Adorned in splayed baboon skins, his chest is bare bar a few beaded loops hanging around his adolescent neck. Our Hadzabe leader grunts and barks as he imitates the sound of a baboon being struck with one of their purposely crafted ‘baboon hunting’ arrows. Wup wup woop wooop woop. He jerks around as he now mimics the sound of a gazelle being pierced and proudly shows us his antelope hunting spear. The noises he mocks are absurdly accurate. He continues his authoritative calls of birds, rats and other bush species between a jumble of his native click language whilst modestly showing his array of precious hand carved and sharpened arrows. We have no clue what he is saying verbally, but his body language is astonishingly clear. He’s getting excited. His eye’s are alive with appetite – he is ready. They all are. It is time to hunt.
We lurk behind in silence. The dogs trot alongside. We linger awkwardly behind – not sure how close to get or what to really do. There is no English to explain but all I know is the adrenaline is pumping as our eyes dart between trees at every crack of a branch or rustle of a bush. We silently wonder which of our five hunters to follow. They dip inside a hollowed out baobab tree unexpectedly. We quickly follow. Ten of us inside this magnificent tree trunk.
A bush made ukulele type instrument appears and they being to sing. What they are crooning, I do not know. We watch in fascination as they chant. Swiftly, it is over and the Hadzabe have exited the tree and are back on the hunt. We scramble out of the tree and trail them.
We follow – keeping an eye on each other and our hunters. The dogs abruptly go berserk at a mongoose hole. The hunters take no chance at missing this opportunity. Arms are thrust into the shaft, whilst another hunter pounds above the hole. Dogs heads burrowed in the other access points. One hunter stands ready – the draw weight of his bow pulled, arrow pointing into the tunnel. We stand back. Mongoose can be aggressive. After several minutes of various techniques to try and coax out the critter, it is time to move on. No luck here.
Darting between trees, we lose some of our hunters as they follow the calls of wildlife. One hunter scales a clunky trunk of a baobab effortlessly to peer into a hollow. Nothing. This is tough. As they hunt, their ears are pricked. Their eyes dart. Their senses are extraordinarily overdeveloped compared to ours. We strain to hear and see what they are alerted by.
One hunter is calling the birds in the trees which respond to his coo’s. He lurks into position and freezes. His dog is ready to grab the kill. He shoots. There’s a flutter and he has missed. He retrieves the arrow and paces onward. A heard of gazelle are spotted on the hill. The Hadzabe split up again as some head toward the antelope and others delve into the thicket. We clamber behind. Hushes are called. Something is near. The swish of a flying arrow slices through the silence. Missed.
Suddenly we are in a vast dry river bed. We are now in the open. The hunters regroup in a collapsed baobab tree for a quick smoke – not a regular type of cigarette, something they have crafted themselves from the bush. Now re-energised, it is time to continue on. We tramp behind dripping in sweat. They float effortlessly over the terrain, heart rate barely raised. Agile, keen and fixated.
We are now traversing cracked dusty land. Wait. They can hear something beneath the surface. The Hadzabe are now surveying for small holes in the ground. They are in a trance like state. There is something here and they will find it. Their faces etched with concentration. Stiff with determination. Arrows bore in the ground. Mazes of tunnels are uncovered. They work faster. Harder. More focused. We jump back in surprise as they catch two small mice. Grins spread across their faces. The Hadzabe calmly break the mice’s necks with pure precision using their teeth. I cringe at the crack. The death is painless and quick. They know exactly what they are doing.
We rest under a towering baobab tree as they strike a fire. Another hunter somehow finds us through the labyrinth of the bush. He has a bird on the end of one of his arrows. The bird is plucked and then cooked over the fire with the mice.
The hunters offer the mice to our little group. Two of the women take a nibble. It’s not for them. But for the hunters, this is life or death. Hunting for meat is a reward. When scarce, like today, they go for smaller prey.
We sit there watching them devour these mice and the bird in awe. A time frozen tribe living their traditional, untouched life with no influence from the western world. It feels like we have stepped into a National Geographic documentary. To sit here with this diminishing hunter-gatherer tribe and to experience this incredible insight into their daily lives at this depth was strikingly eye opening and utterly humbling. What an incredible privilege.
Make this experience yours. Join our Culture & Craters Small Group tour!
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.