Tanzania Redux – The Baboon Hunters of the Hadzabe Tribe

The Hadzabe tribe in Tanzania are one of the last hunter-gatherer societies left on the planet, yet they also allow visitors to come and view demonstrations/representations of how they live.


 Baboon is one of their favourite game to hunt, as this poor fellow’s skull can attest to.  It was tied up in a tree for illustration. 


I have to admit that I usually find these type of tourist cultural demonstrations pretty cringe worthy, but after this one was completed, I concluded that it had been worth doing, and I was happy enough that I had made the effort to have it included on my grand tour of Tanzania that otherwise mostly consisted of safaris.  It certainly was a different kind of diversion!

Getting ripped with the hunters


Shortly after meeting the participating tribe members, I was offered the opportunity to participate in the pre-hunt “inhalation” ceremony.  I joined in out of respect, and sincere gratitude as well….  the later because I had a really bad pain in my side abdomen – a result of having spent more than a month getting a daily “African massage” via a Land Cruiser over bumpy roads, while doing a near circumnavigation equivalent of touring around Tanzania.  The result of that journey left me with a couple of lumbar vertebrae looking for some relief and a muscle in my side abdomen going into spasm.  A few hits from a shared blunt were exactly what any enlightened man-of-medicine would order, so I considered it appropriate medication!  The locals call the strain “elephant stomper” for its hyper and energizing effects, particularly suited for use just before their hunting activities.

The game is afoot!

After some preliminary explanations, and watching a lot of medication taking place, we were off into the bush on a hunting demonstration. As a photographer and personally I am not so much into hunting animals.  However I make no judgements on other people’s need to feed themselves, and I have been a confirmed carnivore most of my life.

I just bailed on the hunting demonstration after only a few hundred meters. However it was just enough to get the flavour of that process without anything actually getting killed. The pulled muscle had me lame on one side anyways, and despite any preceding social interactions that may or may not have mitigated that pain, the Baobab tree was a perfect place to sabotage the hunting mission in favour of a portrait photo-op.



“That baboon, even though it got away this time, I am telling you — it was huuuuge…”


So at the moment I took this photo, while they were goofing off about something, I could barely operate my camera, likely for similar reasons. But I did capture this.  I still think it looks like hunting buddies swapping tall tales.

Okay so actually I have no freaking idea what the guy on the left was communicating to the one on the right, but I imagined after-the-fact, that maybe he was just recounting a hunting story from the past, like I would talk to my own fishing buddies..  

No Baboons were harmed in the making of this still picture!

However, not to be deterred, the hunters wanted to do a target practice demonstration to show their prowess, so we moved to another area where some targets certainly got ventilated.


Speaking of baboon, an African friend advised me to avoid the roadside meat-on-a-stick that I was seeing a lot of along the highways, and why to avoid. Lets say the source was less “prime-rib” and more primate.

An alternative view (over-hyped, and over dramatized)

More background on the standard experience, via an over-hyped, overly dramatic video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ny4bHOnSg0o Its pretty laughable, but it does gets you a bit closer to the hunting part than I wanted to investigate.