on it.

We went to put everything through the X-ray and then more uniforms got involved, as well as some without uniforms. Mesfin had all the necessary paperwork, but it seemed no one wanted to say “OK’, so we stood around for a bit. I was asked to open the rifle case, they checked the serial number, asked to see my binoculars, and then stood around some more. I think everyone got tired of doing nothing after a while (surprisingly), so they motioned that we could leave, so off we were to meet my PHs, Jacques and Ficker (every hunt needs an Ethiopian PH).

A quick stop at a mini mart to get a few necessities, like Pringles, for the journey, and we were off to camp just past Bale National Park. The roads were no better than 7 years ago and likely worse, so while we made good time, we only reached the town of Goba by 5 pm and Jacques said we’d stay the night in a hotel there. No driving, least of all on minor roads, in the dark. For both safety and security reasons.

It rained overnight so we waited a couple of extra hours the next day to let the mountain roads dry up a bit. A smart move - I was to see a few days later just how dangerous those roads (if you could even call them that) could be when wet and muddy.

March 5

A two hour drive took us from Goba to our camp, ascending as high as 10,000 feet and eventually settling in camp at about 7,000 feet. It was a good thing we waited for the roads, (which really dignifies what they are) to dry out. The smallest rain turns them greasy and slippery, with ruts which, once in, can be hard to get out of except for the largest trucks (which made the ruts in the first place).


IMG_0162.jpg



We arrived at camp around mid-day and got settled in. This is probably a good place to say something about hunting camps in Ethiopia.

It’s very rare that the Ethiopian government allows permanent camps in any hunting areas. It’s even rarer that outfitters set up permanent camps. A permanent camp would only be used for a small number of hunts and is at risk of being “dismantled” by local people when unoccupied, even if security is paid and on site. This was the unhappy end of the camp I had stayed in seven years ago.

As a result, camps are entirely mobile and move as often as necessary. This means you are generally sleeping in a tent, showering outdoors and using a short drop toilet. None of this was a problem for me - Northern Operations’ tents were new, clean and well kept. Electric power is supplied by a generator, and all fuel has to be trucked in and frequently carried uphill substantial distances in highland locations. There was always more than ample hot water for showers though and my experience was that toilets came with a view!

IMG_0851.jpeg

The view from my "throne"

This mountain camp had been set up the day before I arrived and all trace of it would be removed until next fall once I left. This adds to the number of people required to run a good operation as well as to move the camp from site to site. In fact, while there is generally only one hunter in a camp at a time, there can be up to 15 staff looking after that one hunter. That number is generally reached in highland locations where a number of staff are ‘spotters’, keeping a lookout for game in areas other than those being immediately hunted. This is especially critical when hunting mountain nyala, but also for giant forest hog, where you can spend a lot of time in areas where the game isn’t if you don’t have scouts out observing.

After getting settled, we went to sight in the gun. The vegetation here is very dense and the only convenient place where we could get 100 yards of runway was off the road not far from camp. We set up the target box and then waited for a truck loaded with people to go by. But the truck showed no signs of moving. We sent someone to investigate and it appeared they wanted to see me shoot, and were content to wait. We sent our scout back to tell them that the crazy white guy was never going to shoot as long as they were around and they seemed to accept that and moved on. Two quick shots, within a half-inch of each other, a little high and to the right. A few quick clicks of the scope later and we were good to go.

We moved off to an area known for giant forest hogs and spent the afternoon sitting, but saw nothing other than lots of evidence of the hogs. It rained again, but the canopy is dense enough that if you find a good tree, you can often sit under its branches comfortably and not get wet.

We returned to camp at last light for a hot shower and a filling dinner. It began to pour again at around 8 pm, so off to bed we went - no sitting around a campfire tonight.
 
great so far! keep it coming!
 
Magnificent. I've always dreamt of hunting the majestic black maned lions of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, Ethiopia no longer permits lion hunting. But I would still love to hunt a Cape buffalo or a leopard there someday.

I'm curious. Can local residents hunt in Ethiopia ? Information on the internet seems rather vague.
 
@Hank2211
I enjoy your writing, have a feeling like I was with you! Pls keep it coming!
 
Love your long and detailed reports. Excited for this adventure! Glad you made it home safe, I was not aware that Ethiopia was so tempestuous these days
 
My trip to Ethiopia was planned more than two years ago. I had originally planned to go in 2023, but my outfitter couldn’t guarantee the availability of a Menelik’s bushbuck. He believed we’d be ok, but rather than risk going to Ethiopia and not getting one of the two endemic bushbuck, I chose to wait another year. (That had one negative consequence - gerenuk, which was available in 2023, turned out not to be available in 2024, at the last minute. But gerenuk can be found elsewhere). This was my second trip to Ethiopia and I didn’t really want a third - Ethiopia is one of the most expensive places to hunt in Africa.

