The death of Basie Maartens at the age of 86 left a void in the hunting community of Africa and indeed worldwide. Basie was a legend as professional hunter and outfitter.
After completing his schooling in 1946 Basie left South Africa for what was then South West Africa and is now the Republic of Namibia and a new life with his parents who had gone ahead to get settled before his arrival. Basie soon became well known throughout in Namibia, Angola and Botswana as an excellent marksman and an avid hunter.
In 1958 Basie received a letter from Elgin T. Gates. Gates wanted to hunt some of the endemic species, especially the gemsbok, found in in the arid south western African landscapes and arrived for his safari in 1959. Basie guided Gates to a 44 inch gemsbok bull in the great Kalahari Desert.
These were the beginnings of Basie Maartens Safaris, based on Basie’s firm principles of hunting and conservation ethics as well as on his exacting professionalism. Basie, a fifth-generation South African, is generally regarded as the first licensed professional hunter in southern Africa. At that time, South West Africa was far off the beaten track, and safari hunting was yet to develop and become the major earner of foreign exchange it is today. Basie was an early pioneer in this process.
Gates, who won the Weatherby Award in 1960, was the first of Basie’s many and illustrious clients; and the list reads like the who’s who of the hunting world. Over a career spanning five decades years Basie would become one of the most well-known and respected professional hunters in Southern Africa. Basie Maartens was a household name at the great hunting conventions of GameCoin, Shikar Safari Club International, and others. His reflections on trophies and records, hunting ethics, wildlife conservation and the essence of hunting established directions we are still trying to understand, explore and build on.
In his autobiographic book, The Last Safari, Basie tells of the romance and realities of safari hunting in Africa and the turbulent and at times dangerous periods. The book contains more than 200 historic photos from Basie’s personal collection taken on safari and at hunting association functions. Reading The Last Safari is like sitting around a campfire with Basie, trademark guitar in hand, as he recounts his life in old Africa.
I met Basie for the first time in 1984 at the world-famous Mountain Shadows lodge outside Paarl, South Africa, which he had established as a second career together with his wife, Sandy, and children Lianne, Philip, and Craig.
Basie’s smile was infectious and the hospitality of the Maartens family legendary. When lodge guests gathered for aperitifs in front of the fireplace before dinner, Basie’s stories kept us spellbound. Guests became instant friends through Basie’s easy-going attitude – by dinner time, when all assembled around the candle-lit dining table, guests and the Maartens’ were always one large family. After dinner Basie’s trademark guitar came out and we spent many happy hours at the Mountain Shadows fireplace together.
Even a debilitating stroke could not dampen his spirits. Basie and Sandy continued to receive guests from all over the world at their home in Paarl, and travelled to hunting conventions around the globe. I vividly remember a lunch, when Basie had a battery of his vintage reds lined up in the living room and was firmly determined that we tasted all, and if still drinkable (as most of them were), dispose of them in the appropriate way. Basie’s eyes were always sparkling with humor, his smile and optimism an example for all.
This great man led the SWA Hunting Guide and Professional Hunters’ Association (which became the Namibia Professional Hunters’ Association NAPHA) and the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA) as president; he was a founding member and past president of the International Hunters’ Association (IPHA).
Robin Hurt wrote after he learnt of Basie’s passing: “He was a pioneer of safari hunting in southern Africa. A highly ethical hunter, he was one the gentlemen professional hunters that were the foundation of our industry in the early 1960s. A man who was highly respected throughout the hunting world. A man who was an example to others as to how to behave both in the hunting field, and elsewhere. A man to be looked up to. A man of immense wisdom. A man who had a deep love for wildlife and wild places. A man who had time for everyone he met whether young or old. Mostly, a man who will be much missed by his family and by his friends and clients.”
Basie once said “The ultimate challenge that faces us in our quest for staying alive in the hunting world is to create a culture of hunting that maintains respect for the animal and acknowledge the spirituality that takes it to a higher level than a mere trophy on the wall or venison for the table.” This is today more valid than ever!
Lala Kahle Madolo – Sleep Well Old Man! You will continue to be an inspiration and we honor your memory.
Author: Gerhard R Damm