A lot of prep goes into any hunt, but Ethiopia has a few extra levels. First, and this is a recent change, you need a permit to take your binoculars into the country. Not a huge deal, but just ensures more time spent clearing guns and ammo. Second, and this is a change as well, satellite phones and gps devices are prohibited. I haven’t asked why, but I expect it has something to do with the 2022-23 war in Tigray, in northern Ethiopia, as well as the usual unrest and conflict with neighbors such as Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan, not to mention Al-Shabab along the southern border with Kenya. Having said that, iPhones are GPS devices and I brought a ZOLEO device, but no one asked about those. Thirdly (and this is not a change), unlike almost all other hunting countries in Africa, you can’t “take what Africa offers” in terms of game. You have to choose the animals you want to hunt in advance and pay the trophy fee. If you don’t see an animal in respect of which you’ve paid a trophy fee, there are no refunds. Lastly, the hunting areas for the different animals are vastly different not only in terms of biome, but also in terms of distance. Highland species (like mountain nyala and Menelik’s) are only found there, and desert species (like lesser kudu and Abyssinian bushbuck) are only found there, and the distances, while not vast on a map, are very long by road, and these areas require much different hunting styles as well as clothing. And there apparently isn’t the option currently to fly between areas.

It was the two bushbuck which drew me back to Ethiopia. I have already taken a number of Cape, Chobe, Limpopo and harnessed bushbuck [others] and this would add the Menelik’s and the Abyssinian. That would leave the Nile and East African bushbuck to finish the available bushbuck species. And since I was going, and I’m goal oriented, I decided to add a giant forest hog, giving me three of the four pigs of Africa, as well as the gelada, which some people count as a baboon and which would help if I ever lose my mind and decide to get all of the baboons of Africa (not a lot of competition for the “baboon slam”?!)

I have to say that no one - including my wife and children - was wild about my going to Ethiopia at this particular time. The US State Department in its travel advisory puts Ethiopia at Level 3 “Reconsider Travel” and gives Oromia and the Bale area in particular, where I would be hunting the highland species, and Afar, where I would be hunting the Abyssinian bushbuck, as Level 4: “Do Not Travel”. Canada and the UK say much the same thing. As an aside, I had a cab driver a week after my return who it turned out was from Ethiopia, and upon hearing I’d just come back, asked me how safe it was. His family in Oromia had told him it was too dangerous to visit! In fairness though, things are always fine until they aren’t, so I’m not judging those who might exercise more prudence.

Once again, consider this your health warning. This hunt report goes through just about every aspect of the hunt, including the prep, flying, etc. It’s been my experience that I tend to get messages from people who want some information on whatever, and so I’ve come to just include the whatevers in my report. You can skip over these parts, or even the whole thing…Or, if you suffer from insomnia, have at it.

In brief:

Location and time of Hunt: Ethiopia. Highland hunt: Bale mountains; desert hunt: Danakil Depression, near town of Talalak. March, 2024

Outfitter: Northern Operations/Collect Africa, with Jacques Meyer and Ficker Makonen as PHs, booked through Dean Stobbs Safaris.

Animals sought: Primary - Menelik’s bushbuck and Abyssinian bushbuck and secondary - giant forest hog, colobus monkey and gelada baboon. I had hoped to add a gerenuk, but the one concession which holds those has been closed so far this season.

Firearm: Martini Gunmakers Canada .300 Win Mag, with a Swarovski 1.7-10x Z6i scope

Ammunition: Federal Premium 165 gr. Barnes TSX

March 3… Departure Day

Departure day finally came, and it was -17 deg C. in Calgary, and it had been snowing for the better part of the previous night and day, resulting in accumulations of 6” of fresh snow, with more in areas exposed to the wind. But that wasn’t the reason my flight to Toronto was delayed. Air Canada had had mechanical issues with the airplane - a 787 Dreamliner - and had delayed the flight no fewer than 4 times before we finally boarded, some 4 hours after our original departure time. And though I travel quite a bit, what happened next was new to me. After an announcement that the cabin door was closed and we were finally ready to push back, nothing happened. Some 15 minutes later we were advised that one crew member had timed out and wished to stay in Calgary, so we got the jetway back, re-opened the cabin door and let the flight attendant off. And then we had to wait for the airline to find a new one! Unbelievable.

Fortunately, I had planned for delays, as you have to these days. My flight to Toronto was originally scheduled to arrive around 10 pm, and my flight to Addis was to leave at 10.20 the next day. So no stress, other than the fact that I was losing time I could have been sleeping.

I had checked my bags through to Addis, after making sure that I didn’t need to re-check the firearm with Ethiopian Airlines in Toronto. No, I was told, all good. I also received an email from Air Canada confirming I would next see my bags in Addis. Then, while flying, the in charge flight attendant approached me and asked if I’d checked something “special” which he said he’d call ‘golf clubs’ for the purposes of our conversation. No need to upset other passengers I guess! I confirmed that I had indeed checked ‘golf clubs’ and he said he had been told to tell me that I had to pick them up in Toronto, notwithstanding what I’d been told. Fair enough. Once in Toronto though, the baggage people told me that there was no way the bags would come out, given that the tags showed them checked through. I waited around anyway, not having anything better to do at 1 am. Not long after, both my bags came out on the belt. I picked them up and went off to the hotel to try to get few hours sleep before my morning flight to Addis. I did manage a quick wave to the baggage desk and a point to the bags, and got a wave in return. Friendly. Not helpful, but friendly.

March 4-5

I arrived in Ethiopia on time and clearing immigration and customs wasn’t an issue. Immediately after passport control I was met by Mesfin who would help me with formalities, and we went to look for my baggage. It wasn’t coming out on the priority carrousel so he went to look into the matter, and returned a few minutes later with my bag (containing my ammo), my rifle, and someone in uniform who was holding onto everything as if his life depended on it.

We went to put everything through the X-ray and then more uniforms got involved, as well as some without uniforms. Mesfin had all the necessary paperwork, but it seemed no one wanted to say “OK’, so we stood around for a bit. I was asked to open the rifle case, they checked the serial number, asked to see my binoculars, and then stood around some more. I think everyone got tired of doing nothing after a while (surprisingly), so they motioned that we could leave, so off we were to meet my PHs, Jacques and Ficker (every hunt needs an Ethiopian PH).

A quick stop at a mini mart to get a few necessities, like Pringles, for the journey, and we were off to camp just past Bale National Park. The roads were no better than 7 years ago and likely worse, so while we made good time, we only reached the town of Goba by 5 pm and Jacques said we’d stay the night in a hotel there. No driving, least of all on minor roads, in the dark. For both safety and security reasons.

It rained overnight so we waited a couple of extra hours the next day to let the mountain roads dry up a bit. A smart move - I was to see a few days later just how dangerous those roads (if you could even call them that) could be when wet and muddy.

March 5

A two hour drive took us from Goba to our camp, ascending as high as 10,000 feet and eventually settling in camp at about 7,000 feet. It was a good thing we waited for the roads, (which really dignifies what they are) to dry out. The smallest rain turns them greasy and slippery, with ruts which, once in, can be hard to get out of except for the largest trucks (which made the ruts in the first place).


View attachment 601000


We arrived at camp around mid-day and got settled in. This is probably a good place to say something about hunting camps in Ethiopia.

It’s very rare that the Ethiopian government allows permanent camps in any hunting areas. It’s even rarer that outfitters set up permanent camps. A permanent camp would only be used for a small number of hunts and is at risk of being “dismantled” by local people when unoccupied, even if security is paid and on site. This was the unhappy end of the camp I had stayed in seven years ago.

As a result, camps are entirely mobile and move as often as necessary. This means you are generally sleeping in a tent, showering outdoors and using a short drop toilet. None of this was a problem for me - Northern Operations’ tents were new, clean and well kept. Electric power is supplied by a generator, and all fuel has to be trucked in and frequently carried uphill substantial distances in highland locations. There was always more than ample hot water for showers though and my experience was that toilets came with a view!

View attachment 601001
The view from my "throne"

This mountain camp had been set up the day before I arrived and all trace of it would be removed until next fall once I left. This adds to the number of people required to run a good operation as well as to move the camp from site to site. In fact, while there is generally only one hunter in a camp at a time, there can be up to 15 staff looking after that one hunter. That number is generally reached in highland locations where a number of staff are ‘spotters’, keeping a lookout for game in areas other than those being immediately hunted. This is especially critical when hunting mountain nyala, but also for giant forest hog, where you can spend a lot of time in areas where the game isn’t if you don’t have scouts out observing.

After getting settled, we went to sight in the gun. The vegetation here is very dense and the only convenient place where we could get 100 yards of runway was off the road not far from camp. We set up the target box and then waited for a truck loaded with people to go by. But the truck showed no signs of moving. We sent someone to investigate and it appeared they wanted to see me shoot, and were content to wait. We sent our scout back to tell them that the crazy white guy was never going to shoot as long as they were around and they seemed to accept that and moved on. Two quick shots, within a half-inch of each other, a little high and to the right. A few quick clicks of the scope later and we were good to go.

We moved off to an area known for giant forest hogs and spent the afternoon sitting, but saw nothing other than lots of evidence of the hogs. It rained again, but the canopy is dense enough that if you find a good tree, you can often sit under its branches comfortably and not get wet.

We returned to camp at last light for a hot shower and a filling dinner. It began to pour again at around 8 pm, so off to bed we went - no sitting around a campfire tonight.
Toronto is the worst airport. Cluster f*ck. Amazing writeup
 
Great start. Looking forward to the rest of this. Always enjoy your reports!
Bruce
 
Great start! Keep it coming!
 
Glad the flight attendants date was so imperative. Sheesh!
Good to see you are willing to head into danger to keep us entertained.
Merci!
 
Magnificent. I've always dreamt of hunting the majestic black maned lions of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, Ethiopia no longer permits lion hunting. But I would still love to hunt a Cape buffalo or a leopard there someday.

I'm curious. Can local residents hunt in Ethiopia ? Information on the internet seems rather vague.

Absolutely fantastic to be able to read your well written hunt report from a country Id love to hunt as it has some of my favorite animals, Giant Forest Hog, Gelada (I call them Baboons) Hamadryas Baboons Lesser Kudu & Gerenuk, (Grevys Zebra - Walia Ibex protected) also the cheapest Hyena around now days.

Yes I would love to do a Baboon Slam & include both the Drills, only have a couple so far but hope to add another sub species next year .

Hunter are you sure Lion are closed there now, as it was open only a year or so ago, I was talking to Dimitir about Lion hunts there, back a few more years again they had PAC Lion hunts, but it wasn't much cheaper, he put me on a list to notify when one came up but still way way out of my league ?
 
Absolutely fantastic to be able to read your well written hunt report from a country Id love to hunt as it has some of my favorite animals, Giant Forest Hog, Gelada (I call them Baboons) Hamadryas Baboons Lesser Kudu & Gerenuk, (Grevys Zebra - Walia Ibex protected) also the cheapest Hyena around now days.

Yes I would love to do a Baboon Slam & include both the Drills, only have a couple so far but hope to add another sub species next year .

Hunter are you sure Lion are closed there now, as it was open only a year or so ago, I was talking to Dimitir about Lion hunts there, back a few more years again they had PAC Lion hunts, but it wasn't much cheaper, he put me on a list to notify when one came up but still way way out of my league ?
Sarg, I was informed this unfortunate news by the Hunting Consortium when I attempted to book a hunt through them a few months back.
 
I like the detail in your writeup, also very interesting information on Ethiopia. Not very many hunters get the opportunity to hunt there. Looking forward to the rest of your report.
 
Beautiful. What a great start to what looks like a fantastic safari. Keep it coming, anxiously waiting for more.
 
As others have said, great start and looking forward to the next installment!
 
Wonderful! Ethiopia is a beautiful country. I flew into Addis Ababa one time. Wasn’t there very long, a couple hours each way, but did get to go outside the airport a little. I was shocked at how beautiful Ethiopia is, not what I had expected and everyone was super friendly.
 
This is great cant wait to read more I absolutely love Ethiopia.

I cant belive a flight attendant can just say ehh I dont want to go let me off.
My best friend is Ethiopia as I write this and has been keeping me updated via WhatsApp so I'm really enjoying reaading your report and getting his at the same time.

Thanks for sharing cant wait for more!
 

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FDP wrote on gearguywb's profile.
Good morning. I'll take all of them actually. Whats the next step? Thanks, Derek
Have a look af our latest post on the biggest roan i ever guided on!


I realize how hard the bug has bit. I’m on the cusp of safari #2 and I’m looking to plan #3 with my 11 year old a year from now while looking at my work schedule for overtime and computing the math of how many shifts are needed….
Safari Dave wrote on Kevin Peacocke's profile.
I'd like to get some too.

My wife (a biologist, like me) had to have a melanoma removed from her arm last fall.
Grat wrote on HUNTROMANIA's profile.
Hallo Marius- do you have possibilities for stags in September during the roar? Where are your hunting areas in Romania?
 
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